Dinner tonight will be quiet for Paul, Kayla, and me. This morning, we delivered the exchange students from Iraq who have been staying with us to their meeting place, before they flew off to Washington, DC. This is the second year that my family has hosted participants in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program, and my daughter Kayla had an IYLEP internship. The Boston contingent was big this year, and we agreed to take on three students — a high schooler from Sulaymaniyah in the north, a 24-year-old mentor to the group, from Baghdad, and a 16-year-old U.S. participant from San Diego. Ten days, four jars of Nutella, and a bazillion pitas and Lebanese and Afghan breads later, we sadly sent them on their way.
The program came to Fletcher last night for a panel presentation and an Iftar dinner. Most of the kids who might have wanted to fast for Ramadan will do so when they’re back home, but the Iftar still gave them a chance to share a little of their culture with their host families. A few Fletcher students joined us, but my real hope is that the organizations running IYLEP will think of Fletcher students when it comes time to do some hiring!
For our family, hosting IYLEP students is certainly a chance to learn about Iraq, but I think the greater value for me is in the opportunity to contribute to future leaders. I like the idea that they have this time in the U.S. to develop their leadership and communication skills, and to think about their own society and how they can add to it. Meanwhile, their host parents buzz around them and ensure they’re safe, rested, and properly fed. I believe in these kids — whether on the local or a higher level, they’re going to do something great!
But, for now, I feel sad about the quiet left in Soma, Worood, and Breanna’s wake, even as I know the wonders of modern connectivity will keep us in contact. Plus, the world, if anything, is growing smaller, and we’ll see each other again some time — maybe even when they (or their IYLEP peers) enroll at Fletcher.