Meet Majd Baniodeh. Sitting down for a Q&A, she takes me on the incredible journey of her life and through her dreams for a globally aware Seattle.
The passionate 24-year-old serves as community events coordinator for World Affairs Council, who promotes understanding of global affairs in the region.
In 2013 alone, Majd developed 91 programs on global issues, news and topics in her first year in the position. To say she is driven would be an understatement.
What part of your past informs the work you do now in Seattle?
I was born and raised in Nablus in the West Bank of Palestine. I decided to move here by myself when I was 15 years old. I realized that there was a lack of opportunities for women and just young people in the area.
I grew up in a very conflicted part of the world, as you could imagine. We were always at conflict with Israel and were stuck in our homes for a long time.
I decided to move to the U.S where I could get a good education and not get bombed everyday.
I barely spoke English and ended up living with a Jewish family, believe it or not. We fell in love and they inspired me to carry on this message of my story.
So I decided to start speaking in different places about my story and realized shortly after that people did not know much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They didn’t know where Palestine was located or knew it even existed. The lack of knowledge really surprised me. So I started speaking and I realized that being globally aware is so crucial.
What’s been the most memorable part of your work so far?
One of my proudest accomplishments is the “Two Sided Story” program. We brought in two speakers from the Parents Circle Families Forum, which started in Israel. They bring Israeli and Palestinian families together to help reconcile their pain, talking about what they lost with the enemy.
Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin both are fascinating people. Robi lost her son in the army, Bassam lost his 7-year-old daughter and we brought them both here.
We also brought in a photo exhibit (“Presents of the Void”) where ten Palestinian and Israeli women took a picture of something that reminded them of pain or a lost loved one. We had 131 people in the room listening to two people who have gone through a lot of pain. It was so powerful.
Who’s your most inspiring source of inspiration?
There are a lot of people actually who have inspired me, but two people come to mind. They’re my two moms, my mom in Palestine and my mom here (in Seattle.)
My mom in Palestine is one of the strongest people I know. She’s kind of an outsider as a black woman who was adopted at birth. So we don’t know where she’s from.
She grew up in a place where she was treated as a stranger or the “other” but yet she felt that she belonged where she belonged. My dad was the average Palestinian and they had to fight to get married.
She educated herself, raised 5 kids and worked full time as a nurse. So she inspired me to be the fiery person I am.
And the second person is my mom here in the United States who is the complete opposite. She took me in as her own and was there for me for every moment.
She’s from Brooklyn, left home and started her own business. At 16, she started her own purse making company, went on to own restaurants in Alaska and now two very successful restaurants in Seattle.
She taught me a lot about being independent and being strong through anything.
Check out one of the many events Majd is planning this year here.