Matt Barber and the Yazidis


This is a reflection on another lunchtime discussion I attended recently. The talk I heard about the Yazidis of Kurdistan piqued my interest, and I hope it inspires you too look into it more as well.


On Monday, I had the privilege of hearing Matt Barber, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, speak about an issue for which I had little prior knowledge: the persecution and displacement of the Yazidi people in Kurdistan (specifically northern Iraq, as Kurdistan is not actually its own country). Before this talk, I had never even heard the word Yazidi, much less known that this group experiences some of the harshest punishments that IS (the name ISIS uses for itself) can dish out. These people are treated even worse than the Christians in the area simply because they are not “people of the book.” The Yazidis have no holy text, looking instead to shrines and to the seven incarnations of God that they believe in. It surprised me that IS made this distinction in its religious persecution; I had assumed that they disliked all non-Muslims equally, but apparently, there are degrees to which they disagree with people. I also found it shocking that Kurdistan, a self-proclaimed protector of minorities, is doing so little to help the Yazidis. More than most, the Kurdish people understand what it means to feel out of place and without support, but apparently this has not led them to do much in the way of helping other minorities. Mr. Barber was very adamant about finding help for these people, and I hope that he does, and that I can eventually help in some way. I like to think of myself as fairly well-informed, and if my prior knowledge is any indication, the plight of the Yazidis is being largely overlooked.


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Rami Khouri Lunch


Occasionally, the University of Oklahoma holds lunch discussions in the College of International Studies in which speakers come and give hour-long lectures over various topics (current events, advice for current students, and their own career histories, to name a few). I try to keep myself up to date on all major international current events, and I’m always trying to learn new things (that’s what college is for, right?) so these talks have given me some great insight into things I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. From now on, I’m going to try to post a reflection on each talk I go to, so that I (and you!) can remember the lessons I’ve learned. Oh, and not only do these talks give me insight into the world and life outside of OU, they often get me free food. What isn’t to like about this situation? (Nothing, that’s what.) Anyway, on to my first lunchtime discussion reflection:


A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Rami Khouri’s lunch discussion on finding your passion and achieving success in the future. This talk was especially relevant to me, as I am still undecided, major-wise, and I haven’t found the career I would like to pursue. This uncertainty in the face of so many important decisions that I’m making now is somewhat daunting, but Mr. Khouri’s talk definitely eased my mind. His simple advice (Do what brings you joy. Read. Ask questions. Be humble.) was wonderful for me to hear, because it helped me to realize that it isn’t impossible for me to narrow down my realm of possibilities into an actual decision. His keys to success aren’t grand or complex, but surprisingly simple. I can achieve simple. I thoroughly enjoyed his talk, both for his great advice that I will be employing in the future as I make some big choices and for getting to hear his amazing story. I can only hope to achieve even a fraction of the amazing international experiences he’s had, and it was a pleasure to hear him share his.

What’s Stopping You?


This is a reflection I wrote in response to Ludwick Marishane’s TED Talks video “A Bath without Water”:


After watching the video, I felt a little bit stunned. Water scarcity across the world is something that I know about but rarely put much thought into. And in all honesty, whenever I do think about it, I focus on lack of sanitary drinking water; I seldom consider that lack of clean water means that bathing becomes very difficult. I also felt guilty after watching it, because Marishane, with his incredibly limited resources, came up with an invention that will save countless gallons of water and hours of children’s lives, whereas I, possessing abundant resources with which I can do practically anything, spend the vast majority of my time focusing on my own needs instead of those of others (whose needs are much greater than my own).

That being said, I applaud Marishane for targeting a specific need and coming up with such an elegant solution to meet it. His Dry Bath is low-cost, portable, and comes in a format that he knows people will actually use. I am so impressed that he was able to develop it without steady internet access or even a computer. It led me to wonder that if every university student across the globe utilized their resources to their fullest extent, as Marishane did, how many of the world’s problems would be solved within a matter of weeks? I think that one of the biggest problems facing the developed world today is complacence; our own needs are met, therefore many of us see no reason to seek improvement. I fall victim to this complacence on a regular basis, and I know that many of my peers do as well. Videos like this and other TED Talks represent a great first step in fighting this complacence: awareness of the problems that exist. The next step is to consider the question Marishane poses at the end of his video regarding coming up with solutions of our own: “What’s stopping you?” (Hint: the answer is “nothing”; We need to get to work).

International Volunteering: Is It Worth It?


I wrote this reflection in response to several weeks of class about effective international volunteering: what helps, what hurts, and what simply has no lasting effect on communities in need.


I have never been on an international volunteer trip before, though I have wanted to for quite a few years now. I have a strong desire to travel in the future, as well as to always be helping people, and international volunteering seems like a perfect way to combine both of those goals for myself. However, the lessons I’ve learned in this class over the past several weeks have opened my eyes to the fact that international service trips are not always all that they are cracked up to be. Often, these trips are inefficient and shortsighted, doing either only temporary good or no real good at all. With my international service, I want to make sure that I am servicing other people, not just myself. Because while I think that providing life-changing experiences for the volunteers is an important part of these trips, I don’t believe that it should be the only component. I want to change lives other than just my own in a positive way.

For all these reasons, I think that I want to volunteer with a long-term organization, rather than some two-week project, because too often, volunteers come in, install some machinery or build a school or hospital, and leave without making any plans for maintenance and operation of what they have built. Thus, they provide benefits for a short period of time before the situation returns to exactly what it was before they came. In these cases, it seems to me that the volunteers are doing things only to make themselves feel charitable, rather than being fueled by a desire to do real good. I want to do real good, and I will be doing a great deal of research to make sure that whatever project I choose allows me to accomplish that.