Giving beyond reason

Today felt heavy. I woke up at dawn, and prayed for the life of Amir Bedier. A man I had only heard of yesterday, when his brother and my friend Ahmed sent out this message: “Urgent please make dua for my brother Amir, who was just shot in the chest inside the Rabaa protest in Cairo.”

Moments after prayer, another message came through: “My brother Amir Bedier has returned to Our Lord. To Allah we belong and to Allah is the return. Amir was shot and killed by Egyptian police forces in Rabaa square today. We are proud of him and his courage to stand up for his beliefs and the rights of others. He was fasting and unarmed. He left behind a wife, two children, five brothers and his two parents and countless relatives and friends who loved him.”

A stream of condolences followed.

“إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون”.. “we are for Allah and for Allah we shall return”. The only consoling words. We are all destined for death.

My thoughts were on his children and widow, and the heart wrenching pain they are feeling and will feel for years to come. I felt the emptiness and loneliness they will experience when the anger and sadness lifts and they realize he is gone forever. His seat at dinner is empty, he’s not there to take them to Friday prayer or school Parent conferences.  Seeing fathers supporting their children, hugging them, even reprimanding them becomes all they see around.  Thoughts of “what would he have done” become questions that can never be answered.

The events of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine are tragic. They are creating generations of orphans who are left with an emptiness that can never be filled. Their childhoods are scarred.  Their psychology and emotional state is forever altered.  Their economic status will never be the same. For many, they are catapulted into poverty.

It is the way of the world, and there will be a tomorrow. A tomorrow with orphans places an added responsibility on the rest of society; on us.. me and you…

a responsibility  to give beyond reason,

to obsess about their rights and privileges,

to include their plans in our personal, family and community plans.

We must remember them when we are celebrating because they have non to celebrate with,

when we are traveling and they are unable to leave their camps or disadvantaged lives,

when put up our billboards forgetting the messages on it is only reminder of what’s beyond their reach,

when we embrace mother’s day and they are left to contemplate their missing loved ones.

I write this post as a declaration of what I am committed to, and a reminder to those who care to have a peaceful balanced world.  The emotional and economic deficit born in the lives of orphans is our collective responsibility.  Their security is the accountability of each and every one of us.

May Allah bless Amir Bedier and have mercy on his soul.  May Allah give us the courage to do what is unreasonable for his children.

#live2give

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Simple Sells! – Writing for the Web

SimpleIf a photo can convey what you have to say, then keep it at that! If it is a word, or a proverb, then enough said. That’s advise from Jeff Bullas that is worth considering.

He recommends to keep the words, storyline, headlines, images and all simple. Don’t make the reader work hard.

I would add another point for non-profits looking to raise funds through their communication.  Keep the emotions simple and clear.  Think of the emotional narrative, and stick to one emotion you want to elicit from the reader.

It is advise we’re taking seriously on barakabits.  Can you tell what emotion we are focusing on? Can we make it any simpler?

The Power of Simple Writing – Jeffbullas’s Blog.

Once upon a school – Betine

Iqra Learning Center - Palestine

Spending 4 hours on the King Hussein border can be beneficial after all! I met a Palestinian-American (Wissam) who was visiting Palestine to evaluate a unique social initiative a friend of his started. We talked briefly, and met later in Ramallah.  Amal came with Wissam and took me on a tour of  the “Iqra Learning Center” in her husband’s hometown Batin.

When Amal moved to the West Bank from Fredrick MD. she saw a lot of kids roaming the streets of the village.. kids who should have been at school.  She learned that due to over populated classrooms, learning disabilities and their “special needs” they weren’t able to stay in school. Having seen many special ed programs in the US, she converted her garage to a tutoring center.

Her approach had such a positive impact, kids told their friends, who brought others and she ended up with three garages full of students.  Amal and her husband reached out to the community, got teachers, supplies and ran the program for the past two years.  She supported 100 students. Most are children of framers who cannot afford to pay and offer olive oil instead.

Today, 175 more students are wait-listed.  Amal rented out a larger space and is determined to continue her tutoring program.  Amal needs school supplies, furniture, books and computers.

Share my Dabba – A small sticker can make A BIG DIFFERENCE – YouTube

Share my Dabba - IndiaAs Ramadan approaches, we’re all thinking of ways to give. Charities and non-profits are looking for creative ways to reach out to the community.  Here’s a 2 minute video example of an initiative that works in India and can be  replicated in our region using local models.

SHARE MY DABBA – A SMALL STICKER CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE – YouTube.

here’s how your charity can replicate their success:

  1. Consider a campaign that builds on an existing food/beverage distribution network.
  2. Define your campaign objectives; keep it simple!
  3. Identify the people who’ll help you make it possible
  4. Create the message to reach them and get them on board
  5. Figure out your distribution channels
  6. Select communication channels where your supporters are likely to be (reach mass audiences of supporters through social media).
  7. Create simple content (photos, home-made videos)  that have a high emotional value.
  8. Start small and watch it grow.
  9. Measure your success and report on it to your stakeholders.
  10. Be patient with your program. Watch it grow slowly, it will have a longer lasting impact.

For a regional example check out the Family Kitchen in Jordan

For more on Share My Dabba check out lighthouse insights

Relevant organizations providing support in Ramadan: PMRS  Nakhweh

Its a good day to save lives!

How often do you get to see a life-changing operation? I observed a two today and I’m over the moon with excitement!!

A 7am start in operating room at Bahrain Hospital in Ramallah. Dr. Meyer administers the necessary dose of anesthetics, while Dr. Idriss Gharbaoui got his tools ready to work on little Ayoub’s hand. Image

Within forty minutes, Ayoub’s disfigured, and non-functioning hand transformed to a healthy looking and functioning one.

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I am blessed that I get to do amazing work daily fundraising and building capacity with social businesses and charities. Field work reminds me of why I do it.  Seeing little Ayoub’s life changing surgery gave me drive for the coming year to do more.

Working side by side with this volunteer team of doctors and nurses who have been performing surgeries in less than optimal conditions for a week is humbling. They’re creativity and dedication is admirable.  It was a great day to change lives 🙂

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for more on the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund visit http://www.pcrf.net

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Brand YOU – an online celebrity or John Doe?

Personal Digital BrandYou’re a professional, you’ve worked in companies that guard their brand. You know what that’s like. A marketing  team enforces identity guidelines, everyone must use consistent fonts, colors, use the right language in the media and more.

Just as you set or comply with stringent guidelines for a corporate brand; you should do the same for your personal digital one. Why? Because:

1. Reflecting on the aspects of your personality you want to share and those you prefer to keep private helps create a loyal following of advocates who engage regularly
2. Consistency in your image and messaging improves recognition and recollection. Seeing the same profile photo on Facebook, twitter, linked-in and other channels helps followers remember you.

Here are a few tips on how you can do that:

  • Principles & Policy –  reflect on your standards for following, befriending, liking and criticizing others.  Think of how you’ll engage fans, friends and followers on topics you find interesting.  Be consistent.
  •  Your avatar photo – defines your personality.. make it reflect who you are.. keep it consistent across networks.Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 5.02.47 AM
  • Covers & Backgrounds – are important digital real-estate. Use it to give insights into your passions. Share your causes, creations and concerns on your covers and backgrounds.
  • The language you use – dictates your followers.. how you speak, the tone, the language, the topics all determine who follows you. create a dialogue (not a monologue) around topics you like and can maintain an interest in. Don’t be a trend follower, be a trend starter.
  • Hashtags – You can use to subject trends that spark your interest by hash-tagging. It keeps your content current. Anyone who searches for a hashtag finds you. Take the time to develop your hashtags and use them consistently. My favorites #SOCENT  (Social Entrepreneur) and my personal ones #elevate and #live2give
  • Keep it in character – while being different is good, being you is great!  I often come across content that’s trending and unique, but it doesn’t reflect my character. I move on!  You can get fans and followers by riding a trend wave, but do you really want just anyone riding your coattail?

Or on the topic from the expert:

7 Tips to Finding “Your” Writing Voice | Jeffbullas’s Blog.

If you have any more insights on creating a personal brand online, please share them in the comment section. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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Arabs love to watch! video rules social media

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Content is king.  Video is Emperor in the Arab world.  Don’t wait for a Monitor Report on the matter. Check out the numbers of hits accumulated by regional youtube video production channels:

  • Saudi Satire video production machine “la yekthar” and Fahed Al Buthairi average a million hits per clip. They have 458,053 subscribers and 59,698,504 video views
  • Arab Idol’s youtube channel has 551,441 subscribers and 137,150,562 video views
  • Indie productions from Jordan “Bath Bayakha” averages 300k hits per video and are on their 3rd season

What this means is go video and you’re a hit.  It is that simple! And its not just entertainment, it is education, professional training, product demonstrations, service descriptions, workouts and lots more!

Tips for video:

  • Keep it brief.  1-3 minutes for a home-grown production, 3-5 if you have all the bells and whistle!
  • Front-load it – make the case upfront.. don’t drag on the intro.
  • Storyboard it – don’t be all over the place.. write a coherent script..
  • Keep it simple – business or entertainment, the simpler the better.
  • Know your audience – target it well. Don’t make it for everyone.

Last but not least, socialize it.  Its not enough to upload to twitter.. push it out to the social media sphere.

Enjoy being a youTube Star!

Who do you influence?

I’d like to think I have influence.. I’m certain we all do.. but what type of influence do we have online?

Business Insider Infographic - The Many Faces of Influence
Those with clout

Pick your profile from a lineup by Business Insider or define a new one..

  1. The Celebrity
  2. The Authority
  3. The Connector (me)
  4. The Personal Brand
  5. The Analyst
  6. The Activist (me again 🙂
  7. The Expert
  8. The Insider
  9. The Agitator
  10. The Journalist

I’d like to add

11. The Offender (not me but common around political social media circles)

12. The Authoritarian (those who want to bully everyone into submission to their personal opinions)

I’d define the two lateral categories as totally uncool!

How To Identify Social Media Influencers – Business Insider.

Like me do! engage your fans

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 8.50.48 AMTo like or not to like.. that’s the question facing millions on social media. Make it easy for your fans & followers.  This 5min video advice from the folks at Wildfire is useful.

  1. GIVE THEM EXCLUSIVE ACCESS TO  VIP CONTENT!
  2. Build a content calendar around real life events.. tie it to your brand (personal or professional)
  3. Stream .. don’t drip!  make it regular and ..
  4. Engage.. DIALOGUE don’t monologue

Cinco-de-Maya | Wildfire.

Thanks Wildfire!

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If it makes you cry.. this one did!

A few years back I read this quote in the US National Newseum photography exhibit section:

“If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that’s a good picture” Eddie Adams

Since then, I’ve been so conscious of the emotional value of photography.  Over the past year, like all Syrians I’ve been bombarded with horrific images of violence, pain, suffering, anger, violations of human dignity.  I avoid these images like the plague, because I firmly believe they leave a print of hatred in our minds and hearts.  They prevent us from seeing prospects of peace, hope and love.  I chose peace and chose to avoid seeing such images at all costs.

Today, I came across an image with a simple message on Facebook that had me crying for hours. My life felt empty. I feel humbled by the fact that I can do so little for this beautiful angel.  Mariam Al Fawal’s father has been in a Syrian prison for 5 months and 20 days.  Mariam is counting! Her message is a simple prayer for his safe return. Her father is a civilian who ran a children’s clothing factory. A father of four beautiful children, husband to an amazing woman and a man dedicated to serving the less fortunate.

Maher Al FawalThe only thing I can do for Maryam is spread her beautiful message of a simple, sweet wish.  Her and her father’s smiles are so peaceful and beautiful.  Please join me in praying for his safe return.

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