A Healthy Mind is in a Healthy Wallet – 10 Tips to Wellness Through Financial Sustainability

Dealing with stress, anxiety and other mental challenges is one thing. Doing it while under financial stress is a whole other ballgame! And that is the unfortunate position many women in the Arab world find themselves in. In societies that uphold a women’s place in family and the home, women find themselves dependent on their spouse for financial support.  That’s well and good until their marital status changes, or a tragic event befalls the breadwinner.  A housewife finds herself under a mountain of emotional stress compounded by a financial burden.  And even if that doesn’t happen;  all an Arab housewife needs to do is look around at the 50%+ divorce rates across the Arab world. That alone warrants a lifetime prescription of Prozac, or, a plan to be financially sustainable. Here are ten tips for financial sustainability that will have a direct impact on your mental well-being Discuss financial matters with your spouse, parent or guardian and address worse case scenarios Consult a financial adviser on a financial plan based on your current reality Put in place a savings plan and stick to it Educate yourself on financial sustainability using sites like Cashy.me and fool.com If you have the disposable income, join a women’s angel investment network to learn from others and co-invest to mitigate your risk Consider starting a home business, or taking on part-time work Learn the basics of balancing your accounts. Take an accounting course Educate yourself on the laws of the land regarding inheritance or divorce Acknowledge the challenges of financial stress and discuss them with a mental health professional, a support group or a...

A Fine Line Between Social Etiquette and Telling Lies

You’re leaving a dinner party, and a friend needs a taxi ride. You offer to drop her off, but her house is in the opposite direction, and yet you insist on dropping her home. You do it in-spite of traffic, and that report waiting for you at home to finish. You end up arriving at home hours later and with frustration staying up to a crazy hour to finish your report. It throws off your entire week.  Why? because that’s what our culture teaches us! We grow up as Arabs with the concept of putting others ahead. Whether or not it makes any sense. We insist on offering dinner guests food well beyond the point of reason.  In business we nod in agreement to terms we don’t intend to honor.  We go out of our way offering up support, advice, facilitating connections that we may not even have accessible to us.  It is so overdone and exaggerated by most that our intent for generosity and altruism begins to lose meaning.  And more so, takes a habitual form that cannot be maintained without it becoming disingenuous, and turns our lives into one big lie! How often have you come across friends who complain about doing so much for others? They complain that they no longer have time for themselves or their families. Why? because they must “return” a dinner invitation, or they promised a neighbor to watch their children. They complain indirectly about the activities they volunteered to do. The favors they opted for.  And at times make unkind references to those they opted to serve. Yet if you question...

Some good news .. #gaza family a phone call away..

I just got off the phone with Abdulhadi & khalil.  Two brothers, one lost his eye, another his limbs in the 2009 attack. “Hamdul Allah we are fine.. three days no water, electricity. Our neighborhood is a ghost town.  Everyone evacuated, two missiles hit two houses next to ours.  We are fine.. its difficult to see children go through this”.. The UAE community hosted both brothers in 2010 for medical treatment.  Khalil became the first double amputee scuba diver in the Arab world. Abdulhadi an amazing human being, an artist, a confident outspoken young man who relentless asks me what he can do for others.  I pray that he and his family survive.  I asked how I can help.. “Allah yebarek fiki.. pray for an end to this.” Please pray for their safety and that of others around...

The gravity of the battle means nothing to those at peace

Last night, my 20 year old son came home in a solemn mood.  One of his dear school friends had passed in an operating room from complications.  We spoke of death, funerals and post funeral customs and how  people of different cultures observe it.  Ssome celebrate it and others morn for months on end.  I recalled the most consoling A’zaa (wake) I had been to was one celebrating the life of the deceased.  Death is the only certainty and hard as it maybe one must accept Gods’ will and the universal truth. Tonight, we arrived at Ali’s A’zaa to see dozens of his young friends walking in, filling the hallways, on their faces a look of shock and sadness. For many of it is the first time they experience the passing of a loved one.  I fought back the tears at the sight of his sweet sister telling my son “he’s inchaAllah where he belongs, in heaven, we should celebrate his life, thank you for coming to remember him”. I didn’t expect Ali’s parents to be the ones consoling their visitors.  Dressed in their everyday clothes, they greeted us warmly.  They stood, with a warm smile receiving hugs, telling guests “Allah chose him in a blessed month, pray for him”.  The walls covered with Ali’s photos and a quote he loved;  the TV displayed photos of Ali smiling, living life with his friends and family.  A table of his favorite chocolates and drinks held a sign inviting visitors to eat his favorite candy.  His friends took turns going up to his room.. a sign leading to it said “Take...

A Christmas Gift from Maria

Maria’s smile was the best gift I received this Christmas.  Maria is seven years young.  She can’t wait to go the USA, so she can run and play with other kids like she used to.  Five months ago she was walking with her mom in their neighborhood in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria when a bullet entered her shoulder and lodged in her spine. Her family sought refuge in Lebanon.  They live in an abandoned building. No electricity. The own two mattresses, three blankets and a wheelchair aside from the clothes on their back. The family greeted us with smiles that warmed the freezing room.  Maria spoke as she shivered: “My mother tells me stories, I cannot go to school, they don’t have a place for me. I get bored, so my father takes me on the chair to watch other kids run. I know I will have a surgery and get better and run again. When am I going to America to get my bullet out?” As we walked out of their home, Mohamad, her father says there’s another family who needs your help.  A young mother appears with her three children; Mohamad the eldest was at home when a shell hit their house, killing his grandfather and tearing through his hands. “They are in good shape” says Mohamad, The PCRF Lebanon Missions Manager. “On your next visit, we will go to the Ba’kaa where a tent is the only shelter those families have”. Every day I am reminded of how rich my life is with friends, loved ones, amazing work, and health.  Today, was a special reminder....

ذكر و أنثى

قال لها ألا تلاحظين أن الكـون ذكـر؟ فقالت له بلى لاحظت أن الكينونة أنثى قال لها ألم تدركي بأن النـور ذكـر؟ !فقالت له بل أدركت أن الشمس أنثـى قـال لهـا أوليـس الكـرم ذكــر؟ !فقالت له نعم ولكـن الكرامـة أنثـى قال لها ألا يعجبـك أن الشِعـر ذكـر؟ !فقالت له وأعجبني أكثر أن المشاعر أنثى قال لها هل تعلميـن أن العلـم ذكـر؟ فقالت له إنني أعرف أن المعرفة أنثـى وبـعـد ذلك.. قال لها سمعت أحدهم يقول أن الخيانة أنثى فقالت له ورأيت أحدهم يكتب أن الغدر ذكر قال لها ولكنهم يقولون أن الخديعـة أنثـى فقالت له بل هن يقلـن أن الكـذب ذكـر قال لها هناك من أكّد لـي أن الحماقـة أنثـى فقالت له وهنا من أثبت لي أن الغباء ذكـر قـال لهـا أنـا أظـن أن الجريمـة أنـثـى فقالـت لـه وأنـا أجـزم أن الإثـم ذكر قـال لهـا أنـا تعلمـت أن البشاعـة أنثـى فقالـت لـه وأنـا أدركـت أن القبـح ذكر قال لها يبدو أنك محقة فالطبيعة أنثـى فقالت له وأنت قد أصبت فالجمال ذكـر قـال لهـا لا بـل السـعـادة أنـثـى فقالت له ربمـا ولـكن الحـب ذكـر قال لها وأنا أعترف بأن التضحية أنثـى فقالت له وأنا أقر بأن الصفـح ذكـر قال لها ولكنني على ثقة بأن الدنيا أنثى فقالت له وأنا على يقين بأن القلب ذكر ولا زال الجـدل قائمـا وسيبقى الحوار مستمرا ً طــالــمــا أن  الـسـؤال ذكـــر والإجــــابة انـثى  من أطرف ما قرأت. الشكر...

From Debt to Prosperity

I believe in simplicity. No matter how complex a task may seem, you can break it down to small chunks and address it. [Financial Freedom] Converting your current debt to equity may seem like a complex task. Break it down into manageable chunks and you’re half way to financial freedom! So here it is, a step by step process: Get healthy! Yes, you read it right. Exercise! Your physical state affects your emotional state. Exercising pumps the right hormones which will help you maintain a cheerful optimistic outlook and clear your thoughts. When the going gets tough, the tough get healthy! Clean up your relationships – Debt is owing something to the world around you. It may mainfest itself as money owed, but you need to analyze your relationships and take stock of what you owe people in other ways. You may owe apologies, you have taken too much without giving. You may owe support. You may simply be with people who take too much and you need to learn to give yourself equally. Create balance in your relationships. The connection between debt and owing something in relationships may not be so obvious to you, but life is really that interconnected. Be open to seeing it and addressing these issues and you will see impact on your relationship with money. Articulate where you want to be – Write a statement declaring where you want to be and the time period you want to achieve your target (Ex. Become cash-flow positive having 5k surplus in the bank by Jan 2014). Write the financial challenge & seek advice – Write the...

break the fundraising bottleneck – How Middle East Charities can raise money

I come across charities regularly that are struggling with fundraising. Crowd-funding offers a good, and relatively easy way to get money online. You share your stories and needs with the world online and the crowd responds by sending you money to your account.  There are some basic steps to follow: Locate an online crowd-funding platform that is suitable for you. I recommend Just Giving because they’re in the region and their site is easy to use. They need your registration paper, a bank statement and an application form. The folks are very easy to work with and responsive. Recruit a student from a local university who understands social media market. Get your volunteers to take good photos or a short video (1 min or less). Write a script describing your cause, your beneficiaries, the way you will use funds and share photos/videos. Post your script and photos on Justgiving.com and / or your site. (They have great how-to videos) Your intern can help you share your campaign content on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Pinterest, Instagram). Here are a few sample campaigns that I think are cool: Stop Bullying #GiveWater #GiveHealth Cycling for Gaza Let me know if you require more support. @rchakaki (on twitter) Other resources:...

Refugees don’t need money, they need engagement!

Thanks to Salma El-Yassir the director of Welfare Association Lebanon Branch (WA-LB), I visited Burj El Barajneh Refugee Camp in Beirut. I visited to support the launch of a Youth Employment Service (YES) Program. To promote the project among camp residences, WA-LB commissioned Graffiti artist Yazan to work with camp residences to create an attraction for youth. YES will have a profound impact on youth in the camp, and I’ll dedicate a post to it at a later date.  What I’m sharing is what struck me as a desperate need by youth in the camps to connect with those of us outside. I’m sharing a story and calling for action for those outside the camp who can inspire, mentor, uplift, to support. We only conserve what we love. We only love what we know… here’s what I saw and heard: As we walked through increasingly narrow alley ways lined with trash I wondered how it was possible to dream of another reality.  Not a single street was paved.  I glimpsed a person in a wheelchair at his front door and wondered how he moved around in the camp. Alleys  are too narrow for a wheelchair,  have steep inclines, sharp turns.  But what is most striking is the exposed and extremely dangerous electrical and water pipes. Mohamad our guide explained “if one wire gets cut, the entire neighborehood goes dark.  neighbores go out with candles and torches to find their wires and reactivate them. At times we have week long blackouts.  Students are forced to study on candlelight. When there’s a surge of water in the pipes, they burst. located...

Giving beyond reason

Today felt heavy. I woke up at dawn, and prayed for the life of Amir Bedier. A man I had only heard of yesterday, when his brother and my friend Ahmed sent out this message: “Urgent please make dua for my brother Amir, who was just shot in the chest inside the Rabaa protest in Cairo.” Moments after prayer, another message came through: “My brother Amir Bedier has returned to Our Lord. To Allah we belong and to Allah is the return. Amir was shot and killed by Egyptian police forces in Rabaa square today. We are proud of him and his courage to stand up for his beliefs and the rights of others. He was fasting and unarmed. He left behind a wife, two children, five brothers and his two parents and countless relatives and friends who loved him.” A stream of condolences followed. “إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون”.. “we are for Allah and for Allah we shall return”. The only consoling words. We are all destined for death. My thoughts were on his children and widow, and the heart wrenching pain they are feeling and will feel for years to come. I felt the emptiness and loneliness they will experience when the anger and sadness lifts and they realize he is gone forever. His seat at dinner is empty, he’s not there to take them to Friday prayer or school Parent conferences.  Seeing fathers supporting their children, hugging them, even reprimanding them becomes all they see around.  Thoughts of “what would he have done” become questions that can never be answered. The events of Egypt, Syria,...

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