Thamir Elias, originally from Duhok, Iraq is currently enrolled in the MA IM program at LCC. Thamir is the founder of Humanity NGO for Civil Activities, and his organization has been partners with LCC since 2016 when the first group of students were accepted to the Middle East Scholars (MES) program. Thamir shared with us about his work in the organization, his studies at LCC, and how the MES program benefits young people from war-affected countries.
Thamir, could you share how you became the founder of Humanity NGO for Civil Activities in Duhok?
I participated in IYLEP (Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program) in the US, where I was accepted among 2300 applicants together with 29 other students from Iraq. During the program, I spent one month at Ball State University, Indiana where I developed my personal and social entrepreneurship skills. I started advocating for minority rights in 2014 and made my way to the United Nations Headquarters in New York where I gave a speech about minorities and what they have been through when Iraq was under attack in 2014. Based on these experiences, I initiated the group Humanity, which aimed to serve the most vulnerable people, internally displaced people (IDPs), and refugees at the time. After a few months of hard voluntary work, the group was finally able to become a local non-governmental organization, which aims to provide basic needs such as safety, formal, and informal education to the most vulnerable people. As of now, Humanity NGO is an organization that has 50 full-time employees and hundreds of volunteers.
Could you share more about Humanity NGO and its mission?
Humanity is registered under the Department of NGOs of the Kurdistan Region, Iraq (KRI), and Baghdad, Iraq. Humanity is composed of young and enthusiastic leadership, who, in 2014, saw a need in the community and immediately acted with organic distributions as thousands of people fled to Sinjar mountain in order to escape the violent acts. Humanity works with the aim of building a society that is just and everyone's rights are protected regardless of age, gender, nationality, religion, ethnicity, skin color, and beliefs. It is also a national NGO that adheres to the humanitarian principles to achieve equality and social justice among people through working with children and women, protection, peacebuilding and conflict resolution, women empowerment, vocational training, youth development, and volunteerism. The key values of Humanity are humanity, neutrality, impartiality, independence, and transparency. In partnership with international organizations, such as Mission East, UNICEF, Tearfund Germany, IOM, and many others, it has implemented several projects on protection, peacebuilding and reconciliation, capacity building, volunteerism, awareness-raising on women empowerment, peer support for women and girls, and others. Such services were provided through open community-based centers in Duhok and Sinjar.
LCC and Humanity have been partners since 2016. How did you find out about LCC?
I heard about LCC in late 2015 when I received a phone call from the university professor telling me about a meeting with a delegation coming from abroad to take Yazidi and Christian students from Iraq to study abroad on scholarships. I attended the meeting together with that university professor. Humanity and LCC started their partnership in 2016 when the first group of students was accepted to the Middle East Scholars program. Humanity supports the MES program in all the processes from publishing the information to providing recommendations for the selected candidates. Once the program application is open, Humanity starts to advocate for the program through its website and social media. Within the organization there are people who are aware of the rules, program eligibility, and application criteria, so we make sure to be available to answer any questions that applicants might have about the program. Humanity also supports the LCC admissions coordinator in the interviews by providing a venue for the interviews and gathering information about the applicants.
How would you describe this partnership and what is the benefit for both parties to cooperate together?
Since one of our goals is developing community and supporting the youth, Humanity benefits from this partnership by providing such opportunities to youth from war-affected countries. We also advocate the program to other students who are interested to study at LCC, even if they are unable to get a scholarship or are not eligible to apply for it. The benefit for LCC from this cooperation is that they have a trusted organization that is there to support and help in finding the best students for the MES program.
What is your opinion about the MES program?
In my opinion, this program is one of the best chances for students from the Middle East to get high-quality education in an international university like LCC. This program helps the Middle East students to get educational opportunities in Europe and opens more doors to the world. Scholarships through the MES program support many to gain better knowledge academically, professionally, and socially. This program is a great chance and a wonderful opportunity for Iraqi students to start a better life. However, just applying to the program is not enough, as one has to go through the visa process, which can be complicated.
Recently, you have also decided to pursue the MA IM degree at LCC. Why did you choose LCC? What is your experience with the program?
I have chosen LCC because it has an international community and it offers quality education. Moreover, the language of instruction is English, which is a great benefit since it will help me improve my language skills. LCC is one of the best international universities that gives a chance to students from around the world to get a high-quality education.
How do you see the MA IM program contributing to your personal and professional life?
As a person working in several organizations, both business and non-profit, the MA IM helps me lead my organization better. I have already applied the knowledge that I have received in classes to some of my departments in Humanity to improve our operations. This program has helped me to gain knowledge in various fields and become a better version of myself.