The Arab world is far from a static image of deserts and nomads. It is home to the earliest modern civilizations and was at one point the peak of higher knowledge. The scene today is a mosaic of cultures, languages, and dialects, yet the Network of Arab-American Professionals (NAAP) and volunteers like Ammal Elhaddad are working to unite Arabs and Arab-Americans and to spread the awareness of the beautiful Arab culture. Founded in 2001, NAAP is involved with the U.S. Arab population in several ways. Aside from connecting professionals with each other, the organization is also involved in the local communities and in protecting Arab interests both in America and abroad. Among its cultural offerings, NAAP runs Arabic immersion classes in DC and NY. But this is just scratching the surface of this fast-growing organization. Get the details in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.
Network of Arab-American Professionals, South Florida (NAAP-SoFL)
NAAP founded in January 2001 NAAP-SoFL founded in 2006
University of Miami, MPA and MPH, expected graduation – 2007;
University of Miami, BS in Biology, 1998.
About the non-profit
The Network of Arab-American Professionals in South Florida (NAAP-SoFL) is a community of Arabs and Arab-Americans working in a number of professions, serving society through volunteerism and community service efforts. Through the volunteer efforts of our members, NAAP-SoFL serves the Arab and Arab-American community by promoting professional networking and social interaction among Arab-American and Arab professionals.
NAAP-SoFL is dedicated to upholding the NAAP mission of supporting the Arab student movement, providing opportunities for professional networking among young Arab and Arab-American professionals, empowering the Arab-American community through political activism, and promoting the Arab culture and identity.
Through the efforts of our members, we work to promote our common Arab heritage and culture, to serve our communities through outreach programs, to support the Arab student movement, to provide opportunities for professional networking, and to advance the common interests of the larger Arab community by empowering, protecting and promoting its political causes and interests.
NAAP provides its members with the opportunity to interact with professionals through a variety of social and community services while stepping up their involvement and focus to reflect the experiences, needs, and resources of an older, more established working base of members.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Since NAAP-SoFL is a volunteer organization, there are no defined responsibilities for any of the members. However, the success of the organization depends on the effort and energy that is put into the organization. In recent months, I have helped organize several events such as a Humanitarian Relief Banquet, a Benefit Concert, and several benefit dinners to help raise money for various charities.
I also work closely with Arab student organizations throughout South Florida. As chair of the Student Support Committee, I provide guidance to student leaders based on my own personal experiences as a former student leader and I help connect the university student groups with each other. The students of today are the leaders of tomorrow and I truly believe that we must invest in the future by providing our future leaders with the resources they need to help them achieve their goals.
Most notable milestones
In the summer of 2006, NAAP-SoFL sponsored a Humanitarian Relief Banquet benefiting the Lebanese Red Cross through the American Red Cross. We proudly raised over $20,000 to provide emergency assistance to the children of Lebanon. In October, we held a Benefit Iftar to support UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. And in November, NAAP and OASIS, the Organization of Arab American Students, held a Benefit Concert at the University of Miami to benefit the American University of Beirut Medical Emergency Relief Fund. The concert featured our very own talented NAAP member, Elizabeth Ayoub, singing her own songs as well as some Arabic favorites. In the Spring of 2007, we plan on sponsoring a larger concert in South Florida entitled “Arab Divas”.
What’s the biggest challenge?
We face many challenges. The obvious ones are racism, discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, stereotyping, etc. But, we are no different from any other minority community that has faced the same challenges in the past. I think one of our biggest challenges is that we must stop looking at problems and start looking for solutions. Instead of focusing on the challenges and obstacles, we must focus on the opportunities that have arisen to allow us to make a positive change.
We must learn from the successes of other minority communities that have endured the same challenges that we face today. Change will not happen overnight. If we can each do a little bit every day to better our future as Arab-Americans, our children’s children will be able to look back with pride on the successes of the generations that came before them.
The Arab culture is a beautiful culture that has so much to offer – music, dance, art, literature, food, scientific achievements – the list goes on and on. We must learn to highlight this beauty and use it as a bridge so that other people can appreciate all that the Arab World, and Arab-Americans, have to offer.
What’s in store for the future?
Currently, there are eight official NAAP chapters – Washington DC, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco Bay Area, Orange County, and Los Angeles. NAAP South Florida is currently a petition chapter and will be an official chapter by the Spring of 2007. (So, if you are looking for a link through the main website, it will not be available until NAAP-South Florida becomes an official chapter.)
NAAP-SoFL will continue to work towards the goals set forth in the Mission Statement. We will continue to work with other non-profits to raise awareness about issues occurring throughout the Arab World, as well as issues affecting many Arabs and Arab-Americans right here in the United States.
There are many challenges, but there also many opportunities to change our world for the better. Everyone has a role to fill. I feel NAAP provides its members with a channel to take the initiative and make a change. I can’t predict what is in store for the future, but I know that NAAP will continue to empower the community as we continue to work towards making the future a better future for all.
It’s not enough to just read about what young, driven,
and forward-thinking individuals are doing out there. It’s
important to connect with them! Go ahead and send our
profilee a quick email to say hello! If you have a question,
want to give kudos, or just want to drop them a line – we
encourage you to reach out!
Guiding principle in life
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Confucius.
I’m not a long distance runner, but in 2003, I committed to raise money for the National Aids Foundation by training for a marathon. I successfully completed the marathon in December of that year, a feat that I thought was perhaps impossible. I learned many lessons about myself while preparing for that race but I think the ultimate lesson that will stay with me is that I can achieve anything if I am dedicated and committed to reaching my goal. On mile 20, I was ready to quit, but I kept pushing myself, mile after mile, because I believed in myself and I believed that I could cross that finish line. I trained for months and prepared myself, both physically and mentally, to reach my goal. As I reached mile 26.2 and crossed the finish line, I realized that I could accomplish anything with the proper planning and the tools necessary to reach my goal.
Now, whenever I face an obstacle, I find a way to dig deep into myself and find the strength to overcome that obstacle. I am currently training for my next marathon on January 14, 2007 to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The back of my jersey reads, “If you think running a marathon is difficult, try chemotherapy.” We face many challenges in life that we think are impossible to overcome, but we will never know if we don’t try to overcome them. I’m not going to find the cure for cancer by January 14, 2007, but I know that every dollar I raise will bring us one step closer to finding that cure. My work as an activist will not solve the world’s problems overnight, but I know that it will bring us one step closer to peace on this Earth.
Yardstick of success
I don’t believe there is anything that can measure my success because there are no limits to success. I will just keep reaching for the stars. I may fall a few times, but I will get up and keep trying.
Goal yet to be achieved
United States Senator
Best practical advice
There is no “I” in Team Work.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
“Show me solutions.” I have a very special friend who always reminds me to look for solutions when I get overwhelmed with obstacles.
Alice Nashashibi, 78 years old. Alice is a remarkable woman that I had the honor of boarding with for one year during my AmeriCorps Service in San Francisco. (I spent one year as a volunteer in the first Arab Resource Corps for the Arab Cultural Center of SF.)
At 78 years young, Alice continues to support Arab-American organizations throughout the United States. She is committed to promoting the Arab culture which is evident by her unwavering support of events such as the Arab Film Festival and the Arab Cultural Festival. She also supports the arts through groups such as RAWI, an Arab-American writers group and Zawaya, a non-profit dedicated to promoting Arabic music, art, literature, and theatre. The list of organizations she supports is extensive, and it is not limited to Arab causes.
Alice is truly an asset to the community and the list of contributions she has made is endless. What I admire the most about Alice is that she is so humble about all her achievements and she always has a smile on her face. I truly do look up to Alice Nashashibi as a role model and a mentor.
What motivated you to get started?
There was never a specific day when I decided I wanted to be an activist. Both my parents were student leaders when they were in college so I think it’s in my blood. My father and mother have always instilled values of fairness, justice, equality, etc – and they always tried to teach me about current events and World History (not just what is found in textbooks).
I was born and raised in NYC, so I think growing up surrounded by so many different cultures and religions also helped promote my understanding of so many issues. I was raised in an environment which always stimulated me to be aware of what is happening in the world and not just accept what is being spoon-fed to me through the main stream media. So, like most Arab-American children, I grew up understanding both Arab and American issues and I think that knowledge has helped me to have a broader view of the current political climate.
Like best about what you do?
My energy to continue my activism is fueled by knowing I have made a difference. Whether it is through fundraising to buy medicine for children in a war-torn area, or promoting our beautiful culture through a musical concert, these small successes provide me with fulfillment. I’m always thinking of the next project to take on to try and make the world a better place. It sounds like a cliche, but I do like to believe that at the end of the day, I have made a difference.