In Iraq, the high school dropout rate is near 75% and the unemployment rate is 60% among urban youth. In 2013, to help respond to these challenges, the US Department of State awarded YouthBuild International an Ambassador’s Fund grant to support the design and implementation of the first YouthBuild program in Iraq. YBI’s implementing partner in the country is the Iraqi Al Amal Association (IAA), one of Iraq’s leading NGOs, whose programs promote a culture of human rights, gender equality, tolerance, and peace.
The results of the first program, completed in 2015, were extremely promising - 97% of enrollees completed the program and gained market-recognized credentials in electricity, welding, and the English Language. YouthBuild students completed six Community Asset Building (CAB) projects, making a number of construction improvements at a local primary school, high school, senior center, orphanage, and a social services agency. The YouthBuild students said the program helped them to increase their self-confidence and to make positive changes to their behavior. Yousif Abdulrahman observed that the YouthBuild program changed his self-image, “I was very proud that I could be productive rather than useless.”
As a result of the success of the first pilot program in 2015, YBI received additional funding from the US Department of State for IAA to implement a second phase of the YouthBuild Initiative in 2016 - 2017. IAA launched a new YouthBuild program in July, with 50 students enrolled in welding, English language, electric installation, and computer skills training.