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The Future of PDO

Published By: Majdulina Hamed

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Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence. The same can be said about Raghad Alaraj, President of PDO, and Yousuf Abdeltawab, Vice President of PDO. In an interview with the current President and Vice President of Project Downtown Orlando, Raghad and Yousuf describe their experiences, challenges, and goals for the future.

Motivation is an important component of setting goals, completing tasks, and achieving overall success. When asked about her journey with PDO, Raghad, a student at the University of Central Florida (UCF), majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Creative Writing, explains that it was a humbling experience with an opportunity to help people in need. She goes on to say that “after a couple of months of being incredibly involved in PDO, I was approached to discuss the possibility of being the new president of PDO as the current one becomes part of the board of trustees.” Although she knew it would be a big responsibility, Raghad took the new position in stride knowing that it would be something she looked forward to. Yousuf, a student at UCF majoring in Information Technology, shared those same sentiments; in fact, he states that “what really made me commit to volunteer in an organization like this is the way they are helping the unsheltered population.” Now that Yousuf is Vice President, it has given him more experiences and opportunities to contribute to the organization.

Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others. And as a great leader, you must have vision, goals, and a mission statement. When asked about her goals and vision for the organization, Raghad replied that she personally would like to focus on education and career building skills but now they are sticking with more food services because it is such an essential need in everyone’s lives. Adding to that, Yousuf replied that he intended to expand the types of PDO services they have. More specifically, an important service he wants to have at PDO is to help find homes for the underserved families that are in downtown Orlando once every couple of months. Raghad also brings an excellent point by pointing out that plans and visions need to be funded and “anything we do needs to be planned out heavily by the board to assess all aspects of it. Then we set a timeline of the things we need to get done, and with the help of our leadership committee we get to it.” Raghad and Yousuf recognize that there may be several things that should and could be done to help the underserved community in Orlando, but they have great faith in the community to help.

Although there are several successful moments with PDO, there have also been challenges as well. Raghad identified that when she first started volunteering, she “was unaware of the huge amount of planning that goes behind every service.” In addition, even though Raghad anticipated more responsibility, she admits that it was an overwhelming workload at first. “But with the help of my board, I was able to see that good things take time.” On the other hand, Yousuf reveals that he did not encounter challenges, but rather, there were a few things that surprised him about the role when he first started. He states that the weight of this position was surprising as well “the amount of behind the scenes work that needs to be done to make this organization stable and grow. With a position like this the most two important factors are responsibility and commitment.” Moreover, when asked if they could have done anything differently from the beginning for PDO, both Raghad and Yousuf replied that they would not do anything differently. Raghad goes on to say that she has been confident in her work thus far and “the mistakes I made were made at a very safe controlled capacity and now there’s a lot of mistakes I know to avoid because of that.”

Furthermore, strategies to market PDO to potential volunteers and stakeholders are important for the organization. Finding a volunteer coordinator has been vital for PDO to engage with potential volunteers, sponsors, and partners. Raghad further explains that a volunteer coordinator can be dedicated to finding new ways to expand their volunteer basis and their donors. “One way that we are looking into is contacting other organizations that are in the same field of work as us and collaborating with them in order to multiply the number of good ways that we can provide.” It is also imperative to consider the most successful PDO team so that the organization can thrive and prosper. Yousuf plans on building the PDO team with Raghad to be the best combination of the board of directors that have the same goals and passion for the organization. He also states that he wants “to leave a big impact to the point that everyone, not just around Florida, but all over the US starts hearing about us and what we do just like how we hear about the UNICEF.” Raghad also believes that when a team succeeds that means that they have done their best and that is what she asks of her team. She goes on to say that “every day, every week, every service we try our best to make sure that 100-200 people get sandwiches and food delivered to them. That food will not last more than a couple of hours. But the impact we had on these people showing them that someone cares, and someone wants to help them stays far longer than that.”

When asked about what they enjoyed best about PDO, Raghad and Yousuf both said that they had positive experiences. Yousuf elaborates that it was a big step for him to run the blog by recruiting writers that were willing to put the time and dedication to help their community through PDO. He also mentions that raising awareness was important and the growth of the PDO blog was significant. “[This] started by only publishing one blog a month but after a couple of weeks we were able to have more PDO blog writers and start publishing a blog every week with more topics that we feel are important for the outside to hear about like the underserved populations’ needs.” Raghad also really liked the uniqueness of PDO and the kind of help that we give to our community. She reveals that “PDO speaks so profoundly to me because we do just that. We help the people who need to be helped. We listen to the people who need to be heard. I always look forward to learning about our friends and getting to know about the hardships in their lives so we know how we can help.”

Reflecting on their time and future with PDO, Raghad and Yousuf both predict that the organization has a bright future ahead. Yousuf sees himself as a leader that will always be there for PDO regardless of whether he is on the board or not; he is excited to watch it grow. Raghad expounds on this by adding to the fact that funding should also be considered. With that in mind, Raghad expects PDO to “provide food, shelter, health care, and career services to the underserved and anyone who is in need.” It would also be such an exciting opportunity to “have full-time and part-time employees that work solely on improving and running this organization all year. Our services would not just be offered during the weekends but also during the week.” Although PDO is still in its early stages, several milestones have been accomplished. Raghad and Yousuf would not reveal any behind the scenes plans and explained that it will be a surprise and to stay tuned. And finally, when asked if there is any advice for anyone who wants to get involved with Project Downtown, Yousuf stated that “you should definitely start volunteering first with PDO just to see if this is something you would like to continue doing and if you have the passion for it” because then, you too can be a part of the board of directors. Raghad replied to this by saying that you can also help by spreading the word about who we are and what we do as well as joining and volunteering at their food preparation services. “If coming to a service is difficult for you, we appreciate every dollar donated. Following us on Instagram and constantly being updated with our website is a great way to get all the information you need. Lastly, if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any of the board members. My email is raghad@pdorlando.org.”

 

 

About the author
Majdulina Hamed
Majdulina Hamed is a Master’s Health Administration graduate from the University of Central Florida. Maj also received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Communication from UCF as well as certificates in Health Communication and Leadership. Maj’s goals include public health education through health campaigns, initiatives, marketing, and communication.

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