MALA and StoryCorps came to Benedictine University to record, archive, and preserve the stories from the university’s MEPI Program. All stories were recorded in partnership with StoryCorps, and will be archived in the Library of Congress. A series of heart wrenching and heartwarming stories centered around the themes of survival, growth, preservation of culture and identity, grief, joy and love.
The U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Program under the of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affair’s Office of Assistance Coordination (NEA/AC) offers assistance, training, and support to groups and individuals striving to create positive change in the society. MEPI works across the Middle East , and North Africa region partnering with civil society organizations (CSOs), community leaders, youth and women activists, and private sector groups to advance their efforts to improve their communities. MEPI’s approach is bottom-up and grassroots, responding directly to local interests and needs.
The series of interviews included the brightest minds of the Middle East, but also of what we would find to be some of the most nurturing and fragile hearts too. The environment felt interactive and fresh, as students conversed with their professor and among one another as well. They were already four weeks into the program, so it was no surprise that they had all formed close bonds with one another.
Each batch of MEPI students are regarded as some of the brightest young minds from across the Middle Eastern regions, and yet it was in these few minutes of heart-to-heart where their innocence, hope, and desire for change would shine brightest. One student from Algeria spoke about an old but dying language and his attempts and wishes at preserving his culture, while another student from Kurdistan recounted his volunteer efforts at refugee camps and the harsh realities that he was witness to for the refugees. Another talked about survival and change in Iraq, and the need for assistance for orphans in war-torn regions, and another story involved the intense despair the youth were facing due to recruitment and indoctrination of young minds by extremist groups. Students also talked about women’s rights and LGBTQ rights in their home countries, and how they each have a plan to initiate progressive change.
The bits of despair were counteracted by hopes and wishes, as each participant shared one theme in common: the desire to grow close and have people across the world do the same through cultural acceptance and transparent communication. Every MEPI student had a dream they wished to accomplish, and the program gave them this opportunity in the form of a ‘project’ where every MEPI would create and present a plan on how to accomplish their dreams and what all would be the tools and resources necessary to achieve their life’s objective. One could truly feel the radiance of peace from these aspiring young minds.
MALA looks forward to sharing these incredible, outstanding stories with StoryCorps soon!