Alumni Success Stories

Meet MEPI’s Best and Brightest Alumni

Student Leaders (SL) Program Success Stories

MEPI Alumna Brightens the Futures of Youth through Educational and Career Support

After completing the Baccalaureate exam and graduating high school, Nora Chaynane was undecided on what degree she wanted to pursue. She Decided to take a gap year to read, travel, volunteer, and take online courses to help her decide. She discovered her love for computers and Information Technology through an online certificate course and she enrolled in an IT program for the coming year. Nora recognized the lack of career development resources offered to Moroccan youth in high school. Having struggled through her own career navigation alone, Nora wanted to start a career development organization to support other Moroccan young students with resources and mentorship to strengthen their academic and professional development.

Upon completion of the Student Leaders Program in 2019, Nora expanded her community engagement project to create Shine Space, a youth-empowerment organization focused on educational and career development in the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. Shine Space is a place where “students can go to share their thoughts, their fears, and gain guidance from mentors,” says Nora.

Since their establishment in 2019, Shine Space has been able to host 20 local workshops and a regional conference in the Tangier for northern Moroccan states. They have also supported 100 students with in-person mentorship while benefiting over 2,500 participants overall. Shine Space has received several awards including the 2019 Tony Elumelu Foundation award and the 2019 Grand Prix Entrepreneur Award. Though Shine Space is focused on providing academic guidance and professional mentorship to high school aged students, it accepts students of all ages and even supports parents by providing training and organizing parent-focused events.

For 2020, Shine Space had planned a national forum. However, due to the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19, they were unable to conduct it. Nevertheless, they quickly pivoted and organized a virtual schedule to ensure that students are not only receiving academic but also emotional support during this difficult time. To keep students socially engaged and connected, they organized online language and debate focused groups.

Nora would like to give special recognition to the staff of MSU, her mentor, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir and the Shiners team for their support in developing Shine Space.

Blending Social Entrepreneurship Expertise and MEPI Experience to Revolutionize Humanitarian Relief in Lebanon

Omar Itani, MEPI Student Leaders 2016 alumnus, began his entrepreneurial career in the startup world. With his schoolmates, he established his first startup, VISIO, an initiative specialized in waste management and recycling. VISIO won the 2012 INJAZ company program and the Best Social Impact Award in the Regional Competition for Arab Young Entrepreneurs in Doha-Qatar. The success of VISIO encouraged him to become more involved in the eco-conscious startup arena.

After VISIO, Omar founded FabricAID in 2017, which aims to redistribute used clothes to disadvantaged communities in Lebanon. The main goal of FabricAID is to deliver quality clothing to the hands of people who need them the most, while also reducing fabric waste. In order to ensure fabric does not go to waste, the FabricAID team also accepts clothes that may be in poor condition and re-processes them into raw materials for further secondary consumption.

With an increase governance and humanitarian crises in Lebanon, Omar and his team have widened their scope and diversified the way they give back to their community in the past year. After the Beirut explosion, FabricAID created a relief team to provide help to the people most affected through food, hygiene products, rehabilitation and clothes distributed from FabricAID’s warehouse.

Omar shares with the MEPI Alumni Connection:

“I believe the MEPI experience impacts each person differently. Personally, whenever I think back to the program, I cannot help but relish the exposure it provided me with. The exposure I am now equipped with was not limited to the people I got the chance to work alongside. It went beyond that to help me build knowledge around the processes implemented in a foreign country across different levels. Coming from a small country, this experience allowed me to have a sort of a bird’s eye view. I was able to compare my own background to a much larger scale, which also helped me draw a margin between how things are and how much better things can be. I left MEPI with an enlarged skillset, and as a member of a new community bringing together similarly passionate, driven, and motivated people.”

MEPI Alumna Finds Passion in Creating a Youth Club in Agadir, Morocco.

Zaina Dali participated in the Student Leaders program in 2016 at Roger Williams University. Soon after graduating with a BA in Linguistics, she was selected into a Master’s program and is currently in her second year. Zaina is grateful for her time in the SL program and describes it as more than an exchange program because the experience gave her a better understanding of herself and her future goals. Her time in the program influenced her decision to become a member in the Tiddoukla Alumni Association for Moroccan American Cooperation in Agadir, Morocco. Shortly after joining, Zaina, with the help of other alums, created a youth club within the association. She currently serves as the president for the youth club and in July of 2017 she organized the “Tiddoukla Summer Camp” which received 130 local and regional participants from Morocco. Those who attended in the summer camp participated in trainings and workshops relevant to skill development in areas such as coding and social entrepreneurship, among many others.

Zaina hopes that the youth camp will inspire the local youth to create positive change and strive to become better leaders. She attributes this youth camp success to the experience she had in the MEPI leadership program because it allowed her to become “the best version of myself, and I’m now more active than I’ve ever been.”

MEPI Alum Launches Center of Civil Society for Governance and Local Development in Kalaat el-Andalous, Tunisia.

During his participation in the MEPI Student Leaders program at Portland State University in 2016, Safwen Karoui became inspired by the principles and ideas behind conflict resolution. He wanted to take the professional skills that he gained from the program and apply them to work with local associations and civil society organizations in his home community of Kalaat el-Andalous, Tunisia. Safwen noticed that many associations face professional challenges, which often makes it difficult for them to fully partner with citizens and local governments to strengthen the system of participatory governance. Therefore, he launched the Center of Civil Society for Governance and Local Development as a solution. The organization works with associations in Kalaat el-Andalous to create a space for training, debates, and dialogues to ensure the continuous development of associations and citizens in the region. Karoui and his team also provide professional skills training for more than 20 organizations and their staff members on topics like project management, project assessment, human rights, and conflict resolution.

From January to May of 2017, Safwen’s team held more than 10 training sessions, reaching approximately 150 association members in Kalaat el-Andalous. The main purpose of these trainings is to increase the professional capacity of these organizations so that they can better collaborate with each other, with community members, and with local governments. Safwen was also invited back in May to help deliver trainings in communication techniques and project management with Mercy Corps in Tunisia.

The MEPI Student Leaders Program aims to equip youth with leadership skills to “empower partnerships between citizens, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and government institutions to promote common shared solutions for the people of the Middle East and North Africa.” Through his work with community partners and local organizations, Safwen and his team have taken tangible, initial steps toward creating such partnerships in their communities. This is only the beginning for Safwen Karoui; he was recently accepted to the Masters of Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, where he hopes to expand the skills he can offer his community.

MEPI Alum Leads a Global Effort to Stop Overuse of Antibiotics

Mohammed Abdulrahman A. Alaqil was accepted into the MEPI Student Leaders Program in 2016 and began his studies at Portland State University shortly thereafter.

During his time in the Student Leaders Program, he focused his studies on conflict resolution, peace studies, and geopolitical sciences. To supplement his classwork, he participated in multiple seminars while in the SLP, particularly in the field of health and security. During these seminars, he found that his true passion was advancing health advocacy and awareness programs. Mohammed’s capstone project, which was aimed at enhancing the current healthcare system in KSA and the greater MENA region, was presented at the Georgetown Conference in March, 2017.

Since presenting his capstone project, he has spoken at multiple international summits throughout the MENA region. With the team building and leadership skills that he acquired through the SLP, Mohammed has led a global effort in informing medical professionals on the severity of superbugs and, specifically, their antimicrobial resistance. Advocacy and awareness teams led by Mohammed have successfully educated 250 health care providers about the consequences and risks of over prescribing antibiotics.

Mohammed attributes his team leadership abilities, conflict resolution, and communication skills to his time in the MEPI Student Leaders Program. The projects led by Mohammed have been featured in the CMXC Conference in Dubai, as well as on multiple media outlets, including Al Arabiya, Alwatan, and the Saudi Gazette.

MEPI Alum Awarded Third Place in the Regional P2P Challenging Extremism Competition

When Badis Laabidi returned home after participating in MEPI Student Leaders program of 2016, he joined the P2P ( Peer to Peer) Challenging Extremism program sponsored by Ed Venture. As part of the program, Badis launched “Speak Yehdik” with three of his Tunisian schoolmates. “Speak Yehdik” is a social media campaign that uses facts to educate youth about growing local extremism and empowers them to claim their rights and change their reality. The team’s research was based on statistics that show 1) Tunisia is among the top countries exporting jihadists to conflict zones such as Syria, Iraq and Libya; and 2) a high percentage of these jihadists are university students and especially Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.

Two months after launching the campaign, Badis and his team organized their first “Speak Yehdik” nonviolence training session at Tunis Business School. Badis got the idea of this event from training he received during his participation in MEPI’s Student Leaders program. Soon after the training session was held, “Speak Yehdik” was awarded third place in the regional P2P Challenging Extremism competition held in Accra, Ghana.

“It is incredible how effective communication can build bridges between different people. Clearly, MEPI is based on that concept. This is one of the main reasons I cofounded this campaign,” says Badis.

Badis and his team are now looking for more opportunities to scale up the “Speak Yehdik” campaign in Tunisia.

After participating in MEPI’s Student Leaders Program Mohammed Taoufik, felt compelled to find a solution to the high crime and drug rates that he saw in the youth in his community in Casablanca. He created a public awareness and support campaign to showcase the positive impact building a youth soccer field would have on the community. Mohammed created a petition which was signed by over 300 people and met with local representatives to encourage them to begin the project. He was able to receive the funds needed to start the project and partnered with a well-known NGO with experience in sports events. This was a particular skill that Mohammed learned during his time with MEPI.

Since April 4, 2018, 200 kids are officially taking lessons in soccer and 100 kids are still on the waiting list. The youth in his community have reported better health and overall well-being as well as improvements in academic performance.

Through MEPI Mohammed was able to gain the skills needed for civic engagements and community problem-solving. He says “I have changed a lot since the MEPI program, I have become fearless and more eager to create change, I am more independent, a more charismatic leader, and more engaged in my community.”

Mohammed Taoufik joined MEPI’s Student Leaders Program in 2015 and began his studies at Portland State University. During his time at PSU, Mohammed participated in various classes and trainings related to democratic institutions and leadership, project management, and how to partner with NGOs.

MEPI alum Launches the first and only social initiative that aims to teach children coding through a unique concept and a special approach.

I heard about MEPI Student Leaders through a friend who had participated in the past, and I applied in 2015 for the program in order to develop an idea that I was working on back then; Loop – a social initiative that aims to teach children how to code through a unique concept.

Once I was accepted I knew that this is a great opportunity to develop a project plan and gain the needed skills in order to make the plans work better. I attended Montana State University and was part of a great program in which we had the opportunity to develop our public speaking skills amongst other things, which helped me a lot in conferences and talks I gave on different occasions following my participation in the program. The program helped me develop my leadership skills as well; having the chance to live and work with a team of young leaders from different countries gave me the opportunity to learn from others and to better know the importance of leadership. During the program I also had the chance to work on my project and to develop the idea, think about future plans and receive help from professional mentors.

Participating in the program was also an amazing opportunity for me and the other participants to become part of a great network, meeting new people and collaborating with them so we can all maximize our success.

After returning home, I started my initiative with great successes and achievements in a very short period of time; today – Loop is the first and only social initiative that aims to teach children coding through our unique concept and special approach.

Two years after starting, Loop has managed to reach over 2000 students through its ongoing activities and partnerships with local schools and hi-tech companies, such as Microsoft and Google. During these two years, Loop was selected by different global organizations and events as a special initiative and was marked as one of the most promising social initiatives globally. As a result, I was asked to present Loop in many local and global conferences and summits including giving a TED talk at Stanford University in 2016, speaking at the 2016 One Young World (OYW) Summit in Canada, and the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in the USA.

One of Loop’s greatest and latest achievements is the opening of Loop’s Campus in Nazareth in July 2017, and starting the first Coding Summer Academy for children in the area in August 2017, which was a perceived as great success for being a unique Tech-hub for kids and children aged 7-16.

MEPI Student Founds the Lebanese Association of Dental Students and Receives Full Country Membership as an International Organization.

Houssam Askar joined the Student Leaders program in the spring of 2015. Houssam started at Georgetown University shortly thereafter. While at Georgetown, Houssam founded the Lebanese Association of Dental Students (LADS). LADS grew at a rapid pace; and quickly received full country membership as an International Organization. During his tenure as President, LADS organized two annual oral hygiene and health campaigns with targeted underprivileged Lebanese communities and multiple Syrian refugee communities. In 2015, Houssam was a youth delegate in the World Forum for Democracy, in Strasbourg, France.

Houssam’s academic and professional skills were strengthened significantly during his time at Georgetown. He attributes his leadership skills and enhanced international affairs knowledge to his time with the MEPI program.  He is especially thankful for the multiple leadership opportunities he has had both in and out of the classroom. He planss to take the lessons he has learned from the MEPI program to combat human rights violations throughout the world.

MEPI Alumna experiences lead to a startup venture to resolve Global Water challenges

Dalia Alnajjar participated in the SL program in 2015 at the University of Delaware. As her first experience abroad away from her home town, she regarded the program as an “experience that was eye-opening” and has helped shape her desire to impact her community and beyond in a positive manner. The lessons and skills Dalia gained through her time in the program have served as the foundation for her numerous endeavors after.

Dalia has worked as a trainer/facilitator to over 200 teenagers suffering from severe war trauma in West Bank and Gaza. Later joining the Yala Young Leaders program and becoming a Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace. Dalia has since been selected by YSI (Young Sustainable Impact) to join their innovation program along with her team as they founded Xyla Water, a global venture aiming at solving the global water challenges through innovation, collaboration, and education. Currently the team is pitching their ideas and competing for startup funding, Dalia will represent their company at Clinton Initiative competition.

El Mahdi Lafram’s Project Showcased at COP22 and Recognized by Stanford University

After El Mahdi participated in MEPI Student Leaders program of 2015, he joined the Environmental Youth Program (EYA) project campaigning for conservation and climate change action through social media, video production, and community events, along with a group of six Moroccan young activists mentored by local NGO Dar Si Hmad. El Mahdi started as a team member in May 2016 before taking the lead on the initiative. The EYA project was showcased at the UN Climate Change conference in Marrakesh and El Mahdi’s team members were among Dar Si Hmad booth facilitators at the conference, presenting its awarding-winning fog-harvesting project to hundreds of Moroccan and foreign visitors – fog-harvesting is an innovative technology based on the fact that water can be collected from fogs under favorable climatic conditions.

In just six months, El Mahdi and his team organized four local environmental awareness events in Agadir engaging more than 100 local young people. He also helped build an online audience of thousands of followers on social media platforms, where he published original multimedia, multilingual content, in addition to participating in various environmental events across Morocco.

Through his environmental activism work, El Mahdi took part in an executive education program at the American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Global Affairs & Public Policy with a full scholarship and spoke at the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford university (AMENDS) prestigious conference that took place at the University of Oxford in June 2017.

“MEPI provided me with the tools and resources to make my dreams come to life. It made me biased towards action and making a change” says El Mahdi Lafram.

Shaymaa Alfaidi, 2014 MEPI Student Leader graduate from Saudi Arabia, founds and expands Women Empowerment Initiatives

Soon after she participated in MEPI’s Student Leaders program in 2014 in Georgetown University, at age 19, Shaymaa founded the Maharati Initiative for Women and youth empowerment. Shaymaa expanded Maharati Initiative to become Najaba for Social Innovation, an initiative that aims to empower institutions and individuals through social innovation and entrepreneurship.  Shaymaa’s hard work and commitment to make a difference in the world made her a role model for young Yemeni and Saudi women, as well as for youth across the region.

Najaba project was chosen as one of the best 30 projects globally in the Youth Global Forum in Dubai.  Shaymaa is often invited to international conferences to speak about her initiative and to represent youth from the Middle East and North Africa Region (e.g. Social Change Initiatives Conference in Oxford university, the Youth Entrepreneurship Conference in Pristina, and the Ministry of Education and Youth in Indonesia).

MEPI Student Leaders alumni received the King Abdullah II Demoqrati award in 2014 and the EUROMED youth award in 2013.

Dr. Sami Hourani is a medical doctor and serial social entrepreneur. He is the founding director of the well-known educational platform, the founder and executive director of the regional organization Leaders of Tomorrow and the innovative social initiatives Diwanieh and Mo7aka. Recently he developed FADFED, which is a new and creative qualitative research methodology for supporting his activities in this field.

Dr Hourani is a fellow at Ashoka, the largest global hub for social innovators. He received the King Abdullah II Demoqrati award in 2014 and the EUROMED youth award in 2013. Other awards received in recognition of his important contributions in this field include his designation as Jordanian Role Model in 2011 and the Jordanian title of “Knight of Change” in 2008.

Dr. Hourani’s passion to community work goes back many years, starting when he participated in the 2004 MEPI students Leaders program. Ever since, Dr. Hourani took it upon himself to follow his passion and to continue a career as a social entrepreneur and assist youth activists in Jordan not only in Jordan, but in the region, and the whole world.

Over the past few years, Sami has been invited to numerous conferences and seminars worldwide to talk about democracy, youth activism, entrepreneurship, as such becoming the voice of Arab youth in a volatile region that continue to face a lot challenges.  Youth like Sami are making a difference in their lives and lives of fellow youth worldwide.

Dr Hourani received his M.D degree from the University of Jordan and a master’s degree in social innovation and technology at Lund University in Sweden. He has received certifications in Community Organizing and in Persuasive Communication from Harvard University and Delaware University respectively. Dr. Hourani provides advisory and consultancy services in the area of Middle Eastern politics to national and international clients.

MEPI Alum Founds One of the Leading Arab Foundations Representing Arabs in the Health Care Community.

Mohammed joined the SL program in the summer of 2012 and began his studies at the University of Delaware in the fall. During his time in the program, Mohammed participated in many panels and forums, focusing especially on networking and spreading awareness of the Mariam Foundation. While in the program, he participated in negotiation workshops with the American Embassy. Additionally, Mohammed was selected as a young leader in the Think Plan Lead: Turning Ideas into Action Conference.

Mohammed attributes his professional success and the success of the Mariam Foundation in large part to the MEPI program and the lessons he learned in the multiple conferences he attended. Additionally, he attributes his strong leadership skills, as well as his increased civic engagement to his time in MEPI. The communication and negotiation skills he learned while in the program are used frequently in the day-to-day operations of the Mariam Foundation. Currently, Mohammad serves as the CEO of the Foundation. The Mariam Foundation is one of the leading Arab foundations representing Arabs in the health care community. The Mariam Foundation seeks to address the needs of all individuals battling cancer by raising awareness, financially supporting cancer patients, and collaborating with healthcare providers throughout the region to reach more people in need.

Senior Knowledge Analyst for Public Sector at the Boston Consulting Group.

Yasmin Garaibeh, another MEPI Student Leaders Alumna. Garaibeh attended MEPI Student Leaders at Georgetown University in 2010.  Garaibeh is highly motivated and is an excellent self-starter, who managed with persistence and determination to obtain a Fulbright scholarship to study Master of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology, 2015.

Graduating with BSc in Industrial Engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology was Yasmin’s first milestone. She is a recipient of the Outstanding Masters Student Award from Georgia University in 2015, and 2nd place winner of UGA case competition. Also, she’s a freelance journalist with AL Farida publishing, and a monthly feature contributor to Al-Modon online newspaper contributing pieces on refugees and local elections in Jordan.

Yasmin is a rising MEPI star alumna who capitalized on her experience in U.S. through MEPI and Fulbright, and is taking her career to advanced levels, yet reemphasizing the impact that MEPI and other U.S. government experience can bring to people’s career and personal development.

MEPI Student Leaders alumna received a Fulbright scholarship to study for a Master’s of Public Administration at University of Pennsylvania in the U.S.

After Upon her return from the MEPI student leaders program in 2010, Marie kept a close connection with the MEPI Alumni network, with the aim of exploring new opportunities. After her graduation with BSc in Industrial engineering in 2011 from Jordan University for Science and Technology, Marie was up against a tough challenge to start a rewarding career and maintain her dream of pursuing a higher education in the U.S. She started her career in 2009 as a business development and efficiency team leader with ARAMEX, but kept her interest in studying abroad.

In 2013, Marie received a Fulbright scholarship to study for a Master’s of Public Administration at University of Pennsylvania in the U.S.  During her time in the United States, she worked with a number of renowned groups including as a Muslim Culture Exhibit Fellow with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan as a Muslim Culture Exhibit Fellow, a development assistant with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, and as a research assistant with Global Giving.

Marie’s success tells another story how programs like the MEPI Student leaders and Fulbright coupled with the a set of skills that they acquire through the program sow seeds of leadership in the brains and hearts of those young students, and  put them on the  path to success.

Tomorrow's Leaders (TL) Program Success Stories

Salaam Halila, Tunisian MEPI TL Alumna from LAU, excelled as a communication major during the program and used the skills she acquired to create two successful awareness campaigns surrounding mental health and promoting cultural differences in Arab society.

In March 2019, while in her junior year, Salaam launched “Bil Hawa Sawa” (We are all in the same boat), an awareness campaign to raise awareness about mental health among LAU students and remind them about the counseling services that LAU offers.

The campaign gained wide acceptance across campus and beyond and an impressive following with 158 followers on their Instagram page, 626 profile visits, and 344 accounts reached during the campaign. Additionally, 107 students responded to the campaign’s online survey on mental health and almost 100 students visited the awareness booth where they were able to have a safe space to talk about mental health in general and LAU counseling services in particular.

At the end of the campaign, Salaam and the team members gathered all students’ feedback and suggestions and submitted a detailed report to the counseling panel at LAU for their reference and consideration.

In her senior year, Salaam went the next level by launching her second campaign “We are more than Stereotypes.” The main objective of the campaign was to break stereotypes prevalent in Arab society about each other and encourage the celebration of cultural differences instead. The campaign was posted on Instagram and gained wide reach and exposure. Within a week, the page gained 415 organic followers, 1140 profile visits; 7470 impressions; 983 reach and 140 total reshares of all posts.

Because the job perspective for computer science is growing at a rapid rate, it has become a crucial tool to not only innovate the world but a way to directly meeting needs and paving the way for a more equitable world.

As soon as Ali Ayache graduated from the MEPI TL program at LAU with Distinction he landed a job at Microsoft in Vancouver Canada as a software engineer at Microsoft Teams.

Ayache expected and embraced the different challenges of working abroad and somehow coped rapidly with his new lifestyle. However, the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ayache with a new set of unprecedented responsibilities as he and his colleagues had to assist millions of students, teachers, families, first responders, schools, universities to shift to online learning.

Enjoying high levels of problem-solving skills that he acquired during his time at the LAU-MEPI TL program, Ali Ayache managed successfully to provide day-to-day support through designing, planning, implementing, and maintaining features for Teams to facilitate the new online working mode to all users especially to those who have minimum knowledge in the software.
This experience was rewarding to Ayache on both personal and professional levels, as working under stress showed high levels of resilience, a trait that Ayache was not aware of himself. Ayache attributes his victory to LAU- MEPI TL Program that helped him equip himself with leadership skills to take adequate actions and decisions when it comes to problem-solving.

After almost two years of hard work and perseverance, Rasha Shalha a TLG Alumna from Lebanon could finally reach her far-fetched dream by launching her post correctional detention reform center dedicated to children: Methli Methlak (You are no different). The Methli Methlak project started with an ambitious idea of Shalha after she noticed during her internship in the Roumieh Juvenile Detention Centre the aftermath of juvenile incarceration where no proper guidance is offered to children after they complete their sentence. Getting the leadership basics from the TLG program, Shalha saw from her dream a potential project that could be implemented if well-planned, even with no budget. The Methli Methlak project entered a series of pitches on both local and regional levels and was identified as particularly strong and worthy of funding by the  MEPI Leaders Grants, as part of the MEPI Alumni Connection. On October 2, 2021, Methli Methlak’s first project “START” was launched. The project aims at delivering awareness sessions on how to facilitate the reintegration of juveniles into society after completing their sentence in jail. The Methli Methlak team is currently delivering the sessions to organizations, municipalities and universities. The team also collaborated with the Ministry of Social Affairs to deliver these awareness sessions to the community at the Social Development Centers (SDG). Shalha’s continued growth and perseverance have been the driving force in her path in becoming a today’s leader. Being a TLG student was, in fact, a lifelong experience that made her an agent of change in her community.

Nasser al-Tooblani graduated from MEPI’s Tomorrow’s Leaders program at LAU in the spring of 2020 with a BA in Psychology and received High Distinction. Suffering from diabetes since he was two years old, Nasser has consistently struggled with diabetes self-management throughout his life. In his capstone project « Bloom », Nasser came up with the impressive idea to supplement diabetes protocols with psychological intervention in order to help patients comply with diabetes self-management.

Al-Tooblani has always been passionate about teaching and training and wanted to pursue his passion in his professional career. Upon his graduation, Al-Tooblani networked with his former high school principal during his job search for teaching opportunities, specifically in the mental health field. As mental health is still often a taboo topic in the Arab world and in his home in Bahrain, al-Tooblani was asked to prepare a concise and comprehensive psychological intervention program proposal targeting both students and teachers as a pre-employment assessment. Al-Tooblani invested all of his knowledge and skills acquired during his time in the Tomorrows Leaders program into the proposal and won the challenge. He was appointed as Psychology and Epistemology teacher and will start his new role beginning September 2020.

Ghufran Ashor, a MEPI’s Tomorrow’s Leaders LAU alumna from Libya, graduated in Spring 2019 and began her search for the right post-graduation job. She sought a role that would serve purpose and allow her to make a difference. After an excessive job search, Ashor landed a job that matched her skills and aspirations perfectly. In June 2019, Ashor joined the BBC’s international charity: BBC Media Action (BBC MA).

Fulfilling the role of Business Coordinator, Ashor works at “El Kul” (Everyone), the Libya project for BBC MA. El Kul is a leading social media platform that promotes a more unified, non-violent, and inclusive Libya. The platform provides its more than one million followers (20% of all Libyan Facebook users) with original content that helps celebrate diversity, encourage open dialogue, and promote women’s inclusion in society.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Ashor along with El Kul’s Project Manager, Elise Ketelaars, expanded their work scope and came up with a tool to raise awareness about the pandemic among Libyans. They created a weekly e-newsletter that equips Libyans with accurate COVID-19 related health advice in line with The World Health Organization’s (WHO) standards and provides impartial reporting about Libya’s response to the crisis to dispel myths and rumors. Ashor and her colleague produced this messaging tool with the clear objective of providing a sense of shared experience, community, and social connection at a time that can be divisive and isolating.

Additionally, Ashor led on the facilitation of the BBC lifeline training on how to respond to the emergency situation created by the pandemic. The training is designed to support media practitioners to provide trusted, accurate, and timely information for affected and at-risk people. Her team has already trained over 30 journalists from nine Libyan media organizations.

Ashor’s efforts did not only help raise awareness about the pandemic and prevention measures, but also in expanding networks and relationships with local and international organizations which will open doors for greater collaboration in the near future.

A few months after joining the MEPI TL program at LAU, Zina Kamel from Syria was hit by the dramatic series of crises that engulfed Lebanon all at once leaving the country on the brink of collapse. While the dire situation has put a whole generation at risk, especially youth who felt helpless and thinking of leaving, as the only option left; Zina Kamel chose to embrace the challenges and think of creative ways to lessen the impact of scarce opportunities.

Together with two of her TL mates at AUB, Kamel developed  Minfeed, an online platform that supports local businesses in Lebanon by transforming competitors into collaborators. The Minfeed platform (which stands for Modern Network Featuring Exclusive Deals) connects local small businesses to join forces and provides a bundle of products/services at competitive prices to help customers buy more for less. While such a project requires lots of preparations and resources, Kamel and her two TL mates worked intensively for less than a year and managed to launch the Minfeed initiative successfully.

The Minfeed project received positive feedback with 22 local small businesses joining the network to date, benefiting its services and elevating their profit margin. Additionally, the Minfeed project was pitched to the Injaz Al Arab Company Program, a program dedicated to youth interested in developing their entrepreneurial skills and starting their own student company. Given the creativity and the commodity of the project, Minfeed won the “Best Company Award 2021” along with the “Best Social Impact Award” across Lebanon the MENA Region.

The string of successes that Kamel and her TL mate have witnessed made them proud and eager to look for new challenges and find new ways to train their brains to crave learning and achievements.

This winter break, LAU MEPI TLU scholarship recipient Osama Shamout attended the 2023 “8th International School on Deep Learning” in the UK, which brought together academic and professional individuals invested in the field of AI and deep learning. During the event, Osama had the opportunity to deepen his knowledge about the latest advancements in deep learning and to learn about groundbreaking research by leading academics in the field of AI.

Among the most significant lectures for Osama were: “Learning from Data Streams: Challenges, Issues, and Opportunities”, “Explainable Machine Learning”, “Recommender Systems”, and “Natural Language Processing using Deep Learning”. These lectures provided Osama with a comprehensive understanding about the leaps in the Deep Learning field and its potential in revolutionizing industries. For example, Osama says: “No longer do we need to proceed with the traditional ways of NLP as Deep Learning has unlocked a whole better approach at handling complex relationships within large datasets, an area where traditional methods often struggle.”

Attending the deep learning event in the UK surrounded by experts and professionals from diverse backgrounds was a valuable opportunity for Osama to network and engage in academic exchange. The wealth of knowledge and experience gained at the event has left Osama with a multitude of new ideas and a revitalized perspective on deep learning. He reflects, “This experience has had a profound impact on my perception of AI and deep learning and has significantly shaped my future studies and career plans.” With this newfound understanding, Osama is eager to apply his knowledge to his AI projects and capstone research, striving to create more accurate and powerful results that can be applied to a variety of fields.

Ashraf Sabkha, a 2015 graduate of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Undergraduate Program from the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), recently became the first Libyan Knight-Hennesy Scholar at Stanford University. Under the Tomorrow’s Leaders scholarship, Sabkha received leadership training and support, graduating summa cum laude from the American University in Cairo with a bachelor’s in accounting and a double minor in economics and international affairs, which allowed him to pursue his dreams of continuing his education and making a positive difference in the world. Sabkha credits his success to his participation in the Tomorrow’s Leaders program as “instrumental for my development. Academically, it offered me the platform to challenge myself and excel in ways I did not think were attainable. On a personal level, Tomorrow’s Leaders made me truly believe that the sky is the limit.”

Before joining Stanford, Sabkha was awarded Oxford University’s St. Anthony’s scholarship. While at Oxford, he led start-up teams focused on product design, which garnered the attention of NASA, Pepsi, and the Clinton Global Initiative. This fueled Sabkha’s interest in international entrepreneurship and inspired him to participate in the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference as a guest of the World Bank Group. He subsequently received his master’s degree in public policy from Oxford.

He is currently pursuing his master’s in international policy at Stanford’s school of Humanities and Sciences. The prestigious Knight-Hennesy Scholar program aims for students to “develop deep domain expertise in their Stanford graduate program and build on this domain expertise through exposure to a wide range of disciplines and cultures.”


Rami Hammoud, a MEPI TLG student, has landed his first publication in a prestigious journal “Energy Economics”. This was the fruition of a collaboration between MEPI and the Graduate Research Office. He worked with his supervisor doctor Elie Bouri for a period of 7 months to produce a research paper tackling the effect of two global risk factors, namely oil implied volatility and geopolitical risk, on stock returns and volatility of 8 GCC countries.

The importance of crude oil volatility and geopolitical risk for stock pricing is well-known in both developed and emerging economies, yet understudied in major oil-exporting countries at the sectoral level of stock indices and under various market conditions. Using daily data on eight Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stock sector indices over the period February 2010–30 June 2022, they captured the effect of two global risk factors, namely oil implied volatility and geopolitical risk, on stock returns and volatility while accounting for bull/bear markets and low/high volatility regimes.

Their findings highlight the predictability of GCC stock sector returns and volatility, as well as the design of hedging strategies under various market states. The results demonstrate that the effect of oil implied volatility is stronger than that of geopolitical risk, notably for Consumer Discretionary and Staples. Moreover, the effect on both returns and volatility is generally positive during bull markets, but it is stronger for volatility, with the response of the returns of Energy, Materials, Industrials, and Financials being negative in bear markets and positive during bull markets. They have also discovered that the effect of oil implied volatility on stock sector volatility is slightly higher during the COVID-19 outbreak for some cases and is prominent during bull markets.

By publishing this academic paper, he is contributing to the body of knowledge in the field of energy economics, potentially influencing policies and practices in the region.
When asked about his achievement, Rami shared, “This is a significant accomplishment for me, and I am proud to have demonstrated my engagement and participation in the academic community. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with MEPI and the Graduate Research Office, and I am eager to make a name for myself in the academic community.”

Join us in celebrating with Rami for this exciting achievement!

You can read the published paper at:

Policy Researcher at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II at the Royal Hashemite Court in Jordan

Alum Leen Aghabi joined the TL program in the fall of 2012 and graduated from Lebanese American University (LAU) in 2014. She went on to complete a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2015 and is a research fellowship at the WANA Institute (Jordan). Throughout the fellowship, Leen conducted research and co-authored several reports examining the radicalization drivers among youth in Jordan. In addition, Leen was selected to participate in a video focused on Syrian refugee economic empowerment in Jordan, endorsed by the World Bank. Post fellowship, Leen started working as a Policy Researcher at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II at the Royal Hashemite Court in Jordan. In the summer of 2017, she is expected to participate in a Dialogue Programme on “Political and Civil Society Activism among Jordanian and German Youth” organized by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Berlin (further updates will be provided after the program).

Leen Aghabi attributes her work and accomplishments to her academic experience at LAU and participation the Tomorrow’s Leaders program, as well as additional involvement in various programs post-graduation.

Being a Tomorrow’s Leaders Gender Scholars (TLS) student, Vladimir Abdelnour experienced a wide array of benefits that the program could offer him. From this enriching experience, he learned that TL programs are one-of-a-kind scholarships that invest in youth’s capabilities. To that effect, when the TLP project was introduced to TL students at LAU, Abdelnour showed immediate interest in joining the project. With Lebanon’s deepening electricity crisis and fuel shortage, Abdelnour could not find a better opportunity that allows him to address the problem than getting involved in the renewable energy project proposed by TLP. Abdelnour galvanized his knowledge in electrical engineering at the service of the project while tapping into new learning in different disciplines such as research, market analysis, online trading, and management solutions. While the project which resulted in a startup « Takatcom » did not reach a turn-key stage yet, Vladimir and the team members presented confidently the startup concept during the TLP VIP+ Industry-Academia workshop while describing in detail where the project will lead. The project got the attention of the Inas Academic Awards Foundation (IAAF) and proposed to the team to apply for the IAAF Awards competition and get the chance to fund the project partially. Additionally, the project won the attendees’ choice award at the VIP+ workshop and that is currently participating in the LAU Spark program for startup incubation. « I attribute this achievement to the TLP project that believes in youth’s caliber and pushes our limits and makes us realize that, actually, we can do things we did not think we could by breaking the « it is impossible » mindset. Says Abdelnour.

For many alumni of the MEPI exchange programs, their experience itself was fulfilling on the academic or civic level and it also helped them unlock a fortune of opportunities in the years that followed. Mondher Tounsi from Tunisia says that the Tomorrow’s Leaders scholarship allowed him to explore his passion for politics while helping him develop opportunities for the financial independence to explore numerous opportunities in his home country Tunisia and broadly across the MENA region.
Throughout his undergraduate years, he became a founding member of a youth initiative with Chatham House in London and subsequently began publishing articles about youth representation in politics. He also participated in events and a social entrepreneurship program with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris and with the Ashoka Network in Amsterdam. Mondher received the Intercultural Innovation Award from the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC) and the BMW Group award for his MEPI-funded project, Unleash. This program paved the way for Mondher to participate as a youth representative in the UNAOC’s global forum at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
These opportunities and many others, which Mondher obtained through the Tomorrow’s Leaders program, allowed him to expand his network and solidified his interest in the development of the international community. “The MEPI LAU team and university staff went far and beyond to accommodate me and make sure that I was able to invest in myself while also keeping track of my academic duties. I was encouraged throughout the process and always felt like I had a support system behind me.”
While studying at Lebanese American University, Mondher worked on creating links for his MEPI-funded project to the broader Lebanese civil society. Through that experience, he was also able to build a reputation back in Tunisia and establish himself in the fields of social impact and entrepreneurship. His reputation then facilitated additional opportunities.
Mondher graduated with high distinction and two additional minors. He is now preparing to complete the first year of his master’s program at Science Po, Paris, while exploring career prospects related to research on development and intelligence in the Middle East. He aims to start a youth empowerment project in Tunisia and to build additional connections with the MEPI alumni network.

Elissa Trad, a TLS scholar, got selected as a Global Advocacy Champion, for the year 2023, with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to represent the voices of 10 million girls worldwide in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67). Elissa will be able to represent girls’ and young women’s voices and encourage them to speak up fearlessly on everything that concerns women’s rights and gender equality.

Elissa received a prestigious invitation from the Arab Region World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) to be a guest speaker in their first Arab Women’s event, titled “Youth Events” on Wednesday, March 15, 2023. Elissa walked her audience through her experience and highlighted her personal and professional takeaways. These included all the invaluable skills that helped her become a better leader and advocate for gender equality. Moreover, Elissa shared her success stories and motivated and inspired the female leaders in the Arab regions to pursue their passions and ambitions fearlessly. Elissa’s participation in this event demonstrated her commitment to promoting gender equality and empowering young girls and women in the Arab world.

When asked about how the MEPI TLS program influenced her, Elissa explained that her participation in the MEPI TLS Scholarship program played a crucial role in expanding her knowledge and understanding of gender equality issues. The program provided her with access to various workshops, classes, and resources that helped her develop a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by women and girls in Lebanon and globally. As a result, she was able to identify the importance of advocating for gender equality and equal rights and saw the potential impact she could have by raising her voice and being an advocate for change, and promoting the role of men in the mission to create a more equitable world. The program not only opened her eyes to the challenges facing women but also empowered her to take action and make a positive difference.

Elissa’s next step is to work on a project regionally to advance her skills and share her experience with other girls and women in Lebanon, promote gender equality in our country, and take action toward preventing all types of online violence.

We are proud of you Elissa!

MEPI Alum Selected as the Middle East Youth Ambassador for Wilton Park’s Series of Youth Dialogues.

Barik Mahadin’s success as a community leader started with a chance opportunity: being selected to travel to the United States for one year of high-school in Omaha, Nebraska through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program.  The experience was like none other, taking him from his home country of Jordan during his sophomore year to live with an American family to not only study, but also experience a new culture.

Several years later, after seeing an email announcing a scholarship competition for the prestigious Lebanese American University, Barik applied for the Tomorrow’s Leaders program.  Keen on expanding his international credentials and leadership skills, he not only obtained a four year degree in Political Science/International Affairs, but also interned at the Lebanon Family Planning Association and Arab Jordan Investment Bank, and coordinated student campaigns to give back to the community.  Leveraging his education and Tomorrow’s Leaders practical training, Barik earned his MA in International Relations from the University of Nottingham through the prestigious Saïd Foundation scholarship.

Since returning to Amman, Barik’s community leadership and international impact has continued. He worked on promoting the culture of debate among the students of the University of Jordan, and took part in the Global Nomads Group (GNG) Virtual Exchange Dialogue Facilitators’ training program, a program that covers intercultural dialogue facilitation skills, values and protocols on the grounds of the fundamentals of conflict management and cross-cultural communication. He has taken part in several Consultations and High-Level Dialogues on issues of youth, peace and security in the Arab Region. In December 2016, Barik joined the Human Security Team at the West Asia and North Africa (WANA) Institute, a policy think-tank based in Amman, supporting the research and implementation of WANA’s several Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism projects.

Further, Barik was selected as one of ten socially and politically active youth from Jordan to take part in a youth dialogue program in Berlin. The program will start an interdisciplinary dialogue with German Members of Parliament, young members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), experts, researchers and civil society activists. Throughout the program, new ideas for youth engagement will be experienced and discussed, inspiring future initiatives and exploring similar motives for the political and social engagement of young people.

Finally, Barik was selected as the Middle East Youth Ambassador for Wilton Park’s Series of Youth Dialogues. Under the title ‘Powering the Future’, these series of events aim to focus on young people, creating a positive and action-oriented debate that focuses on youth ambitions and opportunities in relation to employment, education, security and peace.  The dialogues have a specific focus on the Middle East, Africa and Europe, and will take place in different parts of the world over the course of 2017-2018.

The MEPI-TL scholarship program helps to cultivate academic and leadership skills to underserved students in the MENA region. These students then use the knowledge and skills they gain to take leading roles in serving their community on many fronts, including academia, economy, civil society, policy, healthcare, research among others.

One example of an inspiring TL leader is MEPI-TL 2009-2013 Alumna, Nataly Naser Al Deen, who has not only dedicated her career to cancer research, but also founded her own NGO for breast cancer survivors in Lebanon. Nataly has long been engaged in leading initiatives to aid the cancer survivor community and has recently been involved in enacting global science policy. This earned Nataly a spot on the “Forbes 30 Under 30” Middle East’s list for her social entrepreneurship, a list that recognizes a selection of impressive and highly-accomplished young minds and change-makers in the Arab world (

Nataly was awarded the MEPI-Tomorrow’s Leaders Scholarship to the American University in Cairo (AUC) in 2009, where she obtained her B.Sc. Degree in Biology and minors in psychology and Chemistry. Having the chance to attend AUC through the MEPI-TL full scholarship, Nataly was introduced to scientific research for the first time at an early stage in her academic training. This ignited her passion to later pursue her career in cancer research and she undertook her first research project during her semester abroad at the University of South Carolina (USC) as part of the MEPI-TL program.

After AUC, she was awarded the Fulbright Foreign Student scholarship in 2014 and attended Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington D.C. to pursue her master’s degree in Tumor Biology/Cancer Research. During her Master’s program, she began research at the Lombardi Cancer Center which focused on treatment of Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Soon after, Nataly joined the Cell and Molecular Biology Ph.D. Program at the American University of Beirut (AUB) where she focused her thesis on early breast cancer in Lebanon.

Nataly continued to impress when she secured several travel fellowships during her PhD years to learn and disseminate her scientific research. She won two Fulbright Alumni Development Grants, one that fully funded her research sabbatical at Purdue University for three months, and others for her participation at the ASCB/EMBO Conference in D.C.

Nataly was able to gain more than academic knowledge during her time in MEPI-TL, she also gained everything from time management skills, to professionalism, conflict resolution, debate skills, communication, public speaking and networking, and most importantly, learning and implementing the importance of civic engagement and community service. This led Nataly to found her own NGO five years ago called “Pink Steps” in 2015, an exercise, health and mental-wellness support group for breast cancer survivors in Lebanon which has helped dozens of survivors in the community.

Leaders for Democracy Fellowship (LDF) Success Stories

MEPI Alum Publishes a Book on the Media Public Service Broadcasting Network (PBN) in Iraq

Awsam believes that the LDF program was a turning point in his professional career. The program allowed him to write and publish his first book on Public Service Broadcasting/Media (PSB) in Iraq. This book is a part of Awsam’s CAP project in which he aims to engage the broadcasting services in Iraq to release information that is objective and serves the public. His book tackles a critical issue, and aims to recreate a climate of liberty and freedom of expression.

During the practicum component of the LDF program, Awsam was placed to work with the Centre International des Sciences de l’Homme (CISH) that works under the auspices of UNESCO. During his placement, Aswam expressed a high interest in writing a book on PSB, CISH approved his request and assigned an advisor to guide him through the process and to follow up on his progress. Awsam also gained the support of the Director of CISH who monitored Awsam’s progress and provided his academic and practical experience. Consequently, the PSB book was successfully published in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa while two launching ceremonies were held, one at the Iraqi Media Network in Baghdad, Iraq and another at the Lebanese University, Faculty of Media and Information in Beirut.

Awsam conducted tens of workshops where he trained hundreds of Iraqi journalists in several governates in Iraq to introduce the Public Service Broadcasting/Media (PSB) in Iraq which is in line with his CAP project and his book theme.

Awsam was also offered several high-level positions upon his return to Iraq. One of which, is the Director of Media Monitoring Department within Iraq’s Media and Communication Authority. Awsam was also offered to be the Advisor to the Board of Trustees of the Iraqi Media Network. Additionally, Awsam was granted a documented endorsement from the Committee of Culture and Information in the Iraqi Council of Representatives.

Furthermore, Awsam plans on promoting his book in the MENA region, but most importantly translate his theoretical approach into practicalities.

Picture of Mahjoub-el-Doua

Alumnus Produces Award-Winning Documentary about the Protection of Fauna and Flora.

El Mahjoub Eddoua is an activist, filmmaker, and journalist who writes for several local and national media outlets in Morocco. El Mahjoub is committed to changing negative perceptions of people with disabilities. In 2017, El Mahjoub joined the Leaders for Democracy Fellowship (LDF) Program in Lebanon to develop his leadership, communications, and advocacy skills. As part of the LDF Program, he completed a four week academic coursework at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and an internship at Arcenciel, a nongovernmental organization that supports youth, persons with disabilities, economic development, and the environment.

During the LDF Program, El Mahjoub organized a movie screening and panel discussion at AUB about disability rights and the challenges facing people with disabilities. He hopes that the skills and motivation he gained during the LDF Program will enable him to continue breaking barriers. El Mahjoub believes that the LDF Program increased his confidence and determination to work on a documentary that tackles significant environmental issues.

Upon his return to Morocco from the program, El Mahjoub finished and released Masir, a documentary that received praise from film critics and environmental activists. Masir won the Cigogne d’honneur prize as part the International Festival for the Protection of Fauna and Flora.
To pass along the LDF opportunity to fellow Moroccan leaders, El Mahjoub organized a two-day workshop for prospective candidates from Morocco who are interested in applying for the LDF Program. During the workshop, El Mahjoub walked through the application process and shared best practices. He described the positive impact of the program on his professional career and civic engagement and leadership activities. He says, “we cannot cut the paths of life without hope, and as long as there is life there is hope.”

MEPI Alum Develops an Educational Manual on Voting in Lebanon

As many LDF Fellows, Michel described the Leaders for Democracy Fellowship (LDF) program as a turning point in his life. The LDF experience was a milestone for multiple and enriching opportunities that helped shape his growing career. The program allowed him to develop his civic action plan and transform it into a manual that helps people understand the technicalities and practicalities of voting in Lebanon especially after the new 2018 elections law.

During Michel’s participation in the U.S. LDF program’s professional practicum component, he was placed with IFES where he developed and administered a survey about the engagement of Lebanese citizens in politics. This survey was a stepping stone towards his CAP. In 12 days, he reached 550 respondents which surprised IFES and helped increase his credibility with the organization.

With the experience gained through LDF, Michel used his NGO, the Leadership for Sustainable Development, as an outlet to give trainings in two Lebanese villages (Hayata and Ghbaleh). The aim of the trainings was to simplify and clarify the new electoral voting system. To his surprise, the result of his training was easily captured in the election turnout where there was an 80% voting turnout in these two villages while Lebanon in total saw a 45% voting turnout. Moreover, one of these two villages had a 0-canceled vote while the other village had only 20 canceled votes.  These numbers are miniscule compared to the 35,000 canceled votes that Lebanon saw after the election results were announced. This proved that his manual and trainings helped people understand the new electoral law better and vote accordingly.

Michel believes in creating a generation of leaders and elevating a positive influence on the societal and political level. Michel’s future plans consist of working on government accountability. He plans on creating an online platform that will give the citizens the possibility to hold accountable the newly elected candidates. In the meantime, he continues to motivate youth and engage them in their communities; he is known for his slogan:

“There is no future for us as Youth without Us, we are the key of change.”

Nacira Amari photo

MEPI Alumna Elected to Her Local City Council in the Western City of Saida, Near Oran.

Nacira is a 2016 LDF Lebanon alum from Algeria. She is the head of the Committee of Economics and Finance within the people’s assembly of Sa’ida State. Prior to her participation in the LDF program she established the Scientific Activities Association (STEM&LOISIR) to promote science among youth. She then joined the Algerian National Union of Youth and became an active member of the Algerian National Liberation political party.

Upon her return to Algeria, Nacira participated in the parliamentary elections as a candidate for the ruling political party. Unfortunately, the results were not in her favor, however, Nacira was assigned by the List of Women of the People’s Assembly as a candidate for the municipal elections that took place on November 23, 2017.

Moreover, Nacira won the Service Project Award (SPA) grant along with two other LDF alumni; Besma Belbadjaoui and El Hachemi Weld Moudjbar as part of the LDF alumni engagement activities. Nacira’s activity entitled “Empowering Women to Participate in Public Opinion” focused on integrating women from several active Algerian associations in political parties and training them on leadership skills to enable them to participate in the upcoming municipal elections. Nineteen out of thirty women trainees who have attended the SPA activity are now participating as potential candidates of different political parties in the Algerian municipal elections. This result clearly shows the direct impact that Nacira was able to carry out with the financial and moral support that was provided by the LDF team on gender equality and women empowerment in Algeria.

On a separate level, The STEM&LOISIR association headed by Nacira continued to conduct its scientific activities provided to Algerian kids and youth, especially after the establishment of the scientific camp project. In this context, it is important to mention, that Nacira have participated in the competition of directors of educational institutions and won the first place.

MEPI Alumna Implements “My City” Project to Support Youth and Start-Up Businesses in Gaza.

Reham experienced major changes in her life after participating in the Leaders for Democracy (LDF) Program. The program increased Reham’s knowledge of civic engagement, leadership skills and introduced her to new cultures and ideas, which allowed her to see things from different perspectives and reflect on her role within her community back home. During LDF, Reham further developed her professional network through an internship with IR-USA, and was able to translate the skills she learned there over to her own community project. Reham attributes much of her success to LDF, stating that her project “would never have been possible without my participation in such a wonderful program.”

With additional support from the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, Reham implemented her project titled “My City,” a one-month advocacy project aimed at promoting volunteerism and start-up businesses in Gaza. She and her team of volunteers engaged the youth population of Gaza through days of service with activities that included: visiting more than 60 children suffering from cancer at the Al-Rantisi Hospital, having a recreational fun day with more than 40 orphan children in the Middle area of the Gaza Strip, and participating in a park clean up at one of the most crowded refugee camps in Gaza where more than 103,000 refugees and their children reside. Additionally, “My City” provided a two-week vocational training course for 15 women in the Northern area of the Gaza Strip to empower them to improve their standard of living so that they can better provide for their families. Reham and her team also organized an exhibition for small businesses and youth to showcase and sell their handicrafts with the goal of generating employment opportunities for those struggling to make ends meet, and supporting those in the early stages of their businesses. Reham is very proud of what she and her team have accomplished, citing that she “changed people’s vision on volunteer work.” Through LDF and “My City,” Reham has made a lasting, positive impact on her community in Gaza.

Journalist, Women’s Rights Campaigner, and Award Winner

Samar Al Dreamly is a 2014 Leaders for Democracy Fellowship (LDF) alumna from Gaza who now works as a freelance journalist, a media coordinator at the Women’s Affairs Center (WAC) in Gaza, and is the sub-editor at WAC’s “Al Ghaida magazine”, the only magazine specializing in women issues in Gaza. Al Dreamly is also a member of the International Federation of Journalists, a vice-chairman of the Community Media Center (CMC), a member of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and a member of the General Assembly of Addameer Human Rights Association.

Samar’s participation in the LDF program allowed her to meet many academicians and experts in the field of democracy, conflict management and resolution, negotiation, debating, sectarianism, new media, and gender. Al Dreamly’s exposure to these topics gave her ample time to reflect on all these issues and led her to start thinking of ways to apply the technical knowledge and give the issues greater exposure in the Arab and Muslim world. Throughout her fellowship, Samar attended the academic component training at Syracuse University and worked with the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington during her practicum. Al Dreamly worked on women’s empowerment and specifically focused on a project that protects women’s rights to have a decent life by preventing the practice of “the family’s honor” killing and putting an end to the phenomenon of hysterectomies of women with special needs because of the fear of rape and their subsequent pregnancies.

The LDF program allowed her to meet with many experts, human rights activists and feminists, and Samar was able to modify her ideas and specific project idea and shape it into a more in-depth, professional and influential activity. She was influenced by the views and directions of the experts she met with respect to the women’s rights in West Bank. Following her participation in LDF in 2014 she authored an investigative article on “The Hysterectomy of Women with Disabilities to Prevent Pregnancy Resulting from Rape” which won first prize in the category of Written Articles in the August 2014 United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA) media contest. Al Dreamly also participated in the Arab Parliamentarians’ Forum on Population and Development held in Tunis from 19 to 21 August 2014, and received the honorary title of International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)’s Arab Attaché as well.

Upon her return home at the end of 2014, Samar started collecting books, lectures and exclusive interviews she had obtained during the LDF program and started sharing her experiences with journalists in Gaza through awareness workshops, special meetings and brainstorming sessions with activists and young women rights advocates. Samar stated that her experience during the LDF Program influenced the way she wrote political and social articles. Her views towards many issues became more inclusive and objective, and moreover, she now looks for solutions instead of just focusing on the problems. As soon as she completed her fellowship, Samar began tackling women’s issues through her articles in a more analytical and in-depth manner, thus leading to her winning the first-place prize in UNFPA’s media contest.

Karem Saad, a MEPI Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program Alumnus of 2012, participated in a regional conference program organized to strengthen economic advocacy in both Egypt and the Arab region, focusing on access to information, creating a participatory approach, and public policy reform.

Congratulations to Khaled Koubaa on joining the ICANN Board of Directors

Khaled Koubaa, a Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program Alumnus of 2007, joined the Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is a non-profit organization that is in charge of maintaining and  coordinating the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the Domain Name System (DNS). Khaled is the Founder and President of the Arab World Internet Institute. Previously, he worked as Head of Government Relations and Public Policy MENA at Google. Khaled has technical, management, and policy experience in IT with more than 15 years international experience:

Previously, Khaled worked as an independent consultants for the non-profit and government sectors in the Middle East Africa region, promoting best practices in the use of information technology and providing strategic advice regarding how to choose and use internet and new media technologies.

Khaled founded the Internet Society chapter in Tunisia in 2006 and served as its President. He has also served on the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society and regularly attends Internet-related events (ICANN, IETF, IGF, etc.). He was elected to represent the African region in the ICANN Nomination Committee, and also served on the Board of Directors of AfriNIC, representing the North African region. The Internet strikes a personal chord with Khaled: he met his wife online, and subsequently saw his daughter for the first time online.

Success Stories from Other MEPI Programs

Dr. Lubna Akroush, PHD in Social Sciences, Professor at the University of Jordan.

Dr. Akroush has extensive experience in the field of the elderly in Jordan, and is considered as a resident expert in this area. Through her work, she tries to contribute to efforts that safeguard the rights of the elderly in Jordan.  A professor with a mission, Dr. Akroush develops the skills of students of social work and has helped achieve a qualitative change in the engagement of Jordanian university students in serving the elderly.  Her efforts are focused not only on knowledge transfer, but towards instilling positive values of caring for the elderly and respecting human rights of the marginalized segments in Jordanian society.

In addition to her academic work, she is a member in several policy making committees working on family issues, the elderly, child protection, and violence against the elderly.  She is also a member on a number of university boards and committees.

Dr. Akroush attended MEPI’s Civic Engagement and Leadership Fellowship (CELF) program at Syracuse University in 2012, which offered her the opportunity to learn firsthand about the U.S. model in civic engagement.

As a true believer in women’s empowerment and the role of women in the academia, Dr. Akroush – along with a group of fellow women academics –  established the Women Academic Association in June 2014.  Its aim is to increase the role of women in academia, promote their career advancement and development in a male-dominant field, collect data about women academics, and conduct research about women’s issues.

As an accomplished academic, Dr. Akroush benefited from the exposure to the U.S. academic field to help implement her and her fellow colleagues’ goal to create a bigger role for women Jordanian academics.

MEPI alum ensures job security for over 100 women from Nazareth and the surrounding area.

In 2005, as I was reading the newspaper, I came across an article about a scholarship to the US for business entrepreneurs, MEPI’s “Middle East Entrepreneur Training MEET (Business Services)”. I submitted my application as an insurance business-owner and was lucky to be chosen to participate.

That summer I traveled to San Diego and joined 24 other participants from all over the MENA region at The Beyster Institute. That day I felt like I broke a personal glass ceiling. During our exchange at the institute they gave us best practices and taught us how to design and build successful action plans.

One of my goals at the end of the program was to come back and open a new branch of my insurance business in Jerusalem, and one month after my return we managed to open that new branch and it proved to be one of the best business designs we have ever worked on.

In 2005, before I went on the program, my business employed 10 people, now we have expanded and are providing jobs for 45 employees in our business. In addition, my participation in the MEPI exchange gave me a vision of “Yes, you can!”, and I wanted to give back to my community. We formed a partnership with Clal insurance company, one of the biggest in the country, and together we opened a back office center in my hometown, Nazareth. Our partnership now ensures job security for over 100 women from Nazareth and the surrounding area, providing them with respectable salaries and full benefits. That to me is achieving my dream of helping my community by providing better job opportunities with good salaries and creating a win-win economic situation for all.

Rami is an entrepreneur, investor, executive coach, and advisor.  He is Chairman and CEO of F03 Venture Partners (F03VP), an investment and economic development firm aiming to accelerate startups and investment ecosystems across emerging markets through community activation.

He holds an Electrical Engineering degree from University of Jordan.  He completed the Venture Capital Executive Program at HAAS UC Berkeley, “The Leading for the future” and “The Leading, Organizing for Action” Executive Programs at Harvard Kennedy School, as well as the Senior Executive Education Program at UC San Diego.

Rami’s key mission is to activate startup and innovation ecosystems in Jordan.  Rami founded his first startup at the age of 19, and continued his mission through developing his skills and embarking on new opportunities.

Rami’s journey with MEPI started in 2008 when he attended the Middle East Entrepreneurship Training (MEET) at the University of California, San Diego – The Rady School of Management.  Rami effectively applied what he learned in the MEET program to turn his organization around.  Rami took part in a number of MEPI DC-based grants as trainer, consultant, and a partner, including a partnership between Shabakat Al Ordon NGO (an NGO he established) and a MEPI-funded project with Institute for International Education (IIE). He also worked as a consultant with MEPI-IIE project “E-mediat, New Media for the Networked NGOs.”

Rami is a regular judge, mentor and keynote speaker at entrepreneurship and technology events in the region.  He designed and produced a number of events including the THINKZINC speaker series, LeanStartupProgram, BackToStartupBasics, and his popular snapchat AskMeAnything #Entrepreneurship #Investment daily segment in conversational Arabic.  He was an advisor to ZAIN Jordan’s CEO, where he institutionalized the first Corporate Entrepreneurship Responsibility (CER) division, designed and led ZAIN Innovation Campus – ZINC, and led interventions with Qatar Development Bank’s Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC), Digital&Beyond powered by ooredoo, N2V Labs, FastForward Palestine and Venture Lab at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology KAUST.

Rami was one of the key speakers at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California from June 24-27, 2016.

Rami is a great leader.  He sets a vision, develops a plan and sees it through.  Rami is a great example of how MEPI alum maximize the benefit of their MEPI program and continue to develop new and innovative ideas.

Development and technical cooperation professional in the fields of rule of law, public diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, conflict resolutions, and democratic development and governance.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates appointed Lina Arafat as Ambassador in May 2015.  Lina Arafat is the former director of the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative alumni network in Jordan (from 2007-2014) and now serves as the Director of the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy, an Ambassador level position.

Since she assumed her role as a MEPI Alumni Coordinator for Jordan chapter in 2007, Lina breathed life into the network and turned it into a robust and vital alumni chapter in Jordan.

The Jordanian Chapter of the MEPI alumni was looked up to as a role model in the region as Lina had engaged a large number of alumni in regularly held events that responded to alumni’s interests.  Under Lina’s leadership, the Jordanian chapter expanded its scope to a regional level, encompassing other alumni in the region visiting or working in Amman in its activities.  Because of her demonstrated commitment and capabilities, Lina has been asked to assist on MEPI alumni events in the West Bank, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, providing support and coordination as needed.

Throughout the seven years of her time as MEPI Alumni Coordinator and Director, Lina implemented and supported a range of activities that ranged from resume writing and employability skills, to volunteerism, leadership, political debates, and entrepreneurial training to alumni retreats, Model UN conferences, community service and human rights issues.  The events were well attended by different segments of alumni including the political activists, youth, women, entrepreneurs, journalists, human rights advocates, and CSOs community.

Today, Lina is taking a new role as a diplomat of her own country, but she will always be a symbol of inspiration for Jordanian women as someone who were able to achieve her lifelong dream by hard work and dedication.

Meet Maha, 34 years old, Bachelor in Marketing, Governorate of Tunis, Tunisia

Is it possible to leave a stable and high paying job to become an entrepreneur when you are a wife and a mother?

It definitely was for our alumna Maha Meghayth. “People think that for an employed person to consider entrepreneurship she must be frustrated with her job and entrepreneurship is the only way out. Contrary to those assumptions, I loved my previous job; I was working for an international company, in a field I chose, and was fairly paid compared to the rest of my peers.” she said, “ but I always felt that I was destined to greater things. I dream of changing the way people lived.”

Soon after, she started writing the draft of her business plan: to play the role of intermediate between customers and the service provider. Ejrily (“come to my rescue” in Arabic) was born and would have remained on paper if our alumna had not come across the Souk At-Tanmia Program: a national project reuniting more than 20 partners, including Education for Employment (funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative).

“The concern of funding was of moderate importance to me. What was more important to my mind is how to acquire the skills necessary in order to build a successful business venture that could flourish and be sustainable.”  As part of the program, she received the Build your Business training program provided by Education for Employment Tunisia Foundation. “What I enjoyed best during the training is the methodology. The knowledge we gained during the Build your Business program was really tailored to each participant’s need and the specific requirement of the project,” she said.

“I really believe the training I received was one of the pillars of the success of my project. For instance, I would have not made it if I have not received the proper training in finance and marketing.”

Maha received 28,000 Tunisian Dinars as a grant and succeeded in securing 24,000 Tunisian Dinars through a local bank. Currently she has hired an assistant and plans to expend her team by adding three more people in the next two years. She dreams of going international.

“I am willing to pursue my dream no matter the setbacks I might face in the future, because I want to be a role a model not only for my two year old daughter but also for other girls who are looking into entrepreneurship.”

Ikram Ben Said nominated by UN Secretary General as member of “Advisory Group for Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security”.

Ikram has been officially appointed by the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon as a member of the Advisory Group of Experts for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, mandated by the Security Council in its resolution 2250. The Advisory Group is unique in its significant representation of young people and women; nine members are young practitioners and twelve are women.

Advisory Group members have worked on a wide range of issues, including youth empowerment, enhance political participation of women and youth, gender equality and peace, violence prevention and youth development.

The findings and recommendations of the study will be presented to the Security Council in December 2017, on the second anniversary of the adoption of resolution 2250.

Meet Omar Weslati, Portfolio Manager – Microcred, Beja, Tunisia

Omar, from Beja Tunisia, graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Commerce in 2011 and immediately started looking for job opportunities. He applied for several job positions, with rejection after rejection, he decided to pursue his postgraduate studies.

Upon the completion of his Master degree in International Commerce in 2013, the searching journey started all over again. This time, he was determined to work, no matter where or what. At first, he worked at an agro-food company, then in a storage company, later he worked as a cashier and then a sales controller. When he was asked about the reason behind trying different jobs, he said: “I don’t really know the reason; it is just that I couldn’t fit in in any of these jobs”. Eventually, Omar quit his last job and got back to his hometown, Testour to figure out his next steps.

After a while, he entered the professional world again accepting a job with Microcred as a Portfolio Manager facilitated by EFE. He was excited, but he had some doubts about his ability to remain in the same job. Before he started his job he participated in EFE’s Job Training and Placement Program.

“When I was informed about the training, I was excited, but I never expected it to be that efficient. It helped me enhance my skills, but most importantly, it made me realize why I kept switching jobs, in the last two years, I kept trying different jobs thinking that this way, I will discover myself. Actually, I didn’t; it made me feel even more miserable. However, thanks to EFE’s training, I got to finally set my goals and identify my weaknesses.” For Omar the training helped him overcome some of the difficulties that he faced before. “Through role games and simulations, I got to challenge myself and I proved that I am a good team player”. … He even changed on a personal level “Once I finished the training program, I started to notice how different I became. Now, I plan for my actions and I am more focused than ever”.

Meet Suzanne, 29 years old, Bachelor in Transportation Management, Governorate of Nabeul, Tunisia

Born in 1985, our alumna pursued a Bachelor Degree in transportation management hoping to work in the new airport that was being built in the region.

After graduating from university and spending two years actively looking for a job in her field, she decided to lower her standards and she finally settled for a sales position in a local shop. “I was miserable. Work felt very meaningless.” she said. This is why, one year later, she quit her job after meeting her husband and getting married. Eighteen months later, she had a son.

Soon after, she started questioning her decision to leave her job. “I love my son dearly”, she said,” but I felt trapped and frustrated being home full-time.

At the same time, I felt guilty about wanting to go back to my old life; about leaving my kid in kindergarten.”  “Interacting with the outside world, with people who were not my family or friends, felt like a distant memory. How am I going to fit in a work place? I had the impression that my knowledge and skills were out of date. I was truly intimidated.” At the same time, “I was excited by the idea of going back to work, couldn’t wait to re-join adult conversations, and have structure and diversity to my day. More importantly, I was longing to prove myself. I was sure that it was the right decision.”

After voicing her intention, she received mixed reactions from her entourage. But it made her more determined to do what she believed was right for her and her family.

Convinced that she could not return to her old job, she started applying for several jobs and looking for training to overcome the years she spent unemployed. That’s how she joined the Job Training and Placement program provided by Education for Employment Tunisia. “I was thrilled when they told me that we will be having a soft skills oriented training.” She said. “It was exactly what I needed to feel fully prepared to come back to the work place.”