By Everett C. Mullican, Marketing and Communications Intern
MERGE has been making significant impacts on young women (ages 15-19) who face increased risks of mental illness, depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem. These negative impacts may ultimately affect their overall well-being and future when it comes to opening up their adult careers, lives, and experiences in a greater community. MERGE Facilitator, Lydia Richards (a former intern for IIC), explains the importance of MERGE and the benefits it may display towards those young generations who deserve the help they need, and how the 8-week program empowers them to become resilient and build their mental health.
Richards mentioned that it was a shock when looking over MERGE and what they do. “When I saw the opportunity come through, I thought that it couldn’t be real, mental health, youth development, and international relations and exchange are topics that I’ve always been passionate about,” Richards said.
Through various experiences, MERGE has been able to help others receive positive affirmations through a cultural exchange to stress-relief exercises and communication. “It was inspiring to see those participants tried out something that may have been a different experience for them and try new things and grow with the support from each other,” Richards said, “Being able to reach out and grow your understanding yourself and understanding the world is a special experience to gain.
MERGE engaged 400 girls and young women. 200 of those young women were from the United States, and 200 from Jordan, Morocco, and the Palestinian Territories. MERGE welcomes everyone to share their experiences and knowledge from their experience with MERGE and encourages young women to participate in the program to express their newfound knowledge with the world.
“The ability to look past our own neighborhoods, is becoming really important so we can be better citizens and people who have the capacity to listen before we speak and seek to understand before we act,” Richards said, “It’s important for the program and Iowa International Center to help everyone in in our world the realization that when we’re bringing new communities to Iowa that we’re also learning from them in the end.”