Skills On Safari
Iraqi youth are traveling hundreds of miles to gain vital life skills with Ghumra Camp
It was when people started traveling across Iraq to attend her training camps, that Zainab Al Shummari realized she had created something special. Quitting her job as a bank account manager to launch Ghumra Camp in 2022 was a major step, but Al Shummari sensed an opportunity for hundreds of young Iraqis looking to the future. “There is nothing else like this in Iraq. Participants leave as better people, and they are willing to come a long way to take part,” she says.
Al Shummari now runs up to six safaris a month, working with schools, universities and individuals to create tailored teaching experiences that cultivate different skill sets for teenagers and adults. The format bypasses the traditional capacity-building workshops offered by many NGOs. Instead, she focuses on sports, competitions, art events and other interactive activities to teach teamwork, problem-solving, conflict resolution and other soft skills that are absent from the academic curriculum.
“I’ve seen how people in the West attend these educational camps where they learn a great many skills, but we don’t have this in Iraq. So I decided to pioneer a movement here and help young people learn vital skills for everyday life,” she says.
After leaving her busy role at the bank, Al Shummari found work as an accountant at a local NGO, which allowed her time to focus on developing the camps. Until recently, she was constrained in the number of trips she could host and how many participants she could include each time. With an Innovation Hub grant from Ideas Beyond Borders, she will be able to purchase more equipment and host additional camps to meet the mounting demand from young Iraqis eager to take part.
“People are really excited about it. Youth here are frustrated by the lack of opportunities to develop themselves, but at the same time, we are using this frustration to inspire projects like this,” she says. “Young people have bright ideas to improve society, they are motivated to make it better, and that’s what matters in the end.”
Al Shummari hopes that the Ghumra Camp safaris will contribute to creating more skilled and self-aware individuals to empower a new generation in Iraq. The safaris are fun, she says, but there are objectives to meet. “We want youth to benefit and leave better equipped to deal with the future. This is what Iraq really needs.”
The next step will be to raise the funds to purchase a dedicated space for the camps. At present, they rent farms and other large facilities to accommodate up to 75 people on each trip. Since receiving the grant from IBB, Al Shummari feels confident she can grow the project and create her dream environment for teaching soft skills in enterprising ways.
“IBB’s support gave me extra motivation to push this project ahead. Young people here feel forgotten, so when someone invests their belief in us, it inspires us to keep trying and look ahead.”
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This article was written by Olivia Cuthbert.