My name is Iyyad Rayyan from Ramallah, Palestine. I am a middle child among five siblings, which is a typical size for a Palestinian family. Since I was in the 9th grade, I started taking evening English courses to improve my language skills. Going away from home for college was something that I wanted to do since I was in high school.
I moved to Iowa in the summer of 2011 to attend Grand View University and pursue a degree in accounting. I think that I did not give the transition as much thought as I should have; for example, I thought that my entire stay in the states would solely revolve around my academic performance in school.
The idea of serving the community was not something that I thought about until I attended a conference in Ankeny, sponsored by AFSC and focused on U.S. policy in Palestine-Israel. That conference was the first time that I saw Americans who are passionate about the Palestinian cause.
It took me some time to realize the responsibility I have as a Palestinian to educate about my country. This is a challenging goal; I knew that I would need help, something that would give me access to people and resources.
I have volunteered with AFSC for two years, and this involvement has led to a five-month internship. I have just started my internship after coming back from a training program in Chicago. That trip has increased my interest in the AFSC as a nonprofit.
AFSC recently hosted a speech by Rabbi Brant Rosen at Drake University. The speech addressed different aspects of the conflict, and the audience interacted actively with the speaker.
Currently, we have started working on a new goal – the SodaStream Boycott Campaign. This campaign aims to educate people about the consequences of using SodaStream, which is a device that turns water into bubbly soda. SodaStream markets itself as an environmentally friendly product that saves the environment by reducing the use of plastic. Yet, it constricts the water supply and land capacity of Palestinians, so what is friendly about it?
A product that is made on a settlement that is in direct violation of international law increases the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This product also uses land, resources, and underground water that belong to the Palestinians.
We are planning on using different methods and techniques to educate the public about this product and what threats it poses to the Palestinians’ reality.
In 2013, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the world's largest for-profit prison corporation, is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Thirty years ago, CCA pioneered the practice of incarcerating people for money, which has now ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry.
At the American Friends Service Committee, we see nothing to celebrate. On May 13 in Tucson, AFSC held a press conference and demonstration to protest CCA’s prison profiteering in Arizona.
This video features Caroline Isaacs, Arizona Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee.
Photos: AFSC, CCA, iStock Photo, Shutterstock
In May 2013, Kerri Kennedy, AFSC's Associate General Secretary for International Programs, discussed the ongoing civil war in Syria.
With help from AFSC, a group of Iowa Dream Activists call for and win driver's licenses. This January 21, 2013 clip is from KCCI TV in Des Moines, and includes footage of interviews with young people who are being denied drivers' licenses because of their immigration status. The activists were protesting outside of the Iowa Department of Transportation because the DOT was refusing to issue licenses.
Youth staged a federal budget public action on the National Mall while they were in Washington, D.C. for the “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” leadership and lobby training, which also coincided with the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) and U.S. Tax Day.
"Dear Congress, invest in us"
A video featuring these young people is up for a People's Choice Award in the Looking @ Democracy challenge. Voting is open to the public through 3 p.m. EST on April 16.
This is the second of two videos in which people offer their remembrances of Michael McConnell and condolences to his family following his memorial service April 12, 2013.
This is part one of two videos in which people share their memories of Michael and their condolences to his family following his memorial service April 12, 2013.
This is part 2 of video remembrances by AFSC Midwest staff of regional director Michael McConnell, who passed April 7, 2013.
AFSC Midwest Regional staff offer their remembrances of regional director Michael McConnell, who passed April 7, 2013. (Part 1)
Hector Salamanca, an AFSC Iowa Dreamer and intern, reads a poem written by Michael McConnell to celebrate the creation of AFSC's Midwest Region in 2012. Michael was an AFSC regional director for 23 years until his passing April 7, 2013. AFSC has established the Michael McConnell Youth Internship Fund to help carry on Michael's passion for peace and justice.
Here's the text of the poem:
WE ARE THE MIDWEST
Together we're on a quest
We call on TIAA-CREF to divest
and the Pentagon to stop their war chest.
Citizens United we detest.
When kids are in conflict we cannot rest
until their problems are redressed
or they make their mark in a trillion dollar video contest.
We stand with cab drivers in their request
until a fare increase is addressed.
Life-affirming businesses are finessed
for refugees and dreamers to be unstressed.
Quite simply, we side with the dispossessed
whether in prison due to arrest
or immigrants who should be our guests.
We are obsessed to make unrest
to stir up a hornets nest
and wrest the power from the billionaires blest
we do attest and have confessed
to side with the oppressed
and not politicians who fail the test
ego and power obsessed.
We're not impressed they are a pest.
All injustice we do protest
and we do all of this because
we are the best
we do all of this because
WE ARE THE MIDWEST
As a region may we work hard
but not so hard as to sacrifice our health and balance, our friends and family
May we have many victories
but even if we lose, may we find a way to gain
in every negative find a positive
in every setback, a way forward
and along the way,
let us find a way to have a whole lot of laughter and fun