I was planning to go to an Ethical Food conference cosponsored by an organization that I regularly volunteer for. My daughter came with two tickets to attend an event organized by her high school colleagues under the title “I Am Woman”. For my daughter to take the time to remember to buy tickets for something told me I had to quit my plans and go….. it turns out that was the theme of the evening.
7 inspiring women spoke about their story and their successes: I specifically stopped at 4 of them:
Caroline Tavor a former lawyer, her son was officially diagnosed as autistic at the age of 2. At that time her husband had just been relocated to Dubai. When they arrived, 7 years ago there was no real psychological help for autistic children. Over the next 2 years she and another mom started up what is now Child Early Intervention Medical Centre . She shared, in an eloquent yet very emotional speech how “money sometimes cannot solve the problem” they had the money but there was still no help available. She had to create help by finally convincing a psychologist from the states to relocate to Dubai.
The next story was Barbara Baumgartner who grew up on the mountains in Austria in a village where most people just finished high school, found jobs and just got on with their lives. She wanted more. She wanted to be a lawyer, pilot and doctor. Little did she know she was going to be all 3 in one. Barbara finished law school, despite what her parents thought she should do and found her first, second and third jobs. Different things but most unfulfilling notably the penultimate one where she worked for an extremely wealthy man where she ran his family office and could in a 5 minute conversation to a New York stock broker buy millions of dollars worth of shares on the market; and ran enough money to order new carpets that cost a few millions in few minutes…. “despite all the power she had” she said : “it felt weird”. She knew she wanted something more. Today, she is the Manager Director of FAI company running emergency medical flights to evacuate patients, hostages and so many other people who are in desperate need of medical aid. Not having slept 4 hours to save a new born the night before and get him despite all odds onto a flight to the UK was her moment of joy.
Rana Awad was the 6th story. A Lebanese who lived most of her childhood during the war and learnt that it was life that was worth cherishing and she spent most of her life either in direct volunteer work in Lebanon through her work with International NGOs or through direct volunteering to help rebuild Lebanon. She described 2007, the year that followed the 2006 war with Israel as “the happiest year of my life…helping people get back on their feet again” as she volunteered in to help rebuild the damaged south. Today she runs the GEMS education foundation that helps provide education to thousands of underprivileged children in developing countries.
The final stop was Deenaz Kanji, who describes herself as a community educationalist. She was in her third year graduate program with one more year to go when she was called back home as her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She was never able to go back to finish her graduate degree especially that she also had a younger brother who also needed to get a degree. The choice at the time was for her to step back. She turns 50 in few weeks and holding a 4.0 average in her religious studies degree, just about to finish her masters in religious studies and has already applied for a PHD. She works 16 hours a day as an educationalist and studies every night for 4 hours and is left with 4 hours of sleep a day.
All these women were hit with circumstances and events that had impacted their life significantly. The choice each had at the time was to let the circumstances define them or use the circumstances as opportunities to define themselves, their lives and their path. They courageously chose the latter.
Every day life throws some events and circumstances at us and it is going to be up to us to decide: who defines who?