Ahmad Gad: Pairing personal ambition with civil service in Egypt
Editor’s note: Ahmad Gad submitted his following personal story to Global Young Voices. You too can submit yours to us here.
I am a person who aims to widen his knowledge and bear the responsibility of taking new challenges in order to improve and better myself as a successful human being capable of leading a decent life for his community and the entire world.
After achieving strong grades in high school, I had an undefined identity while being raised in upper Egypt; I decided to join the faculty of engineering in a far-away city to go outside my comfort zone and discover what I really wanted to do in my life.
With five years of non-academic work in national and international associations (parallel to my bachelor degree study) doors opened for me to have experiences in defining strategies and sustaining social, economic, and environmental impacts. This involved working on projects that cover many issues including refugees, renewable energy, and ending violence against women. Outside of these projects I organized blood donations, campaigns and other events. I also found myself freelancing in photography, documentation, and evaluation techniques.
The highlight of my life, which fuelled my desire to engage with fellow communities, was when I received the opportunity to study Civic Engagement at Bard College, NY, USA as a scholarship. By doing this I strengthened both my knowledge and experience in civil society; taking case studies in human rights, citizenship, community building, grassroots activism, political leadership, volunteerism, and media. I journeyed to many places, including the US Capitol, United Nations, Human Rights Organizations, meeting congressmen, local politicians, representatives of nonprofit organizations, and many other people. In addition I also produced case-studies, interviews, field trips, presentations and many other activities with host families and in college dorms with people from many different backgrounds.
All of this enabled me to accept people regardless of any difference in culture, religion, ideology and sexuality; now I'm certain that accepting these differences is the key to building a mature society. I have an interest in photography, videography, documenting, and video editing; after I returned from my program in the U.S, I wished to connect these interests with a career in the civil society.
Soon afterwards, I found the ideal approach. I was awarded another scholarship from the U.S. embassy in Cairo called “Alumni TV”; an intensive program in content creation, video creation, and digital marketing presented to 20 Egyptian youths who have already delivered a direct social impact on their societies. The main aim of this program was to develop our experience in launching social awareness campaigns.
After graduating from the program, I used this opportunity to volunteer with St Andrew’s Refugee Service (“StARS”); as a filmmaker, they were searching for someone who could make a short documentary film to represent one of their projects in the "Ockenden International Prizes" competition that awards on-going refugee projects worldwide. StARS’ “Unaccompanied Youth Bridging Program” (“UYBP”) embodies an approach to support that values refugee self-reliance, potential, abilities, and expertise. The problem here is that more than eighty percent of Egypt’s 2,000-plus unaccompanied refugee children and youth speak very little Arabic or English, which creates a barrier for them in accessing the few community schools available in refugee neighborhoods.
The girls find themselves working as domestic servants while the boys generally work as menial day laborers. Both are subject to frequent abuse, violence, and a failure to pay wages. All the while we are losing the talents of a generation of young people whose greatest misfortune comes through being sent away alone from war and persecution.
UYBP seeks to turn the tables on this misfortune as it is the only program in Egypt that provides daily activities for unaccompanied children and youth such as education services and psychosocial activities that are designed to reinforce positive relationships, increase confidence and self-reliance, reduce isolation while also building bridges to meaningful activities. After an interview with the project coordinator, I volunteered in a team which consisted of refugees, volunteers, workers, and other film-makers; some working days were done alongside the final exams on my bachelor's degree with the project location being 3 hours away from my residence.
After some consideration, I decided this was a risk that deserves to be taken and I took some action to keep organised; this included rescheduling my time to be flexible between study and work, and meeting other project members to discuss the feasibility plan for winning the competition. We managed to submit a professional film before the deadline and the competition took place at Oxford University in the UK; our film won 1st prize. Now, $100,000 is being funded to expand the project.
To conclude, I believe I am a committed, multi-talented civil leader who connects with people's suffering; someone who has proven his willingness to improve people's’ quality of life and also proven his success through many small achievements mainly based on connecting the dots of his interests and talents. I will continue to do so after participating in the 20th session of the Youth Assembly at the United Nations; sharing my story is to ensure that our society is a society for all.
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV
Photos credit: Ahmad Gad