Adam Elkiwan is a recent graduate of Kansas State University, and currently serves as a Governance, Risk and Compliance Specialist at RSA Security, a cybersecurity division of Dell EMC. Adam generously took the time to answer some questions we had about giving in the Arab American community, and had some great thoughts to share!
CAAP: Can you give us an example of the kind of work/causes you support? What do you look for when you make giving decisions?
Adam Elkiwan: I tend to look for organizations with goals that I am passionate about. I believe that the foundation of giving should be a passion to make a change. For example, I have been supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for the past 3 years because when I learned about their work, I was instantly convinced that what they are doing is impacting families and children across the world and I wanted to play a part in that.
CAAP: What does the word “philanthropist” mean to you? Do you think of yourself as a philanthropist?
AE: I do consider myself a philanthropist; and I believe that more people fit into that category than we often consider. Most people will hear that word and think of someone in a private jet donating millions to an organization. When I hear that word, I think of someone struggling to pay bills but still squeezing $25 of their money to give to a cause they believe in. Philanthropy has no minimum dollar limit, it has no frequency requirements and it doesn’t even require money. We can all be philanthropists, and we all should be philanthropists, by simply living each day for others in any way that we can; donate time, donate money, donate a smile to someone who looks like they’re having a bad day. At the root of philanthropy is a sense of community and a desire to better that community and the lives of the people in it and I think we all have the capacity to live not only with others, but for others.
CAAP: What do you see as your biggest achievement in your giving history?
AE: In January 2015, I was honored to be selected to attend a service trip to Negril, Jamaica where I was a part of a group of more than 30 undergraduate students from across the country working in an impoverished community to help improve conditions. When we arrived at our worksite, a local primary school, and saw their recreational space for recess, it was a dirt field with a tree stump. Not very fun for most kids. Our group constructed a 50x100ft concrete surface for the students to utilize and we also repainted the classrooms. Recess is every kid’s favorite part about school, and knowing that we helped make that time more enjoyable for the students make me very proud. Most importantly, not only did we help shape their everyday lives, but in many ways that trip has helped shape my everyday life in terms of how I approach each day and my appreciation for being able to live the life I do.
CAAP: Do you identify as Arab American? Does this influence your giving?
AE: I do identify as an Arab American in terms of heritage. My father was born and raised in Kuwait and came to the United States when he was 18, he got a college degree and has lived a successful life in the business world. I am beyond proud of all that he has accomplished and built for our family, which makes me appreciate my heritage. This has influenced my giving in recent years—I feel that there are a great number of Arab Americans who feel disconnected from our culture due to the current sentiments toward the Middle Eastern world. It is imperative that we take this opportunity to empower Arab Americans.
CAAP: Do you have any advice for other Arab Americans new to philanthropy and giving?
AE: My biggest piece of advice would be to not only give, but strive to serve as well. Volunteer for a local organization where you can interact with individuals from different backgrounds as you and learn about their culture and way of life. I have found that this leads to much more passionate giving because it gives meaning to the action of clicking that “donate now” button by allowing you to associate that donation with the work you have already done and the people for whom you did it. Giving is a fantastic way to show support for a cause, but if you ever have the opportunity to serve one of those organizations personally—jump on it and fully embrace it! If you want to touch someone’s life, the most effective way to do so is by sacrificing your greatest resource to make their life better, and your greatest resource is time.
Thanks so much for your awesome thoughts, Adam! Learn about more Arab Americans Who Care, where we inspire our readers by featuring everyday Arab Americans who are giving back and getting involved.