Thank you all for having me out to today’s closing ceremony. I understand it’s been an educational and fun day for everyone.
It can require a strong commitment to give up many evenings and weekends for 10 months, to engage in a program like this. Normally, on a Saturday afternoon in the United States, I might prefer to spend time with family, or pursue one of my favorite hobbies, such as fishing.
When I thought about that, I recalled a saying you may have heard. “Give a person a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a person to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
And this is really what the Maharat Mentoring program is about. We’re turning people’s interests and passions into lifelong skills that will provide sustainable income. This program is not about giving you a computer, but about teaching you to use one. It’s not about giving you a job, it’s about teaching you to secure one through your own hard work and connections.
I’m sure you all use the internet whenever you get the chance. Now, with the guidance of your mentors, you can use it to research job opportunities and write professional e-mails. These are the life-long ‘fishing’ skills you need to prosper in this competitive global market.
Our goals as a U.S. consulate and the goals of local Universities, mentors, and the business community are closely aligned. We all want to support youth to find prosperous employment and secure Basrah’s economic future.
You may know that U.S. Ambassador Silliman visited Basrah earlier this week. He and I discussed with the Governor and other local leaders the central role Basrah and the south play in Iraq’s overall economy.
Basrah’s energy resources provide over 70% of the Iraqi government’s budget, attract foreign investors, and contribute to the local economy. But energy is not a labor-intensive sector and Basrah’s economy has yet to sufficiently diversify. Accordingly, Basrah suffers from underemployment, particularly for youth.
To bolster a network of skilled young people, and provide skills that will increase youth employability in a diversifying local labor market, the U.S. Consulate developed the Maharat Mentoring program.
I am pleased to see that virtually all of the original group of 24 students were able to be present here today. You graduate with a new set of marketable skills: interviewing, leadership, resume writing, and communication.
This has given us the confidence to invest more in the youth of Basrah. So, today, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. government will invest an additional $50,000 dollars to extend the Maharat Mentoring program another 10 months. We will work with World Learning to select another group of students to begin sessions in January of next year.
Let me just close by thanking Azzam and the World Learning team for outstanding implementation of the Maharat Mentoring program. And in particular, for finding three wonderful mentors: Abrar, Mays, and Mustafa. Thank you as well to Dr. Adnan for arranging for the Southern Technical University to host many of the sessions and for your personal support throughout. This program would not have been possible without Dr. Adnan and the mentor team.
You should all be proud of what you have accomplished, and the doors opened for other young people next year. I hope you will stay engaged in the program and pass on your knowledge. Please keep in touch with us in the Consulate and watch our Facebook page for other opportunities to study English and to travel to the United States.
Congratulations and best of luck!