Iraqi Council Member Makes Historic US Visit
When Aysha al-Hadi planned her trip to the US, she packed her bag
for networking and spectating.
Her luggage never arrived -
and she did far more than watch from the sidelines.
Aysha al-Hadi is an architectural engineer and has served on both the Karadah Neighborhood and Karadah District Councils in Baghdad since 2005. "Aysha’s enthusiasm is infectious and her love of the country and people she serves is evident at every turn," said KPI Founder Rick Burns. "She, and others like her, are the unseen heroes in the fight to bring stability and hope to a war-torn Iraq." The Karadah Project International (KPI) sponsored Aysha in the US for three weeks in 2014.
Aysha works specifically with women and children in her region. Their wellbeing and education are her top priority. To that end, she envisions turning an old Baghdad theater into a facility that can help meet their needs.
"I want to give these individuals the chance to be strong members of their society, to be more constructive, instead of just being the victims of a devastating war," said Aysha.
In support of that effort, KPI networked her with like-minded groups in the US. In Council Bluffs, IA she was hosted by the Council Bluffs Sister Cities Association (Sister City to the Karadah District Council). There she visited nonprofits focused mainly on women and children’s issues. The Laken Center in Council Bluffs houses five nonprofits: American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club, MICAH House, Heartland Family Services, and The Salvation Army. These organizations are physically co-located and share services for their clients. She also visited an area women’s shelter called the Phoenix House.
Aysha spent a day in Des Moines where she met with the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women and the Chrysalis Foundation. While visiting the Des Moines' Young Women’s Resource Center, Aysha answered questions from the girls and staff members about what it is like to be a young woman in Iraq. Having a sixteen year old daughter, Aysha related personally to the girls at the center.
KPI is in the process of setting up a pen pal/SKYPE program where Iraqi girls will be able to communicate with these young women in Iowa. Of this opportunity, Aysha said, “I cannot wait to see Iraqi young girls talk to American young girls. I want them to [have] courage and be brave to do it, and also enjoy speaking English. It is a good opportunity for both groups."
After the Iowa leg of her travels concluded, Aysha was especially inspired, "This experience was a wonderful time and I was honored to visit the center, love all the girls there and especially the leader. Please say hi to the young girls - I love them! I love the center! It was amazing. I hope to have a model center in Iraq soon.”
Next, Aysha flew to San Jose, California to attend the Annual Sister Cities International Conference representing the Karadah Political District. Expecting to enjoy the conference as a spectator, Aysha was suddenly asked to be on a panel entitled “Vulnerable Populations in the Middle East.”
She provided a unique perspective as the only panel participant who was actually living in the Middle East. Aysha was able to discuss what it is like to be a person living in a place dealing with decades of instability.
Aysha’s next leg, Denver, CO, was hosted by the Baghdad-Denver Regional Partnership, an organization that has had a Sister Cities Partnership with Baghdad since 2003.
Aysha met with the United Way and female civic and government leaders. Discussions centered around women and children issues, government planning and service delivery.
Washington, D.C. was Aysha’s final destination, hosted by the Iraqi Children Foundation. While there, Aysha met with nonprofit and government leaders with a particular interest in Iraq. Aysha provided information important for policy development. She was able to network with organizations interested in helping bring stability to Iraq.
Aysha is an ideal ambassador for Iraq. She delighted and inspired people from one coast to the other - and the exchange of information went both ways. The Karadah Project, in partnership with other American organizations and the Karadah District Council, engaged in the most enduring and critical forms of diplomacy – citizen diplomacy.
President Dwight Eisenhower once said, "I have long believed, as have many before me, that peaceful relations between nations requires understanding and mutual respect between individuals." Never has there been a greater need for citizen diplomacy. The Karadah Project is committed to building relationships through its Emerging Leader Program.
Sister Cities International Friendship Parternship
Under the auspices of Sister Cities International, the Karadah (Bagdhad) District Council signed a Friendship Partnership Agreement with Council Bluffs, Iowa on October 28, 2008 via the Iowa Communications Network.