A strong advocate of social justice and social change, as well as an avid humanitarian, Laila Mokhiber has worked on helping those less fortunate, acting as a model figure for young people wishing to achieve change in the world. Laila is currently the Communications Officer at UNRWA USA, a nonprofit agency that supports the work of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), having worked there a year and a half. Prior to joining UNRWA USA, Laila worked at the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC). Both positions illustrate Laila’s passions: humanitarian concern for the people of Palestine and the fight for social justice. The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) spoke with Laila Mokhiber to learn more about her work and her commitment to social and humanitarian issues.
CAAP: Tell us about UNRWA and the work you do for UNRWA USA.
LM: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in short, is the UN agency that serves Palestinians. UNRWA provides direct humanitarian aid, human development, and protection for more than 5 million Palestine refugees registered with the Agency. UNRWA USA is an independent 501c3 nonprofit that aims to educate the general American public about the situation of Palestinian refugees and generate support for UNRWA’s work in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
CAAP: Why did you want to work at UNRWA USA?
LM: I applied to work for UNRWA USA because I wanted to contribute my communications skills to an organization that is doing something measurable and tangible for Palestinian refugees. In this case, UNRWA USA is working to fund specific UNRWA programs where our support can provide the greatest benefit to the Agency. One of the programs I am most passionate about is the Community Mental Health Program in Gaza, which provides counseling to children suffering from PTSD and other psychological trauma. These children are the future of Gaza, and their future depends on the help of our donors. The counseling they are provided through UNRWA aims to give them the hope and stability needed to become contributing members of a strong Palestinian society.
CAAP: What would you like most to achieve either now or in the future, either with UNRWA USA or individually? What is your dream for the future?
LM: Through my work at UNRWA USA I hope to raise awareness and educate others about the issues affecting Palestine refugees, focusing on the humanitarian aspect. In doing so, I hope to significantly influence the American public opinion on Palestine and compel more folks to donate to our cause.
One of my other desires is to become a social entrepreneur and start my own business that will make a profit and benefit society.
CAAP: Do you identify as Arab American? What advice do you have for other Arab Americans who want to give or help others?
LM: Absolutely! I am a fourth generation Arab American. My father’s family immigrated from Beit Mery, Lebanon in the early 1900s (back then it was still considered greater Syria). My mother’s family originates from Ramallah, Palestine and immigrated here in 1957, she was the first of her siblings to be born in the United States. My family instilled in me the importance of being involved in the Arab American community, and supporting causes that mean something to you.
I implore my fellow Arab Americans to do the same. Giving back creates opportunities for others – it has the potential to give a voice to the voiceless, help to the helpless, and hope to the otherwise hopeless. If you’re not sure where to start, write a list of your passions, see which organizations are working towards those efforts, follow them on social media, sign up for their email lists, get your hands dirty and sign up to volunteer for the ones that speak most to you! Determine what you can afford to give to, and commit to it!
CAAP: Do you have other passions? Who/what inspires you to give back or to want to make a difference?
LM: Too many to list! Lately I feel very strong about music and its power to promote healing and social change.
If we’re talking about other charitable causes I’m passionate about, there are several that I donate to. I found I tend to support organizations that focus on social justice, civil rights, culture, music, media, humanitarian aid, Palestine, and the Arab American community. I choose them based on a personal connection or experience—I’m often inspired through the stories they tell.
CAAP: Anything else you’d like to add?
LM: I believe in positive energy and the power of positive thinking—the energy you put out in the world comes back to you. Use that energy to create change!
Thanks so much for your time Laila and we hope you continue to share your love and positive energy with the rest of the world! Be sure to check out our blog for more Arab Americans Who Care.