IVLP Gold Stars – Mr. Husham Al-Thahabi

Husham Al-Thahabi during his IVLP Gold Star visit to Seattle

On November 3, 2018, Meridian welcomed Gold Star alumnus, Mr. Husham Al-Thahabi, for a two-week program that followed up on his first International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) administered in 2014. As founder and director of the Iraqi Safe House for Creativity, Mr. Al-Thahabi works to protect countless Iraqi homeless youth from falling victim to child labor abuse, violence, and extremism by providing ideas and inspiration on how to lead these children toward creativity, art, music, and civic engagement instead. His successful treatment program has helped many homeless youths realize their artistic and musical talents, and several of his youth have gone on to win national, regional, and international awards. Having returned to the U.S. as a Gold Star alum, Mr. Al-Thahabi began new and rekindled older relationships with resources in Washington, DC; Seattle, Washington; San Diego, California; and Miami, Florida.

While in Washington, DC, Mr. Al-Thahabi had the opportunity to meet with Life Pieces to Masterpieces (LPTM), which provides a home away from home to the hundreds of African American young men and boys growing up in the area. Through an interactive introduction to their work, he witnessed firsthand how LPTM uses artistic expression to develop character and leadership and unlock the potential of boys and young men. Additionally, Mr. Al-Thahabi was invited to speak at the U.S. Department of State about the impact of his first IVLP experience on his work. He enjoyed communicating his innovative approaches to reach at-risk youth through education and therapy as well as sports and cultural programs.

In Seattle, Mr. Al-Thahabi met with Arc of King County, a non-profit organization serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They discussed the organization’s strategies on how to provide information, training, and support to these individuals through different advocacy and education programs. He came away from his visit to St. Martin De Porres Shelter, for homeless men aged 50 and older, with innovative ideas for his new facility, including the specific layout as well as medical care and counseling provided to the elderly homeless community. The program in San Diego provided a deeper look into medical care for children and families in crisis as well as school programs for homeless children and children with disabilities. Mr. Al-Thahabi visited Rady Children’s Hospital, the region’s only designated pediatric trauma center, to speak with representatives about their implementation of evidence-based child welfare practices and their use of Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to rehabilitate youth exposed to violence. The professional meetings concluded with a trip to the Monarch School to explore their innovative approaches to addressing the educational, emotional, social, and physical needs of its students.

In Miami, Mr. Al-Thahabi was welcomed at the Global Ties U.S.-sponsored Diplomacy Begins Here Summit, themed “Community Resilience.” As guest speaker, he spoke again about his experience as a former participant and how the program served as a catalyst to addressing the legal status and treatment of homeless youth in Iraq. With the conclusion of the program, Mr. Al-Thahabi returned home to continue his life’s work and serve as a leading voice for homeless youth and elderly persons in Iraq.

Project Photos


Sponsors and Partners

U.S. Department of State
International Visitor Leadership Program, U.S. Department of State
San Diego Diplomacy Council
World Affairs Council of Seattle
Global Ties Miami

Project summary

IVLP Gold Stars – Mr. Husham Al-Thahabi | November 2018
Number of Visitors: 1
Regions: Near East and North Africa
Countries: Iraq
Impact Areas: Global Health, Youth Leadership Development
Program Areas: Global Leadership
Partners: NGOs, Private Sector, Public Sector