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Spotlight: Rasha Arous


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Rasha ArousRasha working with a
group of mothers from the AKCS focus area on the evaluation of summer school for their children.
Click to enlarge photograph
Rasha Arous (AKDN-Chevening 05-06) has an MSc in Urban Planning in Developing Countries from Oxford Brookes University.  She is currently working as Socio-economic Development Programme Officer at the Aga Khan Cultural Service-Syria in Aleppo.

I was born in Masyaf, Syria, and as the oldest daughter in our family, I was expected to give a good example to my younger brothers and sister.  This put a lot of pressure on me and I believe it contributed to making me what I am today.  I am someone who will not give up when I put my mind to something.  I will persevere and overcome every difficulty.

I am not quite sure what motivated me in the choice of my career.  I think it is a combination of things: my passion and desire to make positive changes in my surroundings, whether at home,  starting with my family, or on a larger scale, in my town, country and this lovely earth which bears all of us. I believe that destiny also played a part. If at the time when I was a fresh enthusiastic graduate of engineering the Aga Khan Trust for Culture had not started working in Masyaf, I would have been just another engineer. Because of their presence, I was influenced by the international experts I worked with, and they strongly affected me and opened my eyes to new choices. I am very grateful to them.

After having worked for three years with AKTC on the rehabilitation of the Ismaili castle of  Masyaf and the surrounding neighborhood, I obtained an AKDN-Chevening scholarship to do a Master’s degree in the UK. This was an important learning experience for me and most importantly opened the door for more research and investigation. It definitely led to the work I am doing now, still with AKTC, but with wider and more important responsibilities.

I am currently a Socio-economic Development Programme Officer in a new programme initiated by AKCS-Syria about a year ago and have been involved with the programme since its very beginning. My duties are diverse including management and technical tasks. I have chosen to work with AKDN because I have a feeling that it is my mother organization and I never imagined myself working in another. Before joining AKCS, I worked for less than a year as an engineer employed by the government. With AKCS, I worked as a site engineer and a rehabilitation and conservation officer on the project of the Old City of Masyaf . After I finished my degree in the UK, I was a consultant with AKCS-Egypt in Cairo for six months before coming back to AKCS-Syria in Aleppo.  I can truthfully say that I am totally in LOVE with what I am doing here in Aleppo.   You can find a good description of AKTC’s work in Syria on the AKDN website at http://www.akdn.org/syria.

Outside of my professional work, voluntarism plays an important part in my life  I started out working with AKTC in 2000 as a volunteer in the documentation of the Masyaf citadel. I worked with many voluntary committees in Masyaf and the surrounding villages on projects such as the organization of environmental days, the rehabilitation of public open spaces and graveyards, and the revitalization of the silk industry.  I am also very interested in culture and have been documenting all kinds of rituals, traditions, handicrafts, oral stories, important documents and photos that are related to the history of Masyaf.  I am continuing this kind of work in Aleppo as well.

For those who might be interested in careers in urban planning and development, I would advise them to make sure that they like what they are doing, to work hard and to be open to learning from others in the profession.  But mainly I would advise them TO WORK HARD.

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