By Hilda Arellano, Counselor for the U.S. Agency for International Development
Last night, I was honored to stand in as host for our USAID Iftar, as our Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, was touring the flood-affected areas of Pakistan. An Iftar marks nightly breaking of the fast, which practicing Muslims undertake during the holy month of Ramadan.
Over 130 guests, including members of the Diplomatic Corps, White House officials, and Congressional staff came together in the Ronald Reagan Building under the theme of “Social Entrepreneurship: Supporting Communities in Changing their Condition.”
This was not my first Iftar. For the past five years, while serving for USAID in Iraq and Egypt, I had the honor of partaking in fast-breaking celebrations that lasted upwards of 10, sometimes even 12 hours. The joyous spirit of a community coming together for this occasion is unforgettable. I’m proud to say our Iftar lived up to that very high precedent.
The official speakers included Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain, Sonal Shah (from the White House Office of Social Innovation), and the Inner City Muslim Action Network’s founder Rami Nashashabi. As we broke bread, all three shared their views on how entrepreneurship and social innovation can be harnessed, both within government and without, to have tremendous positive impact within communities.
Guests also heard from Dr. Shah, who via video message, spoke of the new programs being unveiled at USAID to help strengthen social entrepreneurship.
In addition to our terrific speakers, I had the opportunity to meet many guests who shared inspiring stories of how they are affecting change in their communities. One of those was Moustafa Moustafa, a first year medical student at Yale who founded a group called United2Heal. His organization collects medical supplies from college campuses to send to the developing world. Moustafa took a bus all the way from New Haven to be able to join us for the evening.
We all left at the end of the evening, our stomachs full, our spirits high, and with a renewed commitment to USAID’s mission to use social entrepreneurship as a way to drive innovative change where it is most needed.