New EPIC Intern: Mary Zell, Looking to the Future

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Greetings EPIC!

When I moved to Damascus, Syria, in the spring of 2009 I planned to devote the next three years to studying the Arabic language, but I also knew I wanted to give something back to the community. Five minutes into an information session with the founders of the Iraqi Student Project (ISP) I was hooked! From October 2009 through January 2012 I volunteered with talented young Iraqi refugees, preparing them academically to pursue their undergraduate education in the United States.

All ISP students have made a personal commitment to help rebuild Iraq. They are future engineers, journalists, health-care professionals and poets who will contribute to the country’s future. Yet continued conflict will pose serious challenges for the young generation; in July, Iraq suffered its deadliest month since 2008. Recognizing these challenges, I recommitted my time and effort to help Iraqi youth work towards a better future.

Mary (second from right, back) gathers with ISP families to say goodbye as eight students depart Syria for their freshman years at U.S. colleges. Damascus International Airport, August 2011.
Mary (second from right, back) gathers with ISP families to say goodbye as eight students depart Syria for their freshman years at U.S. colleges. Damascus International Airport, August 2011.

At EPIC I will work on developing projects targeting youth from all backgrounds on the ground in Iraq, such as expanding PhotoVoice Iraq to multiple locations throughout the country. I will also work to develop a comprehensive evaluation system so that we can measure the effectiveness of our projects and put future resources to the best use.

The challenges are great, but EPIC believes in the great potential of the Iraqi people to build a safe and prosperous country. I am proud to join EPIC and to assist Iraqis working towards a better future.