IARP and War Kids Relief (see below) have had an initial meeting to talk about collaboration and exchanged some exciting ideas. Seems like a perfect fit: we both work with kids and students in Iraq and the U.S. to build friendships and peace. If current distrust between Iraqis and Americans is left unaddressed, it could "lead to a future generation of tension among these two groups, and the price paid could be extremely high." What if there had been programs like War Kids Relief and Water for Peace 40 years ago, throughout the U.S. and Iraq? Would the same war have happened? It's much harder to go to war with your friends than your "enemies."
War Kids Relief
War Kids Relief was founded in 2005 by Capt. Jonathan Powers, former artillery platoon leader in the Army's 1st Armored Division, as a way to help Iraqi children deal with the adverse effects of the war. Now an in-house program of Children's Culture Connection, War Kids Relief is harnessing the creative potential of children in both Iraq and the US to promote peace, tolerance and respect for different cultures through their newfound friendships with one another.
With donor support we will replicate this program all across the U.S. and Iraq in a sustainable, long term program.
Young Ambassadors Pilot Program
In 2009, War Kids Relief will be launching the first Young Ambassadors Program to promote peace, tolerance and respect for different cultures among Iraqi and US youth.
The Need in Iraq:
Iraqi youth lack exposure to other cultures. Many have negative impressions and ideas about Americans. On a daily basis, Iraqi youth are negatively influenced through magazines and books that contain extreme ideas encouraging violence. Rarely are young people exposed to alternative viewpoints. These disengaged Iraqi youth are more vulnerable to military recruitment, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, and radicalization. Many have lost their families and homes in the current war and have no constructive outlets to express their pain, fear and frustration.
The Need in the US:
In America, young people have little knowledge of the realities of life for young people in war-affected areas. Many have an inaccurate understanding of the current war in Iraq, believing that all Iraqis are the enemy, and leading to negative stereotyping, fear and distrust of people of Arab descent. Many American children have also lost their own parents, relatives and loved ones in the war. Currently there are almost no channels of communication open between Iraqi and American youth. This lack of communication and misunderstanding, left unaddressed, will lead to a future generation of tension among these two groups, and the price paid could be extremely high.
War Kids Relief, in partnership with the Iraqi NGO, the Darstan Group, is changing that. Together we will be conducting a program that will:
-Create a friendship bridge between the Iraqi and USA children by pairing middle school students in the US with their peers in Iraq through a creative cultural exchange.
-Expand the cross-cultural understanding and tolerance of the US/Iraqi youth to help them understand and appreciate one another's cultures.
-Promote tolerance, peace and the principles of human rights among the selected Iraqi youth to enable them to work for social changes among their families and communities by acting as focal points for peace education.
-Educate US youth about the Iraqi cultures and people, and build compassion towards their peers living in war-affected areas, with a realistic view of how they can help.
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