This article originally appeared in Rudaw.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan’s youth are leading the way in volunteer efforts to tackle issues that matter to them and build up society.
“We have beautiful nature in Hawraman and Halabja, so we want to bring cultural awareness to the community,” Zhewar Shaswar told Rudaw, explaining a project he is part of that wants to improve the environment in the Halabja region.
He is part of a group named “Rangan,” meaning ‘colorful’ in Kurdish, that started with six volunteers and has now more than doubled to 13.
Their main goal is to create a national park in Hawraman and Halabja to help preserve the nature and wildlife.
They also want to boost tourism in the area, Shaswar, 25, explained.
Rangan is one of ten groups of volunteers from across the Kurdistan Region that were awarded through the Rwanga Foundation in Erbil on Wednesday as part of their ‘Youth Volunteers Initiative’ to encourage young people to come up with tangible solutions to problems their communities face.
“The aim of this project is to build the culture of voluntarism in the Kurdistan Region,” Ary Rasool, Communications Officer for Rwanga told Rudaw English.
“It’s very important to have the young people participate in all the sectors and become highly engaged with their society so that they will help in solving problems and creating a better society.”
A total of 116 projects were submitted and the top 10 were selected to receive monetary donations to support implementation of their projects within Erbil, Duhok, Halabja, Sulaimani and Kirkuk.
The areas of participation included education, rehabilitation of buildings, environmental awareness, health awareness, gender-based violence (GBV) awareness, supporting vulnerable groups, sports, and cultural cohesion.
Another winning team, “We Are Humanity” (WAH), came from Kirkuk.
“Our project was about health awareness, including testing and teaching about medication,” team leader Paiwand Subhi Othman told Rudaw.
He explained that his team was made up of 14 members including Kurds, Arabs, Christians, and Turkmen in Kirkuk – “all colors and languages,” he said.
“We are thankful to Rwanga Foundation for helping this group,” he added. “This is so important for our culture and for the people of my city.”
Othman hopes the funds his team receives will help improve conditions in Kirkuk since the city has many health and environmental related problems.
From the ten winning teams, three came from Erbil, two from Sulaimani, two from Duhok, two from Halabja and one from Kirkuk.
A total of 27 million Iraqi dinars (nearly $27,000) was given out to winning teams.
Rudaw was a media sponsor of the event.
This article was originally published in Rudaw.