In September 2017, I had a chance to meet Dr. Hazem Saleh, former Consul and Director of the Egyptian Bureau for Cultural and Educational Affairs in Canada. What I thought would be a short and sweet interview was actually a three-hour meeting, like old friends catching up. In fact, Dr. Saleh is one of the friendliest, most optimistic and knowledgeable consuls I’ve met. I am honoured to have seen him and witness his contagious positive energy.
I was expecting to be greeted by the receptionist and be led to Dr. Saleh’s office. However, the Consul himself greeted me and gave me a special tour of the Bureau. He took the time to explain the use of every room and office, every team member’s role, and even shared some of his favourite Egyptian musicians, Omar Khorshid, dedicating his respects to him. He treated me as though I was Gretchen Carlson from CBS Evening News.
The first thing I noticed about him was how proud he was of his team and their hard work. He had all the rights to be proud since his team is very small, but together, including Dr. Saleh, they managed to prepare and plan about seven to eight events and activities a month, all revolving around Egypt’s culture and education. As a matter of fact, Mr. Saleh’s goal was to promote the Egyptian culture to Canadians, as well as bringing young Egyptians born in Canada closer to their roots. His worked focused mostly on students, whether born in Egypt or in Canada.
Dr. Hazem Saleh never had any negative comments about Egypt. He without a doubt believed that talking about the disadvantages of the country wouldn’t make anyone move forward: it would only distract people from making positive changes. When asking him if having a very small team was an obstacle for making bigger changes, or creating ambitious projects, he started his response with a wide smile, then explained that having a small team is at times much more efficient than a big one. It therefore didn’t matter to him if there weren’t enough people helping out during some of the events. He was willing to work harder than necessary, his team included. His family even participated in many of the events. According to him, this is how you build and shape a community. You have to start with your own self and your entourage. Then, little by little, your community grows. He added that it takes patience and determination to make things happen.
Dr. Hazem Saleh and his team at the Egyptian Bureau for Cultural and Educational Affairs, Montreal
The Consul’s main strategy to reach out to as many people as possible is sharing cultural and educational news through a mailing list. All people interested in receiving these emails must send a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org. At the time of our interview, Mr. Saleh was still working on reaching people through social media, but a goal dearer to him was to update and develop the Bureau’s website because it is one of the leading tools for the events he’d plan with his team.
When the interview was done, I remember leaving with great motivation and an urge to make the Egyptian culture known to people. I guess this is what Dr. Hazem Saleh does to people: he makes them feel like they can accomplish anything, if only they set their mind to it. I remember him telling me he would not stop working for his causes, even if he had to return to Egypt, because he wanted his children to always feel welcomed by their country every time they’d leave or come back to it. He wanted them to continuously think of Egypt as the Mother of the world.