I met Mariam by chance, over Facebook (I really love this communication channel!). She took part in our DubaiMums STACK competition and I took a look at her profile. All I could see there were pictures of kids: happy kids with a sad story behind, refugee kids, less privileged kids, orphans, and an angel in their middle. The moment I saw Mariam’s profile, I knew I had to find out her story and shout it out to as many people I can.
Mariam is the woman and mum that works behind the scenes. She is not in the glossy magazines but her work needs millions of supporters because she is leading the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program for MBC group in the region. What does it mean? It means that she travels a lot, visiting refugee camp after refugee camp and orphanage after orphanage. It means she is in the middle of pain and tries to bring as much relief as possible. It means she has to find enthusiastic people as herself to join her and support their initiatives. It means that every day, at the end of the day, she can go to sleep with a smile on her face knowing she managed to help somebody but gritting her teeth in the same time for the injustice of the world.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, Mariam started to volunteer since she was 14, not necessary for money but helping others. With her mother divorced and juggling between running her own business in the 70’s as a woman entrepreneur and at the same time trying the best she can to be the best mum she can be for her and her two brothers, Mariam learnt since being a kid to take care of herself and how to take care of others, too. Even if her family situation was not the ideal, she always counted her blessings and realized that other people and kids like her are more in need and that’s how her volunteer work started, in her own community. Her country was also the first to help when she landed a job with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1999 after receiving her Master Degree: she managed a nationwide campaign focusing on the social and economic empowerment of female heads of households in 22 governorates in Egypt.
Today, Mariam is married with a Portuguese, has two boys, age 9 and 7 and lives in Dubai. From the very beginning, she taught them that giving and being kind to others are ones of the most important things in life. They always donate their toys and clothes and are involved in charity activities. Every year in Eid, they take less fortunate kids to shop for new clothes. Their joy for small things like choosing a t-shirt or a pair of shoes is amazing and the boys are happy that they can help somebody in need and spend time with them too.
But sometimes, they are also in need… in need of their mother. Mariam travels a lot visiting the projects she is leading in the region for youth empowerment & humanitarian relief. She also takes part in campaigns promoting women and social responsibility across the Middle East & globally. She is in conferences, meetings or on the field by day and on Skype by evening to check what her boys did at school, if they did their homework, organizing playdates and after school activities. And this is another opportunity for her to remind them how fortunate they are to be able to go to school. Other kids can only wish for it. What does she do when she has time to spend with the boys? “I love to spend time with the boys just playing board games, listening to music and dancing. We enjoy arts and crafts, kicking a ball or simply just reading a book and cuddling”.
As she is like always on the road, we asked Mariam what she always has with her when she is on missions: “My book (whatever I am reading at the time), my laptop, my pillow and magnesium pills to help me sleep at night”.
And talking about book, her favorite is “The Map of Love” by an Egyptian-British author called Ahdaf Soueif.
Even if she loves her work very much, a holiday is welcome from time to time. So we wanted to know where her ideal destination would be: “Anywhere with a beach is a perfect destination for me. I love to dig my two feet in the cold sand and just glance at the open sea …it gives me serenity and peace.”
One more thing we wanted to know about Mariam: her favorite flowers. Well, white tulips they are!
Mariam has over 17 years of experience working in the fields of social development, humanitarian relief, communication, corporate & social responsibility in the MENA region. Mariam is a member of the Regional Board of Injaz Al Arab representing MBC Group – MBC Hope, as well as the Education for Employment UAE Advisory Board. Being an active member in the entrepreneurial & youth development fields volunteering her time as a CSR expert but also in her capacity as a mentor, moderator and judge on several regional and global competitions.