Thamir Elias Khidir, 27, Duhok: IYLEP Undergrad
Thamir Elias Khidir was already making a difference in his community when he joined IYLEP Undergrad in 2015. The year before his exchange program, the 27-year-old Duhok native founded the civil society organization Humanity, which seeks to help the most vulnerable people of Iraq, particularly women and children.
Humanity was Thamir’s response to the inhumanity he witnessed that year as ISIS attacked the city of Sinjar, forcing thousands of Yazidis—a Kurdish-speaking religious minority—to flee to Duhok. Being Yazidi himself, Thamir briefly fled with his family to Turkey. But upon his return the following month, he was alarmed. “I saw thousands and thousands of people, people who have been on the mountain for days,” he says. “I wanted to do something for these people.”
Over the weeks that followed, Thamir began coordinating with his friends and acquaintances on social media to collect toys and other essentials to donate, even receiving shipments of donations from Europe. Soon, he registered Humanity as an official NGO, partnered with the Danish relief organization Mission East and, in June 2015, opened a community support center.
Later that summer, Thamir joined IYLEP and traveled to the U.S., where he studied entrepreneurship at Ball State University in Indiana. He says the experience there helped him become a better leader—one who is as determined as ever to serve his community. “If we don’t learn, if we don’t do it for our community and ourselves, we will never be able to develop,” he says. “That’s why I’m staying—I want to become a better person in order to provide better services.”