One year ago, I was going through the pictures of the Tech Girls of 2014, wishing I was one of them.
Yesterday, I was on Flickr, going through the pictures of Tech Girls of 2015 – the pictures of girls who have become sisters to me in the past 3 weeks. I still have trouble digesting the entire experience I had went through in the United States and the fact that I was even part of this program. Every single moment was a special one, a different one.
From the day I arrived, I knew that this is going to be a life-changing experience. Going from Washington DC’s airport to American University, I looked through the bus’ windows at DC: Its clean vastness that boasted a contrast of lit signs of international companies and beautiful greenery is enough to inspire anyone to think big. Such forms of inspiration continued from the first moments of arrival up to the last minutes before departure – which for the fact, we spent at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM)’s annex (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center), digging deeper into the science, mechanics, and history of international and historic airplanes.
And I was right: it was a life-changing experience.
At Tech Girls, we were exposed to how the real tech world works and to how successful people have built themselves and their companies. We visited the big tech companies and met with several hard-working, intelligent women, each of which had her story to inspire us with. We visited museums that exposed us to the American culture, past scientific achievements, and future ideas on the road. We went through a technology camp that empowered us with a programming language and creative ideas. We spent two days at a summer camp that gave us long-lasting friends. We learned about the importance of continuously giving back to our communities and about the strategies of designing projects fully focused on benefiting the people. We made friends – no, sisters – from all around the Arab World. We laughed, cried, danced, sang, and talked for hours. We fully embraced the importance of diversity, technology, and society.
Most importantly, we realized that the road in the field of technology is not going to be an easy one, but it will definitely be one that’s worth it.
Because the technology we develop is the future of the planet. Our innovation and hard work will be what will determine the next course humanity will take – be it regarding space exploration, renewable energy, social media, medicine, politics, and many more topics.
At Facebook and Yahoo, we met with women whose work is at the intersection between politics and social media: The effect of the work they do ripples into the hands of millions of users of these two massive companies. At Virginia Tech University, we saw and listened to the newest research and inventions being made: solar cells as thin and small as an A5 paper, doorsteps that can help conserve energy by turning off the electricity in rooms you are not in, 3D printing technology that can change the medical and industrial field, and much, much more. And what these visits, and many others, made me realize is that everyone can have a role in technological development – not a small role, but a big one if he/she wants to. Everyone and anyone can change an entire industry if he/she put their mind and work into it. Everyone and anyone can affect the community, country, and world they’re in.
Just think about it: The next coding class you’re giving might be to a 12 year old that would one day start what would become the biggest tech company. The next event you make might hold the inspiration that a young entrepreneur needs to launch his idea. The next picture you post might be one of a tech program that sparks the interest of a young girl in the suburbs of a big city – a program that once she applies to and gets accepted in might change her life.
Scratch the last “might”. The program already did.
Tech Girls gave me the confidence I needed to have in my tech abilities and ideas and in myself. I now look at all the difficulties currently present in my country and in the world, and remember a sentence said by one of the women we met at Facebook:
“Every job I had did not exist before I had it. I saw this problem. I saw the solution, and I realized that I want to be the one to do this.”
I see the problems, and I’m on the look-out for solutions.
It’s not the first time buildings shake and window glasses break. not the first time smoke rises in the skies of Beirut and phone networks stop working, definitely not the first time ambulance sirens are heard mixed with the cries and screams of the hurt and scared and frightened.
At 4:10 PM, an explosion took place in Beirut’s southern suburb, ending the lives of four civilians. Less than a week ago, on Friday, an explosion took place in Downtown, taking away the lives of eight. Total death toll :ten. Ten in less than seven days dead because some terrorists decided they can do so.
It has happened a handful of times in Beirut and its surroundings.It happens everyday or the other in Tripoli. People die; their names forgotten in a few days, the whole incident forgotten in a few weeks.
Apparently, nothing’s new. We’ve adapted, got used to the scent of blood hovering in the streets.
And that is just sick.
It’s sick that we got used to it, that we’re ready to continue our daily routine a few hours after hearing of the explosion. It’s sad that people die in such a gruesome way just because they happened to be passing by the wrong place at the wrong time, and it angers me how the media turns their death into a scoop, and how politicians use it for their own benefit and for encouraging hate between people of different religions and sects. One of the victims of last week’s explosion was a 16 year-old boy called “Mohammad Chaar” – a name that would’ve gone unnoticed if it weren’t for his friends, who did something unusual : They tried to organize something. They organized a peaceful march from his school ” Hariri Highschool II ” to the site of the explosion in Downtown,Beirut. The march was joined in by many teenagers from all around Lebanon, who didn’t necessarily know Chaar but wanted to give out a message, a cry. They wanted to let their call for change reach the entire country. And they did; the march got great media coverage. Social media buzzed with talks about Chaar. Tweets about him filled timelines; hash-tags like ‘ #TheMohammadChaarRevolution ‘ and ‘ #RIPMohammadChaar’ trended.
And then what?
In the past two days, the thoughts of Chaar gradually faded, and if it weren’t for the explosion today, which reminded people of what happened a few days ago, I bet his memory wouldn’t have survived the rest of the week.
Often, when we’re first introduced to a new idea,we get excited about it. We always pour ourselves into it at the beginning. A sense of fulfillment fills our hearts as we take the first few steps. It’s quite beautiful at first, that feeling of initiating a change, of doing ‘something’ – a twist from the every-day routine. But what’s disappointing is that most of the time, the idea withers away before getting the chance to blossom. We get bored, or tired. More ‘important’ things fill our time, or so we claim. We get sucked into the never-ending hurricane of selfishness, self-doubt, and laziness. ‘What’s it to me? How will I make a change?’ and so we sit and wait for other people to continue our work. That’s exactly why Lebanon’s been in this sad state for the past decades. Oh, sure, blame the politicians, the government, certain terrorist groups, and other countries, but we’re to blame too, because we’ve been sitting here and allowing them to do what they do : to steal and kill and control.
I’m not saying that tomorrow we should all go to the streets and protest. This surely will not work, since a large group of people is still blindly swallowing what their religious and political leaders are telling them. A real revolution can only work if all the people stand together, which does not seem possible in Lebanon at the moment. What we should do ,though, is try to wake these people up, show them the truth; and gradually, change will come.
What we should do is not let the case drop once the blood dries.