Helping Dreams Soar: Collaboration Builds Community

by Jill Meyers

Our Dreams Soar outreach program would not be successful without the art and skill of networking and collaborating with our incredibly strong community of women in aviation around the world. The relationship we've built contributed to our success so far in connecting Dreams Soar with our WAI community.

Mervat Sultan, President of the WAI Middle East Chapter. (Photo: Altitudes Arabia Magazine)

Mervat Sultan, President of the WAI Middle East Chapter. (Photo: Altitudes Arabia Magazine)

Two of our most successful events so far have been in Dubai, UAE and Mumbai, India and I'd like to talk about them. During the planning phase of the Dubai events, I contacted Mervat Sultan, President of the WAI Middle East Chapter, who I had met at the 2015 WAI Conference. While we'd talked only briefly at that time, when I contacted her a few months ago to ask for help with Dreams Soar’s outreach, she jumped in with a passion. Mervat and her team planned both of the main outreach events during Shaesta’s time in Dubai. I was fortunate to be able to attend, along with Lyndse Costabile, Dreams Soar's Board of Directors Chairwoman. 

One of the outreach events in Dubai was held at the Sketch Art Café, located inside the Mattar Bin Lahej Gallery. Maryam Al Balooshi, a very accomplished calligraphy artist and member of WAI, connected us to the artist and gallery owner, who hosted the event. Shaesta told her inspiring story to a group of over 30 women (and a few men!). We also had a private tour of the gallery and spent time networking among the Dreams Soar team, WAI Middle East Chapter members, media representatives, and a few young women aspiring to get into aviation.

Joining us at that Dubai event was Fadimatou (Fadi) Noutchemo Simo, President of WAI Cameroon, and two of her colleagues, who flew all the way from Africa!  I received a text message from Fadi several weeks before the event, telling me that, although she and Shaesta had chatted by phone, they had never met in person and she wanted to be in Dubai to support Dreams Soar’s efforts. We were very excited that Fadi and her associates traveled so far to join us on our journey. It was a very special event for us all! 

The outreach event in Mumbai was just as successful as Dubai. In preparation for it, I'd spent many weeks in collaboration with Radha Bhatia, President of WAI India Chapter, and her team and the end result was a well-attended event with a large audience who was captivated by Shaesta's story and her thoughts on STEM education. They also enjoyed presentations by Dr. Shefali Juneja, Director of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Kiran Jain, Commercial Director of Air Asia India, both of whom are founding members of WAI India. 

Shaesta, Maryam Al Balooshi and Shaima Alkamali (WAI Middle East Chapter) and Fadi Noutchemo Simo (WAI Cameroon Chapter). (Photo: Falcon View Films)

Shaesta, Maryam Al Balooshi and Shaima Alkamali (WAI Middle East Chapter) and Fadi Noutchemo Simo (WAI Cameroon Chapter). (Photo: Falcon View Films)

Shaesta with Radha Bhatia, President of WAI India Chapter. (Photo: Dreams Soar)

Shaesta with Radha Bhatia, President of WAI India Chapter. (Photo: Dreams Soar)

One of the great benefits of connecting with these amazing women in Dubai and Mumbai is that they were able to help coordinate and sponsor much of the support we needed for Shaesta’s visit, including airport ground support, hotels, and transportation.  The team in Mumbai even put together a special celebration for Shaesta’s 30th birthday! The generosity of these women and their respective organizations went beyond our expectations as an all-volunteer non-profit organization.

If you're considering whether or not to attend a professional conference, whether it’s WAI or the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) or the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), or any other, think about how networking at these events might further your passion in years to come.

Learn more about Dreams Soar on their website!