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2017 Layers of Diversity Art Auction Raises Over $3,500 for Global Grants & Scholarships Program

The 2017 Layers of Diversity Art Auction raised over $3,500. The proceeds from the event will fund international initiatives through the Global Grants & Scholarships Program.

The Art Auction is the primary source of funding for the Global Grants & Scholarships Program. Each year, IRIS puts together an auction with the help of several local donors. The 2017 Art Auction took place at the Moberg Gallery in Des Moines, with Jordan Weber as the featured artist.

In 2017, IRIS awarded over $13,000 in scholarship and grants to alumni from the YES Program.

Grants were awarded to Jesse Maikarfi and Simon Zamani. Both men are YES alumnus from Nigeria and studied in the United States during the 2015-2016 school year.

Maikarfi’s project, “The Fight Against Unemployment,” teaches 50 unemployed youth in the rural community. During the three-month training program, participants learn about the process of natural oil extraction, as well as how to make hair wigs, shoes, bags and more. The goal of the program is for participants to be able to teach three other people in the community about the skills they acquired.

“Having completed over 100 hours of community service during my exchange, I was motivated even more to give back to my community,” said Maikarfi. “ I thought to myself: the youth are the future of any society, why not invest in them so they can have a better life? This the society and the nation at large also has a bright and better future to look forward to.”

Zamani’s project, “English Language Literacy Program,” focuses on teaching children from the age of five through 15 English language reading, writing and speaking skills. Zamani’s program is based out of Kaduna State, Nigeria, and concentrates primarily on rural communities.

“I observed in my community that so many adults and kids have challenges in reading, writing and communicating in the English Language,” said Zamani. “English is the most spoken language in Nigeria and the world. To travel, use the ATM machine, get a job, socialize, etc., one needs to know how to read, right and communication in the English Language.”

Both Maikarfi and Zamani also offered advice to host families:

“My advice to potential host families is to please open their homes and hearts to hosting an exchange student, because by opening their hearts to a stranger, they build lasting relationships and will view the world differently,” said Maikarfi. “An exchange student arrives to your home a stranger, but leaves as a part of your family.”

“The advice I have for potential host families is that they should continue hosting and accepting exchange students because they are really playing a big role in building international relationships and bridging the gap between member countries of the YES program,” said Zamani. “By hosting an exchange student they are also been exposed to the knowledge of another country.”


If you are interested in hosting an exchange student through IRIS, please contact us at 515.292.7103 or email

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