BarakaBits – Weekly News Roundup

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Rama Chakaki
Rama Chakaki – Chief Optimist @BarakaBits

#MENA – Ramadan Reflections: What Does this Month Mean to You?
#UAE – How A Chance Meeting Turned Into a Future in Social Enterprise
1,400 Years of Moonlight: A Celebration by Malek Jandali
#SYRIA – A Prescription for Happiness: 5 Rituals to Make Part of Your Routine
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A Healthy Mind is in a Healthy Wallet – 10 Tips to Wellness Through Financial Sustainability

Money Girl

Dealing with stress, anxiety and other mental challenges is one thing. Doing it while under financial stress is a whole other ballgame! And that is the unfortunate position many women in the Arab world find themselves in.

In societies that uphold a women’s place in family and the home, women find themselves dependent on their spouse for financial support.  That’s well and good until their marital status changes, or a tragic event befalls the breadwinner.  A housewife finds herself under a mountain of emotional stress compounded by a financial burden.  And even if that doesn’t happen;  all an Arab housewife needs to do is look around at the 50%+ divorce rates across the Arab world. That alone warrants a lifetime prescription of Prozac, or, a plan to be financially sustainable.

Here are ten tips for financial sustainability that will have a direct impact on your mental well-being

  1. Discuss financial matters with your spouse, parent or guardian and address worse case scenarios
  2. Consult a financial adviser on a financial plan based on your current reality
  3. Put in place a savings plan and stick to it
  4. Educate yourself on financial sustainability using sites like and
  5. If you have the disposable income, join a women’s angel investment network to learn from others and co-invest to mitigate your risk
  6. Consider starting a home business, or taking on part-time work
  7. Learn the basics of balancing your accounts. Take an accounting course
  8. Educate yourself on the laws of the land regarding inheritance or divorce
  9. Acknowledge the challenges of financial stress and discuss them with a mental health professional, a support group or a trusted friend
  10. No matter how difficult your current financial circumstances are, you can always improve on them.  Reach out for support

If you have advice to offer others, please join the conversation and share your experience.

A Fine Line Between Social Etiquette and Telling Lies


Copyright – Nation of Change

You’re leaving a dinner party, and a friend needs a taxi ride. You offer to drop her off, but her house is in the opposite direction, and yet you insist on dropping her home. You do it in-spite of traffic, and that report waiting for you at home to finish. You end up arriving at home hours later and with frustration staying up to a crazy hour to finish your report. It throws off your entire week.  Why? because that’s what our culture teaches us!

We grow up as Arabs with the concept of putting others ahead. Whether or not it makes any sense. We insist on offering dinner guests food well beyond the point of reason.  In business we nod in agreement to terms we don’t intend to honor.  We go out of our way offering up support, advice, facilitating connections that we may not even have accessible to us.  It is so overdone and exaggerated by most that our intent for generosity and altruism begins to lose meaning.  And more so, takes a habitual form that cannot be maintained without it becoming disingenuous, and turns our lives into one big lie!

How often have you come across friends who complain about doing so much for others? They complain that they no longer have time for themselves or their families. Why? because they must “return” a dinner invitation, or they promised a neighbor to watch their children. They complain indirectly about the activities they volunteered to do. The favors they opted for.  And at times make unkind references to those they opted to serve. Yet if you question their logic for doing it, their answer is “It’s only proper!  It’s our culture! How can I not?”.

I was seated next to a colleague one afternoon when a mutual friend walked past.  We both greeted him; my colleague went out of his way to address him with warm terms of endearment and salutations.  As he moved away, my colleague exclaimed “oh my! he can be so annoying!”.   The look on my face showed my utter surprise to the insincerity of his actions; his response “Aren’t you Syrian?” So matter of fact, like I was to know this is rooted in our culture.  It is no wonder the Qur’an likened backbiting to the most vial actions. And yet everyone does it. Why? because we live in a social world where everyone overextends themselves to the point that it becomes unsustainable. That social etiquette overrides our genuine feelings and thoughts. And the only way to manage it, is by complaining about its impact on our overstretched lives or living a lie.

This behavior is so deeply engrained in our culture, that it would be difficult state to change. But there is hope. Hope that is found in the Muslim prophetic tradition, and in modern day self-help guides in bookstores worldwide.  “Say the truth or be silent”.  If you cannot be genuine and sincere, then its best not to speak, or act for that matter.

Some good news .. #gaza family a phone call away..

I just got off the phone with Abdulhadi & khalil.  Two brothers, one lost his eye, another his limbs in the 2009 attack.

“Hamdul Allah we are fine.. three days no water, electricity. Our neighborhood is a ghost town.  Everyone evacuated, two missiles hit two houses next to ours.  We are fine.. its difficult to see children go through this”..

The UAE community hosted both brothers in 2010 for medical treatment.  Khalil became the first double amputee scuba diver in the Arab world. Abdulhadi an amazing human being, an artist, a confident outspoken young man who relentless asks me what he can do for others.  I pray that he and his family survive. 

I asked how I can help.. “Allah yebarek fiki.. pray for an end to this.”

Please pray for their safety and that of others around them.


Drawing by Abdulhadi in 2010

The gravity of the battle means nothing to those at peace

Last night, my 20 year old son came home in a solemn mood.  One of his dear school friends had passed in an operating room from complications.  We spoke of death, funerals and post funeral customs and how  people of different cultures observe it.  Ssome celebrate it and others morn for months on end.  I recalled the most consoling A’zaa (wake) I had been to was one celebrating the life of the deceased.  Death is the only certainty and hard as it maybe one must accept Gods’ will and the universal truth.

Tonight, we arrived at Ali’s A’zaa to see dozens of his young friends walking in, filling the hallways, on their faces a look of shock and sadness. For many of it is the first time they experience the passing of a loved one.  I fought back the tears at the sight of his sweet sister telling my son “he’s inchaAllah where he belongs, in heaven, we should celebrate his life, thank you for coming to remember him”.

I didn’t expect Ali’s parents to be the ones consoling their visitors.  Dressed in their everyday clothes, they greeted us warmly.  They stood, with a warm smile receiving hugs, telling guests “Allah chose him in a blessed month, pray for him”.  The walls covered with Ali’s photos and a quote he loved;  the TV displayed photos of Ali smiling, living life with his friends and family.  A table of his favorite chocolates and drinks held a sign inviting visitors to eat his favorite candy.  His friends took turns going up to his room.. a sign leading to it said “Take a souvenir to remember Ali”. Ali’s family graciously gave everyone permission to breath a sigh of relief and reflect on Ali’s spirited life.

Ali’s parents have always been role models; both spiritual and calm with a lighthearted outlook on life.  Today, they taught us all what resolve and unwavering faith in Allah’s judgement means.  “Pray for him, and ask everyone to do the same” was his father said with a smile.

I ask you all to pray for Ali and for our sons and daughters in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. May their souls rest in peace. May Allah continue to grant his family strength and mercy.

death - life - peace