Fellows' Reflections: Lisa MacKenzie

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At the end of 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to attend the MiSK Global Forum, alongside former MENAR fellow Jordan Lee and MENAR board member Madison Marks. The MiSK Foundation is philanthropic organization established by Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz that promotes the development and empowerment of Saudi youth through education, workforce development, and more. The organization funds schools, internships, full scholarships, and opportunities for Saudi youth and puts together the annual MiSK Global Forum.

The trip to Riyadh enabled me to network with globally-minded, smart, engaged, and curious young professionals from across the world — from among over 3,500 attendees, the majority of whom were Saudi. Beyond providing opportunities for networking and connecting with others at any given moment, the conference addressed three key themes: thriving as adaptable individuals, adjusting to the human-machine partnership, and revamping uniquely human collaboration.

Attending the MiSK Forum and meeting hundreds of young professionals, entrepreneurs, and engaged youth from Saudi Arabia and rest of the world was a unique experience. I was particularly impressed by the young Saudi women who seemed to make up nearly half of the conference attendees. From women speaking onstage in a niqab about their incredibly successful start-up coding program for girls or their experiences becoming professional athletes and leaders, to the (actually) countless number of women I met with their own start-ups, I was inspired by their initiative. The concentration of such promising individuals and enthusiasm for the role of youth in the workforce and shaping the future was tangible. Attending the conference reinstated my belief in the significance of collaboration, adaptability, innovation, and global-mindset in both my own path and in our increasingly interconnected world. I hope that future fellows will be granted the opportunity to attend the MiSK Global Forum in future years.

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Fellows' Reflections: Jessie Wyatt

Final Reflection: Building a Community of “Powerhouse Women” at Reclaim Childhood

As I sit here and write my final reflection for the MENAR Fellowship, it still remains hard to fathom that over a year has passed since joining Reclaim Childhood. Although all words feel inadequate in describing the ways this past year has moved and shaped me, one theme that has pervaded the entire year is the importance of communities of “Powerhouse Women,” something I was able to experience every day at Reclaim Childhood.

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The Reclaim Childhood coaching staff is the most important part of Reclaim Childhood. They are the reason why families trust RC; they ride the buses with the girls and they facilitate all of the practices. They have the sense of what makes the girls happy and they advocate for changes that need to be made to make the program a better and safer place for all. They ask for more trainings, attend trainings on their own, and have formed tight bonds among themselves. The RC staff is made up of 10 different women, from a diverse array of nationalities, who serve as mentors and role models for not only just the girls, but also for me.

When I first took this job, the RC coaching staff immediately took me under their wing. They taught me new Arabic phrases, they took the time to walk me through all of the protection concerns that the girls face, and they never ceased to exude positivity for the program and their work. To me, each coach exemplifies what it means to be a powerhouse woman: a woman that drives through all obstacles to advance the well-being of not only herself, but those around her. The coaches are forces to be reckoned with, yet they practice patience beyond what I have ever seen before.

This past summer, RC had a team of female interns to support the coaching staff. My favorite part of the summer was watching the interns grow in appreciation, admiration, and awe of the coaching staff. Starting off at coach clinic, they quickly recognized that the coaches are the ground on which RC is built. Over the course of the summer, the interns and the coaches defied language barriers, built strong relationships, and exchanged information and cultural tendencies. During the interns’ last week, all of the coaches and interns came over to my apartment to have a little celebration and potluck dinner. All the women flooded into the room, filling the table with dishes from their specific cultures, ranging from grape leaves to mac-and-cheese. They spent the night chatting, eating, and, of course, dancing. It was amazing to see the way that a team of 20+ women celebrated the uniqueness and success of the women around them. It was clear that they built themselves a community of powerhouse women.