Article by Meghan Biery Photos courtesy of Ahmed M. Badr June 06, 2022

‘While the Earth Sleeps We Travel: Stories, Poetry, and Art from Young Refugees Around the World’

For the 2022-23 First Year Common Reader, the University of Delaware selected While the Earth Sleeps We Travel: Stories, Poetry, and Art from Young Refugees Around the World, by Ahmed M. Badr and featuring a foreword by actor Ben Stiller, who is a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. First-year students read the book before arriving on campus and the Common Reader Program organizes speakers, exhibits and other cultural events around the theme of the book throughout the first semester.

Ahmed M. Badr is a 23-year-old Iraqi American author, poet, and social entrepreneur working at the intersection of creativity, displacement, and youth empowerment. Ahmed’s work seeks to combine poetry, archival collections, and multi-media to explore the complexities of migration, identity, and self-expression, with a focus on reframing and reclaiming the power of tragedy.

On July 25, 2006, Badr’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. He and his family relocated to Syria, where they lived as refugees for over two years before receiving approval to move to the United States. As a teen, Badr founded Narratio, an organization and online platform that activates, supports, and highlights the creative expression of displaced young people through fellowships, workshops, publishing, and partnerships. In the summer of 2019, Narratio launched an annual storytelling Fellowship for resettled refugee youth in partnership with Syracuse University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the past three years, work by the Narratio Fellows has reached more than two million individuals worldwide.  

Badr is the host of Virginia Public Media’s (VPM) Regional Murrow award-winning Resettled podcast and the co-host of the World Bank’s #Youth4Climate Live Series. Badr has addressed the United Nations more than 10 times.

Badr is the storyteller behind UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage, a multi-media installation that remodels the homes of refugees inside a series of suitcases. UNPACKED is critically acclaimed and has been exhibited at UNICEF House, Harvard Divinity School, Yale University, Juilliard, Iowa State University, University of Chicago, Mississippi State University, and World Bank headquarters. In February 2020, Badr debuted four visual works at Educate, an exhibit featuring global emerging artists at Christie’s New York.

Badr received a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from Wesleyan University and a master’s in education from Harvard University. He is the recipient of the Adrian Cheng Fellowship from Harvard Kennedy School and the Social Innovation Fellowship Fund award from Harvard Business School. He is a National Geographic Young Explorer and serves as one of 17 UN Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals in the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.

A UD tradition administered by the First Year Seminar Program, the Common Reader provides first-year undergraduates an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with fellow students and to begin to share in the intellectual life of the entire University community.

Next Steps for New Blue Hens

Blue Hens should read the book during the summer of 2022 and may purchase a discounted copy at New Student Orientation courtesy of the University Bookstore.

Additional Common Reader experiences will take place during the fall semester, including an essay and art contest, Library exhibition and lecture with the author. More information will be shared soon.

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