Communication is one of the most powerful forces available to humans, and our ability to share complex ideas and build connections drives a prosperous society. In Lebanon, communication and human rights have broken down, with access to education, telecommunication, internet, and electricity becoming a challenge for much of the population. According to UNICEF, more than 80 percent of people in Lebanon live in poverty, and a third of school-aged children received no education in the last year.
The Cisco Lebanese community has come together from all over the globe to help support our country as it experiences unprecedented times.
“Being part of this virtual community has been very heartwarming. We fundraise together, and volunteer both onsite and remotely to support our beloved country. It’s amazing what we can do together. Being able to raise over $500K in a span of two months after the Beirut explosion, is a testament on the power of commitment to our country,” says John Azzi, a Cisco Renewals Leader, based in the United States.
In a previous blog, I shared how Cisco leverages its tools and resources to improve mental health across Lebanon and assist in the relief efforts of the Beirut port explosion of 2020. In this blog, I am delighted to share that when people and technologies come together, we can improve collaboration and communication across an entire country. Through human dedication, platforms such as Webex, and programs like the Cisco Networking Academy, we can empower, educate, inspire, connect, and turn the impossible into the possible.
Empowering our youth’s future
We are excited to have created a partnership with Jobs for Lebanon, an NGO based in the United States that connects youth in Lebanon with local or remote job opportunities.
One of the main challenges the team at Jobs for Lebanon faced was the lack of a unified method of collaboration for their internal and external communications. We worked with them to understand the needs of the organization and offered them a free Webex license. This enabled them to offer digital trainings and webinars effectively and seamlessly over Webex, keeping students engaged through features such as breakout rooms, whiteboarding, online tests, and hands-on activities. We then provided free access to Cisco Networking Academy online courses for each of their candidates. In addition, Cisco employees used their Time2Give volunteer hours to guide and mentor students as they begin their career journeys.
We then partnered with Life Project 4 Youth (LP4Y), a non-profit organization dedicated to the professional and social integration of underserved young adults.
To help LP4Y with their mission, many of our colleagues from the Lebanese community at Cisco volunteered to give mock interviews to young women from the LP4Y program. “The Webex mock interview sessions provided the students an opportunity to get a real feel of how interviews are conducted,” shared Clément Hardel, LP4Y Project Manager. “The experience was very valuable, enriching, and rewarding for them. It helped reduce their anxiety about interviewing and helped boost their confidence by testing their skills and giving them constructive feedback in a low-stress environment.”
Below is a snippet of a heartwarming conversation with Bayan, a 26-year-old student at LP4Y:
Bayan: “I couldn’t sleep at night because of how worried I was about the call. I did not know what to expect. I kept thinking I am not ready for it. Even today, right before our call, I almost did not join — my heart was beating like a hammer.”
Maha: “How do you feel now that we are towards the end of our Webex?”
Bayan: “I feel extremely happy and way more confident about myself. I don’t think I will ever be panicking about an interview again like that. I feel smart, excited, and ready, more than ever, to start applying for jobs and nail those interviews.”
Supporting displaced people
Another great collaboration was with The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Lebanon.
The Lebanese Cisco community fundraised to support the ICRC with Covid Relief efforts. Funds were used to upgrade the main Covid emergency ward of the main public hospital. Our engagement evolved into offering a free WebEx license to help the ICRC connect remotely and exchange ideas on local and global humanitarian challenges.
Connecting loved ones in their time of need
Much of the time, staying connected in Lebanon is a real struggle. Phone communication, whether using the internet or a cellular network, isn’t a service that can be taken for granted here. According to Reuters in January 2022, Internet outages and weak mobile signals have negatively impacted the Lebanese telecoms system, which is close to shutting down. Currently, Lebanon ranks 169th of 177 countries for internet speed.
To transform the patient communication capabilities at the main public hospital in Beirut, we collaborated with the nonprofit Ahla Fawda to donate tablets. These tablets, supported by Webex and connected to Cisco Wi-Fi, offer a high-quality video call experience. Our donation allows COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) to remotely connect with loved ones.
Being isolated in an ICU unit and distanced from friends and family can hurt a patient’s mental and physical wellbeing. Our aim is to help patients in isolation feel connected to their loved ones and help reduce the impact that isolation may have on their health.
We are incredibly proud of all that we’ve done for the citizens of Lebanon. Cisco’s purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All is a never-ending journey. With Cisco’s support, we will continue exploring how technology can be used for good as we strive to positively impact people and the societies we live in.