“How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it” -George Elliston

We often underestimate the impact of our actions, big or small, in the eyes of the receiving person. And today I was the lucky receiver of a super sweet act of kindness. If you follow my blog you would know that I LOVE to travel. But you may not know that I have dedicated this year as my “travel year”. And the reason why you would not know, is simply because I have not yet blogged about it – but that is a whole other story. Anyway, back to kindness and travel. So I am now in Nassau, the islands of the Bahamas. And I should say that I am grateful to God and everything that has happened in my life (good and bad) that resulted in me visiting this beautiful place. Pristine waters, white sands, green all around you, kind people, beauty… it is just great. But what makes it even greater is that I was able to get there given that I hold a Syrian passport which does not exactly make travel all that easy.

I keep going on a tangent – back to kindness! So I arrived yesterday in Nassau and today was my exploration day. I heard to Paradise island and I thought well, that an enough tempting name… I should go there. I hopped on the water taxi and enjoyed the waves, the breeze, the ships docked in the ports and less than twenty minutes later we arrived in Paradise. I walked to the famous Atlantis resort that has many many many facilities and adventures, could not participate in any as I was visiting in the latter part of the day and it would not have been a wise investment. I walked out and through the touristic town with beautiful colorful little shops. I stopped at one that caught my attention. It was a modern straw shop. You see the Bahamas is know for their straw artwork. And this was a shop that used an ancient craft to fulfill the modern lifestyle which would automatically attract the tourists and feed the economy. Building on the national and local tradition to revive a country’s economy and protect its identity has always interested me. I was intrigued.I went in an looked around. Everything was so thoughtfully done and unique although a bit pricy, which is kind of understandable given that the shop is located on an island called “Paradise” where you have houses for people like Opera Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and the like! They also had a toiletry section of colorful soap and Aloe Vera and Neem creams. Given my lifelong battle with acne, acne scars and problem skin, I started asking question about this cream to see if it could be the cure and end to my skin struggle. The lady managing the shop explained the plants so knowledgeably but I continued to hesitate and could not make the decision to buy fearing some kind of adverse reaction. The lady then went to the shelf, grabbed a bottle, put it in bag and said, here it is from me to you. And I said what do you mean. She said: “I’m buying it for you, try it and if you don’t like it, let us know”. I told her what if I do not come back, I need to pay you. She said: “No you don’t. Happy holidays!”. I was shocked and out of words. Why would you buy something for a complete stranger. She knows that this is a tourist place and I may never be back, so I am not going to be a returning customer. It was a simple and genuine act of kindness. And it made my day. And even may be my stay! And now I feel like I want to go and buy something from her. She probably did not know that her act of kindness is going to have this great an impact…. And that is what we need to keep reminding ourselves – simple act of kindness can go a long way!


Climbing Kilimanjaro

kilimanjaroOn January 17, 2014, for the first time in history, three injured Arab children will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, to raise awareness and support for the plight of injured and sick children in Palestine and Syria.

Mohammed, Mutussam and Yasmeen have all lost their limbs during their childhood and were treated abroad through the support of hundreds of volunteers in the PCRF. These injured teens are now training hard to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with a team of volunteers led by Suzanne Al-Houby, the first Arab & Palestinian woman to summit Everest and to reach the top of Kilimanjaro six times.

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) is a non-political, non-profit organization dedicated to healing the wounds of war, occupation and poverty for children in the Middle East. They have done amazing work sponsoring wounded children who need medical attention, finding a host home, and providing the medical attention needed. They have many chapters through out the United States and also in the UAE, Qatar and Jordan. If you would like to support the children in the Climb of Hope and show them that they can pass the Kilimanjaro challenge despite their injury, you can do so HERE.


A leader cares…

As I was cleaning my home desk, I found a piece of paper with scribbles on it. The scribbles were about a topic that is often on my mind “Leadership”. This is what my scribbles said, with some edits. A leader cares, about the project, the company, the costs, the cause and the team. A leader cares, about the empowerment of the team members to own their tasks, about making sure that nothing falls through the cracks. A leader takes risks but also carefully analyses the risks that they are taking. A leader trusts the team but also cares enough to make formal reviews when needed. A leader can see into the individuality of each team member and can intuitively marry up the tasks by passion and interest. A leader who is more considered about their ego than his team is a reason for concern and questioning if that he/she is truly a leader.

What are the main traits for a leader in your opinion?

Indonesia: Service, Beauty and Learning


Last year I went on my first service trip. After volunteering with Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), I registered to go on a volunteer trip to Indonesia. On my first meeting with the group of volunteered I was amazed at the diversity of the group: gender, nationality, age, interest, religion, culture… all of it. Just the nationalities alone can give you an idea. We were a group of 25 people and we had members from Egypt, Palestine, Sudan, England, India, Fiji, Lebanon, France, Malaysia, Yemen, Syria, Greece and Qatar. That is 13 different nationalities in a group of 25 people! And they were a lovely group of people. Now, a year later after the trip, we still keep in contact and made some very good friendships.

We went through one month of weekly preparations for the trip. We were going to a school that was re-built in 2007 after the tsunami that hit Asia in 2005. The school was rebuilt and renovated by Qatar Foundation and ROTA. Our group was went to work with middle school kids on topics that were chosen by the school. The topics were: English, Computer Skills, Music, Sports, Environment, and Life Skills. Although I am a techie, I chose to be in the Music group as there was high interest in the Computer group, and I have interest in music myself. We flew from Doha, Qatar to Jakarta, Indonesia and then took a domestic flight to Jogjakarta where we stayed. Every morning we went on a one hour bus drive to the school. The school teachers, students and administrators treated us with big smiles and utmost generosity and politeness. It was easy to communicate not because we spoke the same language but because they are very smart and they can use sign language very efficiently :). Some of the students speak good English. One of them actually spoke very fluently. She was not in my class, she was a year younger. I asked her once, what do you want to be when you grow up, and she said a lecturer at the university. I have no doubt that this girl can achieve her dream because she has the stamina, the drive, and the . However, I wonder if life will get in the way and she will find that she needs to give up her dream to deal with life’s realities. On the last day of school, she was crying to see us leave. The kids think of us as super heroes who can change their lives. What they don’t know, is that they have changed ours. This was from the press release about the trip

“This was my first volunteer experience with Rota and I already look forward to more volunteer activities. The trip organisation was great and the team was amazing. The best part was getting to know the people and the culture of Indonesia and to work with the students. As much as we hope to have made an impact, they have certainly touched our lives and our hearts. I can still see their smiles, their tears and hear their little voices and big dreams. This was truly a memorable experience”

Our memory, this weird weird thing…

Isn’t it weird how our brains function? Why do we remember some things and forget others? Today, I remembered a song that I had not listened to since I was eight years old. I recall that my sister used to like it and that, at that time, I used to hate it. Because in my eight year old brain, “it was boring”. However, today my brain decided that it was craving to listen to that song. I kept humming the tune and and making up the lyrics that I could not remember except for the signature sentence “Yes I love you”. It is a beautiful song that have had on repeat all day today…. but what made me remember it? that I still do not know. Enjoy the song :)

Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future

IMG_2561There’s a movement afoot to get more women into the business of innovation. I’m part of that movement, I want to let you know about a project I’m involved with — and let you know how you can get involved.

Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future is a book designed to encourage, inspire, and educate more women in Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM) and other innovation fields.  Innovating Women is a unique movement to crowd-create a book that will feature hundreds of stories and perspectives of everyday women working in the innovation economy.  Telling the stories about women’s challenges, successes, and experiences in these fields is an important step for change.  By educating our greater community, industry leaders, and policy influencers, we can all help make this happen.

As part of my commitment to Innovating Women, I have agreed to share my story and help raise funds to make this book a reality.  Beyond book production expenses, all proceeds from the campaign and book sales will go toward programs at Singularity University to educate women about advancing technologies and support their startups.  Google for Entrepreneurs has also agreed to match what we raise on Indiegogo up to $50,000 for these women’s programs.

Please join me and support our campaign. Here is the Indiegogo and here is where women can sign up to be coauthors:

Thank you!

Living the dream

I was born in the eighties, and depending on how you define the eighties, it could mean big hair, flashy colors and pointy shoes. Or it could mean economic recession. Oh wait… all of that is back in fashion, including economic recession…

My father was a university professor and we had a house that looked more like the Congress library, books, books and more books everywhere. I did not like my father’s job. I wanted him to quit his job and open a toy store. “You could make more money and I can play with the toys” I would tell my dad.  Well, needless to say my argument was not convincing. And fast forward to the present time, my family moved to Qatar and I now work at a university. What an irony. I am not a professor however; I work in the field of IT.  I write or buy software that fulfills the needs of our users being faculty, staff or students. The keyword here is “fulfills need of the users”. From a young age I received complements on how I relate to people and their needs and match my responses to the details of a situation. An example that my mother likes to repeat is that one day I got back from school, rang the bell and my dad crack opened the door and jokingly said “this is the wrong house” so I respectfully said sorry and turned around ready to leave…. He quickly stopped me of course. My brother did the same thing a few days later but this time, I pushed the door and said “people inside know me”.

Sometime ago I read this quote “A winner is someone who recognizes his God- given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” Intrigued by this quote, I started thinking about other talents that I naturally came with. So over the last several years I went back and started experimenting with things: I learned to knit. I learned to swim. I learned to groom and care for horses. I learned to read for enjoyment. From my experiments, this is what I learned about myself:  I love cars so I bought a Mustang.  I love and excel in learning languages so after mastering English; I started learning two other languages French and Spanish.  I love poetry so I took a poetry workshop and started composing. I love to travel so I make plans to visit at least one new country every year. So far I have been to Malaysia, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, UK, US, France, Seychelles, Lebanon, Jordan, Spain and Indonesia. I love the idea of owning a business and my dream is to start one on my own. It may not be the toy store that I wanted when I was little but I have other ideas that I want to pursue.

I read this other quote recently, “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” This can be a challenge if you are not a morning person and love sleep as much as I do. But I don’t think the author meant it in the literal meaning of awakening but rather in the continuous realization of our strengths, the opportunities around us and our individualities that may have been dimmed by the desire to be like our mother, farther, brother, sister, school teacher, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey,  or Warren Buffet. You probably noticed that I am a fan of quotes, so here is a final one “You were born an original, don’t die a copy”.  So why fit in when you can stand out. Wake up, be a winner and live your dream!