Guest Post: A Chance Meeting in Beirut

This week we present the second in our series of guest blog posts from our Pangea Advisors team from Columbia Business School. Enjoy today's post by Eric Amaso and tune in next Wednesday for the final Pangea installment from Eric Kuo. As I reminisce about our time in Lebanon I cant help but think about Khalil, the young Lebanese boy I met only a few hours after our plane landed in Beirut. An extremely handsome boy, Khalil spoke no English, but we found that communicating through head nods and hand gestures worked just fine. It was clear that Khalil was from a broken home, from what I could gather he was residing with his "uncle" who happened to be the manager of the small shop my partner and I wandered into as we set out on a little adventure to survey the area. Khalil was full of energy, very outspoken, constantly smiling and laughing. His presence brightened the entire shop and although it was getting late I was a little disheartened when he had to leave us. Khalil's uncle explained to us that Khalil had no family, and that while he did what he could for Khalil, his limited resources made it so that Khalil often had to fend for himself. I found it ironic that it was for this very reason we had come to Lebanon, to aid TYO in its mission to enhance youth development, early childhood education, and women's empowerment.

Before reaching Lebanon it was clear from our research that TYO had made great strides in providing aid to underprivileged kids, establishing a successful center in Nablus, Palestine back in 2007, and more recently starting a branch in Lebanon. Since its inception, TYO has effectively touched the lives of over three thousand children and youth through its education and recreation center. This work is complimented by their extraordinary efforts to support women empowerment in the region.

Entrepreneurs in the region are met with uncommon challenges, but these challenges are clearly compounded for aspiring entrepreneurs that are women. TYO has developed creative solutions in order to over come these hurdles, and this is something that can have a significant impact for not only women entrepreneurs but for the entire region as a whole. Our meetings with several different NGO’s and companies that partnered with TYO revealed to me that TYO was right at the center the proliferation of ideas that will come to affect the role thatcountries like Palestine, Lebanon and ultimately the Middle East, will play in the world economy.

I went back to visit Khalil before we left but we couldn’t find him. I will never know what had been occupying his time at that moment. What I did know was that the world that he was living in was changing very rapidly around him. Support system were being developed, access to education was improving, and everyday people he didn’t know were looking out for his best interest. Khalil may not have know it but things were looking up, and we were there to do our part.

-- Eric Amaso Columbia Business School, MBA Candidate, Class of 2013