Engineering students Bassma Taher and Samar Sultan are the first Egyptians and AUC students to be selected as Dalai Lama fellows for the year 2012, winning $4,500 each for their project Kaab Dayer, which aims to empower underprivileged people by developing their interpersonal skills and enabling them to start their own small business ventures. Both students will travel to attend the Global Learning Community institute in California from June 17 to 24, along with other awardees, to present their project and share their knowledge.
The “compassion-in-action” projects that are designed and launched by
students as part of the Dalai Lama fellowship should be in one of four
areas: environmental sustainability, violence mitigation, interfaith or
intercultural cooperation, and diminishing poverty. With Assistant
Professor Ayman Ismail as their faculty mentor, Sultan and Taher focused
their project on the production of leather goods, an industry that is
suffering from extreme decline.
“The idea behind our project is to revive the industry of producing
leather shoes and bags, which is in decline due to the lack of qualified
labor,” said Taher, who majors in construction engineering. Taher and
Sultan plan to establish a factory in Ain Al Sira, one of the poorest
areas in Cairo, and make use of qualified labor to train unemployed
youth in the area. “There is a great number of unemployed people in Ain
Al Sira because of the absence of localized businesses and the low
wages,” Taher said.
Sultan, a mechanical engineering student, added that one of their
project’s main goals is to enhance civic engagement. Through their
initiative, Taher and Sultan believe that they can revive a diminishing
industry, create job opportunities and spread a sense of social
responsibility among their fellow students. “We are encouraging
university students from fields such as accounting, marketing, human
resources, finance, branding and technical supervision to join us as
interns in the factory,” Sultan said. “They will gain work experience,
receive internship certificates from the factory and become more engaged
citizens of Egypt.”
The initiative is a result of a partnership between AUC’s John D.
Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement and Dalai Lama
Fellows organization. The selection process for the fellows was managed
by a committee headed by Barbara Ibrahim, director of the Gerhart
Center, and Nelly Corbel, University-based civic engagement manager.
Corbel will coach the two winning students throughout the implementation
process of their project. Taher and Sultan, who initially met at the
2010 Women to Women conference in Boston, are expected to complete their
project in three years.
Dalai Lama Fellows is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco
that has the unprecedented authorization of the 14th Dalai Lama to award
fellowships and project grants in his name, with mentoring and coaching
components. The organization cooperates with various educational
institutions, including Princeton, Stanford and McGill universities.
Fellows are immersed in a yearlong secular, contemplative leadership
curriculum that emphasizes mindfulness, compassion, ethics, systematic
thinking and project management.
Photo caption: Bassma Taher and Samar Sultan are the first Egyptians to receive the Dalai Lama fellowship