Having never been to Egypt, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
As the Director of Information Technology at Plan International USA, I haven’t had a lot of exposure into what the folks who work directly with our programs accomplish on a day-to-day basis.
Naturally, when I was asked if I wanted to participate in a trip to the field, I was excited for the opportunity.
My main objective was to better understand Plan’s mission. I was also curious to meet people in the country offices to better understand their roles and responsibilities with respect to our programs and how their work intersects with our work in the U.S. office.
But first things first: Egypt was a culture shock.
Experiencing the food, the language, and observing the lifestyle was an amazing - and interesting - opportunity.
Perhaps most striking upon first arrival was how old Cairo is. The infrastructure compared to what I am used to seeing in the U.S. is extremely different. The number of people and cars (and other things!) on the road was shocking - and at times frightening!
As I settled in – and now that I’m back home – a few special moments really stood out.
The opportunity to spend that amount of time with co-workers and board members was great. Despite everyone’s differences, it was clear that we all have a common goal: to improve the lives of others. Our contributions to that goal are different, but we are all working toward the same outcome. That lesson was unexpected, but it gave me a greater appreciation for Plan and the people with whom I work.
I was excited to have received such an organized and well thought-out itinerary prior to the trip. It really helped me understand the overall objectives. Day One included an introductory meeting with the Plan Egypt Country Director and Deputy Country Director. They provided us with project highlights, as well as recent administrative changes they have made that have helped their office become more productive.
From there, we met with Safer Cities Project staff and had the opportunity to interact with the girls who are actively participating in the project. It was wonderful to see the impact of Plan’s work on the community.
Throughout the week, we were able to meet with the leaders of other projects like the Le Meridian Hotel Project, which provides opportunities for youth to learn skills related to the hospitality industry. Talking with the actual trainees was an incredibly positive and exciting experience. Later in the week, we were able to visit the Ain Sira Centre, where the actual classroom trainings take place.
Sunday was particularly impactful. We flew to Asyut to meet with members participating in the Economic Empowerment Program.
One woman, specifically, was inspiring. A product of the program, she is a true success story.
A widow with five children, with guidance from Plan she was able to open her own shop providing goods to women preparing for marriage. She was incredibly happy with her accomplishments, and her enthusiasm was energizing.
As the IT director, I’m not able to directly apply what I learned from this trip into my day-to-day work. But, but from a “’life lessons perspective,” this experience has made me realize how lucky my family and I are. It has made me want to do more for my own community and - if given the opportunity - I would like to do something more closely related to program work here at Plan.
I left Egypt with an appreciation for the people who work each and every day at Plan – and all people who work to improve the lives of the less fortunate.