Monday, October 24, 2011

An Enlightening Visit

On Friday of last week I had the privilege of attending a meeting at our office with a group of Yemeni women being hosted in our city by GlobalAustin, formerly known as the International Hospitality Council of Austin. These women were traveling around the United States via the US Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program. The purpose of their visit to the US was to tour various cities throughout the US and to learn more about the US political process, leadership, and civic engagement. The enthusiasm of the women and the roles they play in facilitating the establishment of democracy, human rights, and other pertinent issues in Yemen was inspiring to say the least! Moreover, the fact that they wanted to learn from us was certainly an honor and very humbling.

Heather McKissick, CEO of Leadership Austin, facilitated the meeting by providing the women with an overview of the organization's mission to develop and maintain the pipeline of leaders within the Central Texas region through education on issues, skills development, and the opportunity to cultivate meaningful and impactful relationships. In addition, the women were invited to ask questions that would be most helpful to them in meeting their own community-development goals. The biggest question asked was how to develop and provide mentoring to their own constituents, but more than anything, the women wanted a general understanding of what a community leadership development organization looks like and how to enhance civic engagement.

The meeting was also attended by several Leadership Austin constituents and program graduates, including Nahid Khataw (Essential 2010) and Simone Talma Flowers (Essential 1997), as well as Fayruz Benyousef, CEO of Psychology Beyond Borders. Listening to Nahid, Simone, and Fayruz share their own stories of immigration with the Yemeni women facilitated a sense of connection and sisterhood among the group and brought me closer to my parent's own experience of immigration from Iran over 30 years ago. I came away from this meeting with a sense of shared pride for the work Nahid, Simone, and Fayruz have done to create a life for themselves here and to give back to the community, as well as what this amazing group of Yemeni women are working to establish for their own country and community.

Manoosh Djadali is the Operations Assistant at Leadership Austin

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