I was delighted and deeply honored to be asked to be a Global Ambassador for the first Middle East/North Africa program in Doha, Qatar in November 2013, as part of the Global Ambassadors Program – a Vital Voices and Bank of America partnership. I shared this wonderful journey with seven unique and very accomplished fellow mentors from the U.S., Jordan, Palestine and Romania and our eight mentees. The courage and tenacity of our mentees, who nearly all live in countries currently experiencing conflict, was inspiring. Egyptian entrepreneur Dalia Saafan, my mentee, radiates energy, optimism and hope. We connected instantly.
Lauren (left) begins her mentorship with Dalia in Doha, Qatar in 2013. Photo: Micky Wiswedel
We maintained that connection and in May 2014, I traveled to Egypt to visit Dalia, her family and Edge Consultants. I met everyone at Edge during a traditional Egyptian breakfast in their office and addressed them as a group afterward. It’s hard to imagine an entire employee population exuding the same enthusiasm and engagement as Dalia, but there it was! They were warmly welcoming, curious and interested.
Meeting Iman (center), CEO of Edge Consultants, with Dalia (right).
What struck me most was the group energy and dynamic, something I have seen infrequently in business and government service. We talked about the importance of extending business networks beyond our professions and regions of the world and constantly considering how we might help extend the networks of others regardless of whether it immediately impacts our own situation. As an example, I spoke of meeting leaders in the Greek shipping industry the prior week and how their businesses might benefit from Edge training.
Visiting Dalia’s family farm outside of Cairo.
Being with Dalia and her family, spending time at Edge, and visiting Dalia’s ancestral farms in the Nile Delta was exceptional. I am now part of an extended Egyptian family and we have forged a relationship that will last our lifetime, thanks to our participation in the Global Ambassadors Program.