Cisco Systems Helps Lebanon Rebuild Homes and Professions
By Kathryn McConnell
Washington — After the July 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, Lebanon faced major challenges to rebuild and develop. To help the country recover, U.S.-based Cisco Systems Inc. donated millions for rebuilding both physical infrastructure and lives.
In 2007 and 2008, Cisco contributed $1 million to international groups working to help communities in Lebanon rebuild – groups including nonprofits Mercy Corps and American Near East Refugee Aid, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The company also donated $500,000 to nonprofit Habitat for Humanity for shelters for people displaced from their homes.
To support Lebanon’s youth in finding jobs in Lebanon, Cisco provided $1.8 million for job skills training and for an internship program matching qualified young adults with Lebanese businesses and government agencies.
“I, like many others, was at an important crossroad, struggling with the possibility that I would have to leave the country in order to develop a sustainable career path,” said Ingrid Salloum, a former participant in a Cisco-supported internship. Salloum credits the program with keeping talented young people in Lebanon and preventing a “brain drain.”
Cisco has also invested $250,000 to get communications technology into public schools in Lebanon. With Mercy Corps, the company provides technology training and other academic programs as extracurricular activities at 12 schools.
While supporting educational development, the company has collaborated to build an Internet infrastructure to help young people and adults expand their opportunities. It built Lebanon’s first Internet exchange point and set up computer centers in eight regions of the country. Cisco worked with Lebanon’s telecommunications regulatory agency to create a national broadband strategy and gave the agency equipment, including two Internet routers, and technical expertise.
Cisco supports an incubator for small and medium-sized businesses that have demonstrated a capacity to succeed, as well as a micro-loan program. A rural development loan program “opens up endless opportunities” for high-tech ventures in rural Lebanon, said Dalia Ouaidat, an official with Ameen Microfinance SAL.
As such loans help companies grow, Cisco matches Lebanese executives with business mentors in the United States to exchange information and transfer technology. This offers Lebanese executives an opportunity to gain a professional relationship with someone who will act as a sounding board and provide objective advice. The Lebanese executive is exposed to new perspectives and cultures, and gains insight into the global economy.
Cisco is applying its resources “to areas of need in order to create maximum impact in stimulating Lebanon’s economy and in helping the country regain its leadership position as a cultural and entrepreneurial regional hub,” said George Akiki, Cisco’s senior director of corporate affairs.
The company’s donations and expertise have earned Cisco a place among the finalists for the U.S. secretary of state’s 2009 Award for Corporate Excellence.
See the State Department’s Award for Corporate Excellence ( http://www.state.gov/e/eeb/ace/ ) Web site for more information.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)