Executive Director, Global, We Day, Dalal Al-Waheidi has been integral in shaping the success of Free The Children—which started in 1995 as a small group of 12-year-olds—into an international charity and educational partner. She joined the organization in 2002, and has held various roles including International Project Director, Chief Operations Director and Executive Director. In the latter role she steered the strategic and operations direction of the organization to meet its mission of empowering young people to change the world and providing developing communities with the tools to break free from the cycle of poverty.
Through Dalal’s leadership, and with the involvement of over 4,000 youth groups across North America, Free The Children has built more than 650 schools in marginalized communities throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, providing daily education to over 55,000 children. With Adopt a Village as its ground breaking development model, of which Dalal was a key innovator, the organization initiated alternative income projects that gave 33,000 women economic self-sufficiency, as well as providing one million people with clean water, health care and sanitation.
As a war-affected youth born and raised in Kuwait during the Gulf War, Dalal and her family fled to the Gaza Strip in the post-war period. As a result, Dalal has been a first-hand witness to the terrible impact of war on children, political instability, violence and conflict. These early experiences gave Dalal a unique understanding of the real costs of political and cultural divide, allowing her to place hope firmly in the value of cooperative peace-building.
Drawing on these experiences, Dalal has been a leading force behind many of Free The Children’s most innovative and acclaimed initiatives, including We Day events and partnerships with leading school boards throughout North America. Dalal was also instrumental in developing the highly successful O Ambassadors program, a joint project between Free The Children and Oprah’s Angel Network, which was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Furthermore, Dalal designed and implemented Free The Children’s first girls’ education and empowerment program in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The Girls for Change program was implemented in the Gaza Strip and Tunisia, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations in the targeted areas. This program provides young girls between the ages of 15 and 18 years old (i.e. middle and secondary school-aged girls) with skills in leadership, girls’ empowerment, civil society engagement, and technological literacy to ensure that they prosper and become exceptional young leaders of this new era in the MENA region.
Dalal’s exemplary leadership at Free The Children has been recognized by the Women’s Executive Network with Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Award in the “Future Leaders” category, and by her former alma mater, Trent University, with the Distinguished Alumni Award for demonstrating extraordinary leadership early in her career. In 2014, Dalal was selected as one of RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners for her passion and desire to make the world a better place especially for the lives of youth around the world.
Passionate about women’s and children’s rights issues, Dalal has studied, travelled and volunteered extensively throughout South America, Europe, the Middle East and North America. She earned a scholarship to attend the world-renowned Red Cross Nordic United World College in Norway, the only global educational NGO that brings students together from all over the world, and she has spent time in Ecuador working with indigenous street children.
Dalal continues to mentor young women entering the workforce and leads a dynamic staff in both North America and in Free The Children’s regional and country offices around the world. Dalal is a sought-after speaker, addressing audiences with her compelling story of living through political instability while forming a career in international development focused on social responsibility and global citizenship.
As the Executive Director of We Day Global, Dalal is spearheading and leading the scaling of We Day—our signature experience, which brings together a generation of youth to be engaged in changing the world through an inspirational event and the yearlong educational program We Act. We Day harnesses the energy and passion of youth and shows them that they are not alone in their journey to make a difference. With more than 25 We Days executed in 13 cities in Canada, U.S. and the U.K., and more than 180,000 youth involved, the movement continues to grow both internationally and domestically. Participants in We Act and We Day have raised $37 million for 1000 causes, volunteered more than four million hours and collected nearly four million pounds of food for local food banks.