Born and raised in a refugee camp in Pakistan, Ismail Safi observed firsthand how proper planning and logistics can make a sustainable difference in people’s lives. In this episode, he joins Kristi Porter to detail his professional journey, how Islamic Relief USA matches aid to real-time needs and supports long-term impact through livelihood projects, key challenges for non-profits and some of his organization’s current projects.
Welcome to Logistics with Purpose presented by Vector Global Logistics in partnership with Supply Chain. Now we spotlight and celebrate organizations who are dedicated to creating a positive impact. Join us for this behind the scenes glimpse of the origin stories change, making progress, and future plans of organizations who are actively making a difference. Our goal isn’t just to entertain you, but to inspire you to go out and change the world. And now here’s today’s episode of Logistics With Purpose.
Kristi Porter (00:00:34):
Hello everyone, and welcome back to another terrific episode of Logistics With Purpose. I know we say this every time, but it’s going to be another great episode. We just happen to know some really great people or get connected to some really awesome people. And so today’s interview is gonna be another one that you’re gonna wanna sit in and listen to and hopefully share with a friend as well. So today joining me is Ismail Safi, the Assistant Director of Programs at Islamic Relief usa. Welcome.
Ismail Safi (00:01:02):
Thank you, Kristi. Glad to be here.
Kristi Porter (00:01:04):
And first of all, did I say your name correctly or did I butcher it?
Ismail Safi (00:01:08):
That’s, that’s correct.
Kristi Porter (00:01:09):
Okay, great. So that’s a good start to the show, <laugh>. Um, so before we get into I r usa, let’s talk a little bit about you and where you grew up and kind of those early years. So tell me a little bit about your childhood.
Ismail Safi (00:01:21):
Thank you so much, Christie. First of all, lemme thank you. And the, uh, podcast Logistic with purpose in, um, hello to everyone who’s listening. Thank you so much for, uh, listening to this podcast. Yeah. Um, so I was born and raised in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Um, although we lived in a camp, um, but we were considered as a middle income company, middle income family. Um, cause my father was working with Kure, providing humanitarian relief to people in need in the camp where we were living. Um, and also other camps in Pakistan where the Afghan refugees were based. Um, I studied first and second grade in a refugee camp based school, um, which was run by B Fair, which was U N H C R, uh, funded project. And then moved to a private school, uh, which was two kilometers away from our home.
Ismail Safi (00:02:14):
So we had to walk four kilometers to go and come back from school during winters, rainy seasons and summer season during hot and cold, we had to walk, uh, that walk. Um, I studied there until sixth grade, and then we moved to another city. Um, so the child was, childhood was really, really busy. And my father met sure of that. Um, so he kept us busy with school, then English language classes, then teaching at home, some of the Arabic lessons when I was growing up. Um, and the only time we would find to go out and play was during weekends. Um, so we could do, uh, any games like playing cricket, going out with friends, just running or swimming. Swimming. We had a river nearby. So those were the activities that I used to do. But other than that, on the, uh, weekdays my father kept us busy with, uh, school and, and lessons.
Kristi Porter (00:03:10):
Oh, sounds like a good dad who valued education for sure. So let’s, let’s back up and talk a little bit about, I knew you grew up in Pakistan. I did not realize it was in a refugee camp. And so obviously before, um, we started recording, we were talking about the refugees, um, and just the growing issue. And you said now that what the number has passed a hundred million worldwide.
Ismail Safi (00:03:31):
Yes. So, um, I was in the ACR conference a few months ago in Geneva and, um, where U N H C R, the refugee representatives and even the, um, state delegates, uh, where they’re talking about how to, how to help those refugees because the number has sur past a hundred million is not going to be, um, decreased anytime soon. I think the number is going to keep on increasing, um, and the needs of those refugees. We know that in some countries, they’re living in a very poor condition. Some of them even don’t have tents over their head, uh, during rain seasons. They don’t have access to basic, um, basic services, um, like food education or shelter. Um, so when I was growing up living in that refugee camp, um, um, I could see the suffering of not only the families who lived around me, but also the families that were living in, uh, other refugee camps.
Ismail Safi (00:04:29):
Right. Um, the small, small things like, um, just having, uh, cleaning soap are, are ashamed. They didn’t have access to mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, food items. They had to stay in long lines to, to get food staples. Um, I’ve even seen my family and, uh, and, and other families in those refugee camps staying overnight, um, in long lines in winter season to make sure that they get the food staples the next day. Because if, if you wouldn’t get to that the next day, you had to wait like four weeks mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, to get aeration. Um, so that, that was the situation while growing up, uh, in, in that refugee camp. And, and I don’t think the situation has got any better.
Kristi Porter (00:05:13):
Yeah. And that’s one of the questions I had about that is, of course, us on the news, I think we mostly only see the horrific conditions. I I have no, you know, um, idea if they range and some are pretty habitable and some do, you know, you said you went to school there, some do focus on that or if it’s just more, um, really difficult, harsh conditioned, which is what we’re more conditioned to seeing here in the US on the news.
Ismail Safi (00:05:38):
So, so I think the si the, the situation sometimes you see, you see the real picture on the news, but it’s not everything that you see on the news may not be telling the full picture. Sure. Or, or may not be explaining what is happening. Um, for example, while going to school, we had to sit on the floor in, in winters mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it was really, really cold. Um, like you, we didn’t have chairs. We didn’t have any floor mats. Uh, but that was the only thing that was available to us. Yeah. Um, sometimes we had to sit outside when it was sunny during winters, um, so that we can get some sunlight and at least it’s a little warmer outside. So we would come out of the, the, the classes during rainy season, um, the, the, the ceiling, uh, was not tight enough to, to hold the rain.
Ismail Safi (00:06:24):
Sometimes the water would be, rainwater would be dripping into, into the classes. And we had to put small pots, um, below it just to, uh, just to avoid the spill of water in, in, in the whole classroom. Um, same when it comes to, to food security. I know that there were food staples that were available, but you can’t call it nutritious food where it can fulfill the needs of, of, of the, of the human beings. And, and, and when it comes to vitamins and, and, and other staples that are needed, um, I know people had access to education, but even the education was not of, um, good quality. You would go there, maybe be in school for two to three hours max. And
Kristi Porter (00:07:08):
Then is that led by volunteers or people who were teachers or who are who, or maybe people with U N C R who’s leading those classes?
Ismail Safi (00:07:16):
It was different, different schools. So in some schools it was, some schools were run by Unity, but other schools were run by local people. Some people who would volunteer, but then they couldn’t volunteer all the time. So if the teacher was there, there were classes. If there were no teacher, we would stay 15, 20 minutes and be like, Hey, no class today, let’s go home. Um, so that’s, that’s how it was. Um, and when you are growing up and you are living in, in a refugee camp, the conditions are so harsh that people are more focused on saving their lives rather than education and, and other things. Um, and I had seen that most of the kids who were living there, they would go to city and sell water bottles or just collect trash, um, and sell it. Um, so it was, it was a child labor and, um, because they had to feed their, their families as well. So the conditions in some camps are really, really harsh. Other camps may be a little bit better, but overall, um, to the best of my knowledge and where I have been, I don’t think most of the refugee camps or the people living in those refugee camps are receiving even basic services. Yeah. Um, there is a lot more that’s needed to be done in those refugee camps to help people in
Kristi Porter (00:08:26):
Need. Absolutely. And I’m curious, as a small child, you know, as children, regardless of where you grew up, your worldview is so small, right? It’s you, your friends, what’s happening, what’s the next activity, all of that kind of thing. So as a small child growing up in a refugee resettlement camp, did, did you understand what was going on? Did you understand we’re in a unique situation? Or was it just this is, this is how we’re living and I didn’t think anything about it?
Ismail Safi (00:08:53):
Um, I, I think it’s, it’s a great question. So when I was growing up, I could see the suffering of the people. And, and I think that’s how, that’s, that’s, uh, that’s what shaped my life, Uh, mostly because I would see people suffering and people wanting basic services, but they were not getting it. Uh, for example, if you wanted to go to a hospital, there was just one clinic. Um, and I think there were days for men and women separately, so you could not go to Sure. Their clinic when it was, um, when it was a day for women or when it was a day for men. So you had to wait for Utah. And when you would go there, there was like, just for that whole refugee camp with thousands of people, um, there was one small clinic, so you would see people like congested outside the clinic and there was no turns and, you know, favoritism and favors that are being made and everything.
Ismail Safi (00:09:45):
And while growing up, since my father was working with Kure providing it, I would accompany him sometimes, um, to go to those refugee camp and see the situation. We would come back and he would tell us, and my grandfather, for example, he would tell us about the situation back home and how they were living, um, and what kind of situation they were in. So we could just see the picture of what had happened in the past with my father, with my grandfather and their families, and how well off they were and what kind of good life they had. And then I was comparing my life with it mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, while growing up. And then that’s when I decided that, okay, I’m going to become a humanitarian and, uh, help people in need. Um, I think that’s, that’s what shaped my life mostly. Uh, one other thing that shaped my life was that, um, most of those NGOs that would come to the camps, um, they would provide services, um, of whatever they could provide regardless of what the community needed.
Ismail Safi (00:10:46):
Yeah. So there wasn’t that coordination or, um, need assessment being done and ask the communities that, Okay, what exactly do you need so that we can provide those. For example, most of the I NGOs are NGOs, they would come to those refugee camps, they would provide food samples or cooking oil, um, which people had too many sometimes, like in one month there would be too many NGOs coming and just providing food. And then people would be like, Okay, what should we do with it? We don’t need all this food now. Yeah. Um, but you don’t wanna slow it out cause you don’t know when things will change. Yeah, exactly. And, and, and sometimes those will be perishable items that you can’t keep for a very long time while they needed other things, um, which was non-food items, Um, for example, hygiene kids or other items that they needed for inside their houses, and they wouldn’t get those.
Ismail Safi (00:11:37):
So what those families would do, they would exchange those items, ah, barter for other things in the market. Um, so the non refugee people who were living nearby, who was, who were not receiving food at, they would get those food staple in very low prices compared to the, to the, to the price in the market. And the refugees would get what they wanted as non-food items in return. Um, which I think was leading to, uh, to high prices and just the, the, the restage of money, to be honest. And, and, and, and people were not getting the services that they wanted to get except for what the organization wanted to give them. Um, and when I was growing up, I was like, Okay, I have to help people in need and, uh, basically ask them what they need first and give them, uh, what they need instead of what I think what is good for them. Um, and when I was growing up, I kept on practicing that and going out and volunteering with other NGOs and humanitarian organization. Um, and that’s how it shaped my life and, uh, growing up as a humanitarian.
Kristi Porter (00:12:43):
Yeah. That’s amazing. And it sounds like your dad was also a pretty remarkable person and where you learned a lot of your early life lessons. So for him, where did the, you know, desire to help somebody through his, you know, to use his own time and effort to help somebody with humanitarian crisis as well as his value for education? Did he see that as a path to a new life for you? Or where, where did some of that come from, from, from his perspective, if, you know,
Ismail Safi (00:13:12):
It’s, uh, it’s both. Um, so he kept us, he kept us, um, really busy with education and, and he knew that’s the path, uh, to success in the future. Um, but he also kept us volunteering for humanitarian missions and organizations. And even within the community, if any family would need help, he would always send us to help that family in whatever sense. Wow. We could help. Um, for example, while I was growing up and I was in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, he would ask me to teach kids, um, from first grade or second grade. Um, and, and, and that was a kind of volunteerism that he wanted to spark, um, in his children, uh, while working up, while, while growing up sim similar with him. Like he was very much involved within the community. Um, so teaching kids, uh, when, when he would be off from, from his work, um, or providing services to people in need, um, going with families who needed help in translating or, or anything that they needed from I NGOs and who were not able to communicate, um, with those I NGOs because they couldn’t understand the, the, the, the way those operations work.
Ismail Safi (00:14:23):
So my dad would help them out. Um, and same with my grandfather. He was, uh, he was a very well known figure, um, within, within the community mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and people looked up to him and whenever the any conflict would arise within the community, they would come to him to resolve that conflict. Okay. Um, between individuals or families or within communities. So I was growing up in that, um, in that setup where I could see the leadership role that was played by my father and my grandfather, but also the volunteerism and humanitarian aspect, um, of their dedication to the community. Um, and that really inspired me to be who I am now.
Kristi Porter (00:15:05):
Yeah. Makes perfect sense. Um, so how that’s, Yeah. What did beautiful legacy and family lineage to come from as well? Um, how long were you in the refugee resettlement camp growing up and how, how did you get out? What was that process like for those of us who have very limited understanding of it?
Ismail Safi (00:15:26):
Yeah, definitely. So I think until sixth grade Okay. Um, or fifth grade, I was living in that refugee camp. Um, but then the schools around the refugee camp were not that good. And, uh, my father wanted us to move to a, to a new city. So we moved from refugee camp to a city where my father got a, um, got to teach, uh, in a univers. Um, so after, after Co Red Cross, my, my father joined a university and started teaching there, um, in, uh, in that university. So we were brought to get set up, uh, for furthering our education and, uh, learning more about different cultures and, and, and, and, uh, because there were very limited opportunities in the camp and around the camp. Yeah. Um, and only thing we could see was that, uh, people could not pursue their education because the school at the camp was only up to sixth grade at that time.
Ismail Safi (00:16:25):
And then if you wanted to pursue your education, you had to have good, um, income, or you should be well off to be able to pay for the, um, for the bus fair to go to, to go to middle school or to go to high school from there. And not everyone could afford it. Sure. So that’s why most of the kids after that became, um, either child labors or just helping their, their families mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and, uh, in, in, in, in doing family, in, in doing house chores, uh, and that kind of stuff. So I moved to the city and that’s where I started learning, uh, more about, um, languages. I started learning ulu at that time, um, and started learning Arabic more in advanced, uh, version of it. And, uh, started to, um, to settle in, in, in a city life. Um, so that’s when I moved there and I was living there until 2010. Okay. Uh, yes. So that’s, um, so that’s where I stayed in my high school in college. And then I moved to Islamabad, which is the capital of Pakistan. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, to do my llb uh, law from there. And then, uh, after 2010, I moved to Afghanistan to work, um, on, uh, USA funded and the World Bank funded projects. And then in 2014 I moved to the US.
Kristi Porter (00:17:47):
Fantastic. Um, what a unique and interesting, um, and really beautiful journey that you’ve been on. Um, and yes, I saw that you spoke all the languages and <laugh> been in so many places and it’s really, uh, amazing. Um, and so let’s talk a little bit about you. Obviously you’ve talked about multiple times, humanitarian aid has always been a focus, but your educational career in some of those earlier jobs, you kind of went from law to business to humanitarian aid. So what did that, what did that path and trajectory look like?
Ismail Safi (00:18:21):
So, um, that’s a great question. I know most of people ask me that question and they ask me what’s wrong with you? Like, why law and business school development? Like, what is wrong with you? Um,
Kristi Porter (00:18:33):
Humanitarian aid is not gonna pay off those business schooling <laugh> and law school loans.
Ismail Safi (00:18:37):
So, uh, so that’s, um, so my philosophy is to serve people, um, and help as many people as I can, uh, people in need around the globe, um, in any aspect that I can. Um, I wanted to be a humanitarian and it was, I wanted to be a humanitarian because I wanted to help people. And because I’ve been a refugee myself and I wanted to help refugees because when I was growing up, I thought being a humanitarian, working with a nonprofit organization is the only way to serve people. Yeah. But then when I was growing up, specifically in, in, in Pakistan, I could see that a lot of refugees and even the local people were suffering a lot because of the, um, judicial system cases over there are pending for more than 25, 29, 30 years and not being fired up on, there’s a backlog of years or decades of cases that are sitting there.
Ismail Safi (00:19:27):
I mixed people who were pursuing their father’s cases, and these people were old now. So that’s how, that’s how the backlog is. And I thought that maybe why not I go to law school, um, and I’ll be able to make an impact in lives of these people, Some of them being charged wrongfully. And, uh, they were charged because, um, they were refugees and they didn’t have anyone to help them out. Um, and I think they were an easy target for anyone. Sure. Uh, when they don’t have any backup in the system. So I went studied, uh, uh, law school, and I started working, uh, after law school as a legal advisor when one of the private, uh, companies, um,
Kristi Porter (00:20:12):
Was this in Pakistan or Afghanistan?
Ismail Safi (00:20:14):
No, it was in Afghanistan. It was after 2010 when I, so after, after 2010, I moved to Afghanistan after completion of my llb. When I went there, um, I didn’t like that sector. And it was because of the, um, expectations that people have, uh, in that society from you, you being the lawyer of someone, you are expected to just make up information, cook the information, tell a lie, but you have to, you have to protect your client from going to jail or winning the case. And I said, No, that’s not what I’m going to do. What is right is right. What is wrong is wrong. I’m going to represent you. Um, but I’m not going to tell lie for you that if you have done something. And I said, No, you haven’t done something. That’s not what a lawyer means, um, to, to, to, to make up lies for you.
Ismail Safi (00:21:03):
I didn’t like that sector. I was like, No, this is, this is not for me. I don’t think I’ll be able to do it specifically in this context. And in, that’s, that’s when I was working with the, um, with one of the private companies. And then I was reading a lot about the humanitarian issues, specifically honor killings in Afghanistan that were taking over there and also honor killings in Pakistan that were taking place against women. I was reading a lot about it, and I was like, What is wrong? Uh, I, I have to study. I, I I have to help in any way I can. Uh, so I, I started my LLM in, uh, international human rights law. I was like, Okay, let me study what’s going on in the human rights side and then, um, do my, my, my thesis and research on honor killings in Afghanistan.
Ismail Safi (00:21:51):
So I completed that and I wrote my thesis on honor killings in Afghanistan. Um, and I studied the, the, um, cultural, cultural perspective. I researched the cultural perspective, the religious perspective, um, and also the legal perspective within Afghanistan, why it’s taking place, and whether it is more of a religious, um, norm or is it something that’s dictated by culture or is it because we have very weak laws in Afghanistan that’s not addressing this issue? So I did my research at that time. I got, uh, a job with the World Bank funded project, and then I moved from there to the a funded project and I was managing a portfolio of, um, communication in, uh, in the a funded project. I was program manager there. And I realized that, and I was also, I was, I was also running my own business in the telecommunication sector at that time.
Ismail Safi (00:22:48):
I was shareholder of one of the companies. And I was like, Well, I think I need a business degree. I think I have to learn how to run these things. Um, so now when I started my online mba, um, just for those two things, communications management and managing the team and business, um, so I, I got an online degree in international business and communications man management. Um, that was my mba that, that, that I got at that time because I felt that I needed that in order to excel in my, uh, in my career and also in my, in, in, in my business. Um, I worked with the S I D until 2014 and of 2014. And then when I moved to the US I met up my mind that, okay, this time I’m going to humanitarian sector <laugh>, and that’s it time, it’s time.
Ismail Safi (00:23:37):
That’s where I’m gonna focus on. I wanted to get a PhD in, um, in, in humanitarian sector or international development. And I applied for it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t, um, I wasn’t very familiar with the system, um, in the us. Um, and I got a call asking me, asking me for GRE score. And I didn’t know what GRE is when, uh, when, when I first applied. And I was like, What is it? And they told me that, Okay, you have to have GRE to get an admission in, um, in PhD. And the last date was tomorrow. Like, Okay, last date is tomorrow. You can’t, you can do it. I was like, Can you give me a month extension? I’ll do my gre. And I was like, No, can happen. Well, um, I had a plan and I thank God had a plan for me. Um, so the American University offered me, um, masters in international service majoring in international development and offered me a scholarship, which was a great deal for me. I was like, Okay, if you’re giving me a scholarship and I don’t have to pay a lot for out of my pocket, I’ll take it. Yeah. So I, that’s how I got admission international development. And then I got my job with the Islamic, with Islamic Relief usa.
Kristi Porter (00:24:48):
Okay. So let’s talk about, before we move into Islamic Relief usa, I have, oh, I have so many more questions. Um, the, let’s go back up. Can I ask you a little bit more about your thesis?
Ismail Safi (00:24:59):
Kristi Porter (00:25:00):
Okay. So, um, well, first of all, I wanna know, cuz I think, again, I wanted to hear you talk about the whole thing before I kind of started putting the, the pieces together, but now I wanna back up a little bit. Um, so first of all, why Afghanistan? What took you there in the first place?
Ismail Safi (00:25:14):
Well, that’s because my, my family belonged, um, there, that’s where my parents were from my grand grand, my, my grandparents and my grandparents. That’s where they came from during the, so we had envisioned, um, off Afghanistan. Okay. Um, so while living in Pakistan, we didn’t have any refugee status, um, while living in those camps. Sure. Um, and even, even that, we were born in Pakistan. Born in Pakistan, but there’s no citizenship for anyone who is born in Pakistan. So we were basically state based individuals living in Pakistan. Um, so I had to go back to Afghanistan to work there because I couldn’t practice law in Pakistan if I wasn’t a citizen. Um, so that’s why I had to go back to Afghanistan to work there.
Kristi Porter (00:25:58):
Got it. Okay. And then what did you learn from, cuz you had these already, these profound life experiences and then to study something, um, heavy like honor killings. What did you, what were some of the outcomes? What was some of the eye-opening moments that came to that, and what were some of your final conclusions?
Ismail Safi (00:26:19):
Um, so I think it was very interesting, um, was a very interesting research for me because it was really, uh, a tough topic to discuss. It wasn’t an easy topic, topic to discuss, uh, in the communities. Sure. Um, and even I was threatened while asking those questions, uh, uh, regarding the honor killings, they were like, Why are you asking those questions? Like, you know, these questions are not to be asked, asked in, uh, in this community. I think that’s one thing that, that I figured out. Um, the second thing is that, um, it’s not, I know most of people tie it to religion, but religion has nothing to do with it. It’s totally different. It’s, I think it’s totally cultural. One interesting thing that I found out that it’s not only Afghanistan or Pakistan where it’s happening, there are a lot of other countries where honor killing is taking place.
Ismail Safi (00:27:11):
Yep. Um, and most of those countries are developing countries mm-hmm. <affirmative> during the data gathering, after doing the analysis. Um, one interesting fact that I found out is that whenever the education level goes up, the people, um, think of honor killings as not something, Right. Like they, they, they get, they, they go against it whenever the income level goes up. It’s the same, like, people go away from honor killings, they say that no, it’s strong as much as the income goes lower and lower and you go to more poorer and poorer communities, that’s where it’s practiced more and more. And the same where the education level is getting lower and lower or where there is no education at all. That’s where you see a trend that, um, that’s where it’s practiced more and more. So even the
Kristi Porter (00:28:01):
Education one makes a little more, I guess, intuitive sense to me. I’m not sure I quite understand how the family wealth, um, income level ties to it. Do you, do you have a little, can I have a little bit more
Ismail Safi (00:28:13):
Clarity? Yeah. So I think it’s more because I think in, in, in those communities, the income level is tied more to education maybe. Okay. That makes, that’s why, because people with more income tends to get more incompetence, to get more education, and people with more education tends to have more income mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so I think it’s, it’s a little bit correlated. That’s why I can see that. And most of the, um, most of the people with good income, I think they move away from those small suburbs areas are, are the countryside to towards, more towards the cities. So that’s why I think that’s, uh, one other factor that they stay away from that and they became more, um, integrated into the city life. Um, so I think that’s, that’s why that’s happening happening. So it’s, it’s all, it was all correlated when, when I was looking, um, at, uh, all the issues.
Ismail Safi (00:29:02):
Um, well also I think when it, when it comes to male and female, um, people who thought that, um, honor killings, um, is religious or it’s something cultural Sure. Um, there, and, and, and, and people who were supported the idea, it was even between male and female. Like wasn’t only male family members who were into that idea, but also females were, were, um, were supporting that idea, which was very, very shocking to me. Yeah. I thought since it’s happening mostly against women, women may not be, uh, supporting that and they may be against it, but it was, it was equal. Like when you go to those areas, uh, with low income, low education, it’s, uh, it was the same, which was very shocking to me. So. Yeah.
Kristi Porter (00:29:49):
Yeah. That’s really fascinating. Thank you for explaining more. Um, and so you, even after all of that, <laugh>, you still had this gap where you didn’t quite head into humanitarian yet. What was the business aspect? What was the draw for that rather than continuing on this thing that you thought you were going to be a part of your whole life, but you kind of made this pit stop into telecommunications and business and all of that? What was the interest, or, you know, what, what continued to keep you there for a little bit longer?
Ismail Safi (00:30:20):
So the, um, the business has always been a side good for me. Okay. Um, I, I’ve never met it as, uh, full-time, uh, full-time work or job or career, and I’m not looking into doing that way. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think I’m going to be humanitarian for the rest of my life. And, uh, on side whatever business I can, uh, carry on, I think I’ll carry it on. Um, so I think humanitarian, being humanitarian is, uh, is the way forward.
Kristi Porter (00:30:45):
Ismail Safi (00:30:46):
Um, in, uh, in while working in humanitarian organization or any international development organization. Um, but it gives me, um, happiness when, when, when, when I, when I’m able to help people. It’s, it keeps me happy. And, and I think whenever I see that I’m making, uh, an impact in the lives of people, that’s what keeps me happy. And I think that’s what, uh, it, it is about, um, I help people and, uh, and I’m happy. So what does I want money, It’ll come from the side gig.
Kristi Porter (00:31:20):
And so what business lessons, I’m curious, have you carried into the non-profit and humanitarian side of things? What, um, you know, are there things that keep repeating in your life that you’re like, Oh, this is actually a business lesson I can apply over here? Or maybe the humanitarian NGO side needs to understand this side of business a little bit better? Or what, Um, I’m curious kind of how, what overlap those may have for you.
Ismail Safi (00:31:44):
I, I, I think the, um, humanitarian sector, um, is not something that, uh, that’s going to operate our, our, our stand as a standalone sector that can work independently off sector. Um, the humanitarian sector has to engage the communities, um, excuse me, the general public, the, um, private sector and the governments. Um, and I think that’s also a key lesson within the business that when you’re doing business, it doesn’t mean that you’re just focused on your business and the work that we do, but you have to do market analysis, market research, engage stakeholders, um, look for your stakes, um, within the, within the community. You can still compete for good. Uh, but, and, and which you can do in humanitarian sector competing for good, providing more services, uh, to people, um, than any other organization that you can. But I think, uh, stakeholder engagement and coordination is key when it comes to, um, repo, when it comes to humanitarian sector and responding to emergencies.
Ismail Safi (00:32:46):
Uh, for example, just take an example of, um, logistics with purpose or, uh, it’s, um, it’s, it’s a company that’s, that’s, that’s a private company. But on the humanitarian sector, it’s playing a very critical role in provision of services to people in need. Without logistic companies, I don’t think the humanitarian sector can operate on their own. We don’t understand logistics. Sure. We don’t understand the challenges. We don’t understand the legal barriers to, um, those logistics, uh, and the supply chain. What kind of, um, certificates are needed, licenses are needed. Um, and I don’t think the humidity sector can get itself into every business to make sure to run their, uh, to, to help people in need. We, we, we do not understand the, um, the supply chain when it comes to the food security, for example. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you have to engage, um, the, the private sector. We cannot grow our own food just as a humanitarian organization and say that, okay, we are going to have our own food and our own trucks and, uh, our own chain of everything, and we’ll be able to provide support to people in need. No, I don’t think that’s the, um, that’s the way it works. We have to engage all the stakeholders and, uh, make sure that everyone do what they’re good at, what they’re best at. I think coordination is key and, and that’s how it should be
Kristi Porter (00:34:08):
Done. Yeah. I, yeah, 100% agree. When, and it also makes me think of something you said, um, early on in the interview. You and I have both worked at for-profits and non-profits, and I, I’m still surprised when I see people emerging in their career, new, new to their career, even in 2022. They’re like, Oh, if I wanna do something good, I have to work for a nonprofit. And I’m surprised that we’re still, I don’t know where that mindset is still coming from, but certainly not true. You’ve just explained it very well, and I’m curious if you keep coming across that in your conversations too still.
Ismail Safi (00:34:43):
Um, I, I think most of the people think that way that I’ve, that I’ve talked to. Um, so for example, when I’m speaking with, uh, with my friends or with people that I know are outside, they’re like, Oh, you are doing a great job of helping people. And I asked them, Okay, so what do you do? They’re like, Okay, I’m a teacher. I was like, You’re also helping people. You are educating kids, you’re educating youth, you’re educating new generation, and you are getting them ready to be useful members of the community. And then I ask them, Okay, what do you do? And, and, and they say, We do this private business. I’m like, Well, you are also helping the community, um, in, in your own area of work. And if you want to do more, you can still volunteer in the humanitarian sector. If you love it, um, you can still contribute to the community by donating. Um, so there, there are a lot of ways that you can contribute and you can help people in need. So it’s not that, oh, you have to be just in the humanitarian sector to help help people in need. You can be anyone in any field and still helping people in need. Yeah. Um, and, and, and, uh, impacting their lives.
Kristi Porter (00:35:46):
For sure. Yeah. And I feel like the best example of that is the social enterprise model. It is, you know, still emerging, still a term that not everyone understands or hasn’t heard before, and hopefully will continue to see that tipping point. But it is the perfect intersection of cause and commerce to say that you can make a profit and you can do good things. And hopefully we’ll just continue to see that carry in and be able to continue to build those bridges between business and nonprofit and, um, really challenging and solving things. Cuz I know friends that have, you know, they’re like, I don’t wanna have a non-profit because I don’t wanna ask for donations all the time, but I can sell this and I can give profits to, you know, doing something good. And so, yeah, I think that there’s a, a perfect way to, to bring those two together and hopefully we’ll continue seeing that and hopefully, um, yeah, it’ll just continue to, to build a tidal wave and get especially new emerging generations and even the people that we’re talking to, um, as peers interested in, in seeing how they can benefit both because we both need each other.
Kristi Porter (00:36:51):
Non-profits are here to stay. They’re not going anywhere. We still need them. We need the work that you’re doing tremendously. But there is a way to bring those two together. And, you know, as you said so eloquently, none of us knows at all either. We need each other to lean on.
Ismail Safi (00:37:06):
We, we, we compliment each other. And I think, um, we together can have a bigger impact than, uh, any one of us just, uh, responding to emergencies on our own. I think that’s, uh, that’s how, that’s how everything works. Uh, not only humanitarian in private sector, but humanitarian in private sector needs to do a better job of coming together. You, you mentioned social enterprise. I think that’s the best way to explain it. You are still making profit. Um, you have an income, but you’re still making an impact in the lives of people and you are contributing to towards the communities that you are earning a profit from. Um, so it’s basically you are investing the money back into the communities where you have generated it from, and that’s the beauty of it.
Kristi Porter (00:37:48):
Yeah. And that brings us current. We finally got here, we’re finally at Long Relief usa. Um, so tell us, because I wasn’t familiar, um, with your work until a few months back when you and I met in person. Um, tell us a little bit more about the origins and, and your role and just a little bit more about the extraordinary work that you guys do every day.
Ismail Safi (00:38:12):
Sure. I think this is, uh, this is the most interesting part of the, uh, of the interview mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I’m excited to be here for this spot. Yeah. So, Islamically USA was, uh, incorporated in Los Angeles in, uh, 1993. Um, as I USA it was the year when the, um, war breakout in Bosnia. Okay. Uh, and we, and when the genocide took place, uh, because of that war, and that was the first emergency that Islamic Relief USA has responded to, um, in Bosnia, uh, Islamic Relief’s mission is to, um, Islamic relief, provides relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, um, and works to empower individuals in their communities, um, and give them a voice in the world. Our vision, our vision is to, um, work together, uh, for a word free of poverty. Uh, it’s a very ambitious vision that we have and we are working towards that through our programming.
Ismail Safi (00:39:13):
Um, our work is guided, uh, by our values, um, which is excellence, sincerity, social justice, compassion and custodianship. Um, we work in 34 countries, um, around the globe, uh, through, mainly through Islamic relief offices. Islamic Leaf is Islamic Leaf USA is part of Federation, um, Islamic Relief worldwide. Um, and we have 34 offices around the globe. And the places where we don’t have an office, we work through partners, um, other than Islamic relief, uh, for example, if an emergency hits anywhere and we don’t have an office. We worked through partners, for example, in Ukraine when the emergency hit there. We didn’t have an office in Ukraine, but we worked, um, with Unit cr and we provided funding to Unit CR to respond to that emergency. Um, similarly, for example, in Latin America, we don’t have offices, but we work through partners, uh, for example, Catholic Relief Services, highest, uh, and other organizations that we partner with in, um, across the globe.
Ismail Safi (00:40:16):
Um, my role with Islamic Relief USA is that I’m managing international programs. I’m the assistant director, um, and we have a portfolio of 250 million, um, around the globe. And it keeps on, uh, growing, uh, and I hope we will, uh, we’ll be able to grow it, uh, to a billion dollar, uh, soon. That’s my, uh, that’s what I’m looking forward to. Um, so basically what Islamic Relief USA does is that we provide emergency relief, um, whenever an emergency hits, but that’s not everything. We also provide recovery, um, uh, services and support, uh, in places where emergency hits. And then we do development work as well. So most of our portfolio that we see, um, is development work. Um, and that’s where, uh, most of our funding goes to whenever an emergency hits Islamic Relief is one of the first I NGOs to be on the ground and respond to emergencies because of our presence, Um, in most of the continents, uh, where we work in, um, we work in coordination with other I NGOs so that we do not duplicate efforts, save time and money, and provide services to more people.
Ismail Safi (00:41:29):
Because most of the I NGOs are, um, experts in one or other sector. We want to make sure that each nng I NGO or private sector who excels in that sector takes on, um, that part of the emergency response whenever emergency time is gone. You know that most of the I NGOs leave mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, Islamically if USA stays for recovery efforts, um, uh, over there. And we provide range of services like, um, rebuilding shelters or homes, um, and, uh, also, uh, restocking, uh, livestock in, in, in some cases if they have lost or investing into the, um, businesses that people have lost. Um, and, and, and were just destroyed because of the, the emergency that happened. And after that, we, we do long term development programs, um, in areas where, where they’re needed the most. So most of our long term development programs are in food security, uh, livelihood, uh, area.
Ismail Safi (00:42:29):
We have microfinance program as well. We have health projects. Um, we have education, uh, projects as well. And, uh, we do water and sanitation and hygiene programs, um, around the globe, places where, where they’re needed the most. Um, we do wash and, uh, food security during emergencies as well. But our long term development programs are designed towards, um, becoming, helping the families to become self-sufficient and, and, and beyond their own feet. Um, and not in need of, uh, in need of, uh, any aid, um, in, in short term so that they can, they can, uh, they can produce for themselves and they’re able to, um, have a sustainable income for. So, so that’s, that’s how our, our programs work in, uh, in those sector.
Kristi Porter (00:43:18):
Sector. Yeah. It’s an incredibly wide ranging holistic, um, model that you have. And I mean, it really is amazing, and especially everything, you know, there are plenty of terrific organizations who may only specialize in one of those things. So the fact that you guys cover that much ground is really remarkable. And I wanna call back to one thing you said, just when you were talking even about the mission. Um, you used the phrase, the phrase, Whenever you help provide aid, it’s in a dignified manner. And I thought that was really interesting and I hadn’t heard, um, that a nonprofit used that phrase before. And I was curious if you could expand a little bit more as to what that means to you all. What is it, You know, you’re, you’re talking also about self-sufficiency, not just emergency to self-sufficiency, so I assume that has something to do with it, but you know, when you guys look at serving in a and helping people in a dignified manner, what does that look like?
Ismail Safi (00:44:12):
Yeah, I think that that’s a great question to you for bringing that up. Um, we work with very vulnerable communities mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, you know, that people who have been affected by emergencies, um, or people who have been living below the poverty line. Um, so we want to make sure that we provide them it in a way where they don’t feel like they are the recipient of some kind of leftovers or they don’t have a say in it. Um, so our programs are designed in a way where we conduct a need assessment, We work with the communities, and we hear from them first before designing any program. Our programs are not dictated from top to the bottom saying that, hey, that, and that’s why we have a wide range of services and projects and sectors that we are working in, because the need of each community is different.
Ismail Safi (00:45:08):
Sure. Um, and the need in each country is different. Um, if we work in just one sector, it means that we will be imposing just one, that one sector on the people that we are serving. Instead, what we do is our field offices go and conduct, uh, they conduct, need assessment. Um, and it’s the community who comes up with what they need, why they need it, and how they’re going to utilize those to be self sufficient and self-reliant. Let tell you one more thing, There’s a perception that people who we serve, um, they don’t know how to manage funds. It’s, uh, it’s a very common perception in some places or poor because they can’t, the poor because they can’t, it’s not true. They’re poor because they have not given, they have not been given the chance, um, to, to speak up. They have, they didn’t have a chance to have the resources, um, to come out of the poverty.
Ismail Safi (00:46:03):
I think we as a humanitarian organization have to give them that platform mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and not that we tell them, Hey, you are poor. I’m, I’m gonna tell you what you need to become rich. No, that’s not, that’s not how it works. They have to decide for their own selves. And you’ll be surprised when you go to these communities on the ideas that they have, but the only thing they need is resources and platform. Yeah. They know how to make their lives better. They know how to come out of that poverty. Poverty, um, and, and, and, and, and, and then know how to have a sustainable source of income. And each community have their own way of dealing with emergencies and, and, and, and, and, and how they can make it happen. So dignified manner to us is one, working with communities directly hearing from them and just providing them the platform and the resources that they need, um, to be on their own.
Ismail Safi (00:46:56):
Number two, giving them ownership of the process. So they have, um, ownership of the process in a say, um, in the programs. Um, and they monitor the programs on their own if they don’t have, um, if they don’t have a say in it, and if they’re not able to monitor their programs, and if you don’t give them a sense of ownership, you’ll implement a program. But when you, when you graduate from there, that program is not going to last for more than one or two years. And, and I’ve seen that throughout my career when I’ve visited some of the, um, some of the offices and I seen that some of the organization who had dug, um, water wells, they were, they were, they were not working. They were broken. Yeah. And, uh, that’s why we work with the communities to make sure that they take ownership of, of, of the process overall.
Ismail Safi (00:47:49):
And then we stay connected with those communities. So in the future, for example, even after graduation of the, um, of the program and the project and the, the staff, we stay connected with them. They still come back to us and tell us about their success stories. Um, and they get excited about it and, and, and they come back and tell us about, Okay, what, what are they doing now? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, for example, we had, um, a project in Bangladesh, which we call alternative livelihood for orphans. So we have this orphan sponsorship program where Islamic Relief USA alone is sponsoring 29,000 orphans, uh, around the globe. And Islamic Relief is a family is sponsoring more than 60,000 orphans Wow. Um, around the globe. But this program was alternative livelihood for orphans. So what we did with the mothers of those orphans and the widows and women headed households, um, we created and designed a program, um, tailored to each family on what they wanted to do to become self-sufficient.
Ismail Safi (00:48:50):
And it was their idea. Some of them wanted livestock, some of them wanted to invest in something else like farming, agriculture equipment. Some of them wanted tailoring. And after four years, um, they not only graduated from that program of orphan sponsorship, uh, they were having a sustainable source of income. They were not reliant on any aid after that. Wow. But the most exciting part is that they came together and they brought more families from other communities, and they started a crop here, over there as well. So, and it, it, it expanded to other communities. And then they had this one, um, coop, which was heading, like, they had a representative from each of the communities, and they had savings of thousands of dollars Wow. Over there. And they said they’re going to continue expanding it to other communities and, and helping other, other, um, widows, women headed households. Um, so that’s, that’s the model that we implement when it comes from the community and they take the ownership, it flourishes mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and it expands to other communities. So those are the type of programs that we work on.
Kristi Porter (00:50:05):
Yeah. Do you have a video or something about that? <laugh>? I would love to see it and include it in our show notes as well.
Ismail Safi (00:50:11):
<laugh>, we, we, we do have some videos and, and, uh, success stories on that. We, I, I’ll definitely share those with you. Okay.
Kristi Porter (00:50:17):
That’s really remarkable. Um, and so I’m you, because you manage such a portfolio of projects, you’re talking about these individualized needs. Um, well, kind of a two part question. First part are, are your programs weighted in any specific area? Like, we’ve asked all these different communities all over the globes, and these are the three things that continually come up. So we spend a lot of time and effort and money in these specific areas. And if so, what are they?
Ismail Safi (00:50:47):
So, um, as, as I mentioned, the, uh, livelihood or the intergeneration activities, uh, or development programs, what we call is one of the, uh, major sectors that we are working in. And it’s tailored towards, um, the needs on the ground because in every country the need is down. Uh, the, the need is different. And also the market over there is different. So for example, in some countries there may be a market for livestock, um, where people can be food secure, um, and can also sell milk or cheese, uh, to have a source of income for them. Um, in other countries it may be farming. So what we do is basically provide them with the tools necessary and the training or the capacity building that’s necessary to, um, to grow food or more drought resilient crops in, in some of the areas because the drought, drought is happening in, in, in most of the countries, um, these days.
Ismail Safi (00:51:46):
So most of the sectors that we work in, um, is because our field offices are very much engaged within those communities, and it’s tailored towards those, um, the needs of those communities and what can work and cannot work, um, within that specific context. Um, so that’s why every sector that I just mentioned, we have a huge range of, uh, projects and programs, um, that we have been implemented. Food security is one of the, the, the, the biggest sectors I would say. Um, and it’s because we know that, uh, malnutrition and food insecurity that we see in Africa. Um, and also now in other countries, uh, where we, we, we see a lot of malnutrition and food security like Yemen, uh, Lebanon is, is, um, the situation over there is getting worse and worse. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and even during emergencies, what people needs the most is food and non-food items.
Ismail Safi (00:52:45):
So non-food items is usually, uh, less as compared to the food items, because people have to have access to nutritious food. So food security is one of the, the biggest sector that that, that we are involved in. And then when it comes to agriculture and farming, it’s also about food security. So anything that we do can be related to, to food security because of the droughts. Um, and now fam like situation in, uh, in some of the, the countries, I think wash water and sanitation and hygiene is, is one of the biggest sector that, that we are working in. Um, so we have designed our wash and food security programs in a way where are, they’re very much, much integrated. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, for example, in, uh, in the Horn of Africa, or specifically in Kenya, um, we have this, uh, development projects for four, five years where we do deep boreholes, uh, which are solar powered.
Ismail Safi (00:53:44):
Um, and that water is basically used by families for drinking. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So when they use it for drinking, the number of waterborne, the, the, the, the cases of waterborne diseases go over and lower because now they have access to, to clean water, which means that it has an impact, an impact on their health. Um, positive impact on their health. Their health improves. They also use the same water for irrigation. Uh, they have, uh, kitchen gardens, but they also have land that they’ll, they, that they irrigate through that solar powered boils. Um, which, which contributes towards food security and addressing the issue of food insecurity and malnutrition, because now they can grow their crops. Yeah. Um, and they have access to food, but they also sell the excessive food in the market. So it becomes a live livelihood or income generation activity for them. The same water and um, food that they grow are also used for livestock.
Ismail Safi (00:54:43):
So now they have access to livestock, which in return give them milk, cheese, and yogurt, which is also healthier, uh, for kids and for families. So again, food security. And they also sell, um, milk and cheese to other families where they have income generation activity. Since livestock reproduces, they sell the excessive lifestyle. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, as well, it also contributes toss the income generation activity. So this was one of the project that I visited three years ago in, um, in Kenya. And then, um, the school attendance rate went up and it was because the kids who used to go and fetch water for either for their families or for school to bring to the school now have tap water in school. So the kids stay more at school than, uh, going and fetching water. And the families who used to go a mile or half a mile just to fetch water and bring the water, which wasn’t even clean, they could use the time to teach their kids, send their kids to school, do farming and other things.
Ismail Safi (00:55:44):
So, so that, um, the principal was telling us that the school has become, uh, a place where kids get together. Now, it has become a part like area for them because there is, um, because they, they were able to grow, uh, and plant trees, and they would have shadow in the school, which they don’t have in, in most of other places since. Um, and, and, and the kids would come and play there. And then that’s how they got more attracted to school. And more kids are going to get, uh, education in school because there is a playground now. There’s a place to, uh, to be, And there’s shared, they have clean drinking water. So we, we invest in that kind of programming where it’s not only one sector, it’s multiple sectors integrated in a way where people have a dignified income generation and a food secure and, uh, reducing health issues that they’re suffering.
Kristi Porter (00:56:38):
Yeah. Yeah. It’s not just meeting a specific need. It’s the start of a positive cycle. Exactly. So yeah. That’s really wonderful. And then kinda my other two part second part of that question is because of this more individualized approach, are there times that people ask for things and you just have to say, No, it’s not within our capability, It’s not within our knowhow or framework or something like that?
Ismail Safi (00:57:02):
So I, when, when we work with the community, um, I think we go through an exercise of needs and wants and, uh, what do you want to do in the future? That kind of thing. And we explain to them that how much resources we have, um, and what we’ll be able to invest, uh, and how much we’ll be able to invest for how much time. So we go through that exercise with them. So they have to prioritize what they need, um, in, in the short term. And then we work with them when, when they become, um, uh, self-sustainable to work on what they want, um, in the future. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So in short term, if it’s a livelihood project, we’ll work with them, but we also connect them to other service providers, um, within the community. We also connect them to the government because, uh, some of the governments have resources for, uh, infrastructure building, for example, which we may not have funding for.
Ismail Safi (00:57:55):
And we may require a lot of, uh, a lot of resources. But as an I n O, we may not have that many resources. So we connect them to all the other service providers as well within the community. And we do those workshops, um, that, okay, this, this is another service provider within this, um, area, and you may be able to, to reach out to them. We work with them. We build their capacity on how to reach out, how to ask for those kind of resources. Sometime we facilitate those meetings between those stakeholders, and then they’d, they’d take it from there. Um, so it is, it is a process that we go through instead of just telling them, No, we cannot do it. Yeah. We always make sure that if we do something, we connect them to other resources and market. Uh, for example, if we do those livelihood projects, we make sure that we connect them to the market, um, where they can sell their products, for example, and have that, um, yeah. So it’s, it’s a cycle. It’s not just that, Yeah, we can do that. Yes, we cannot do that, or No, we cannot do that. So that kind of thing. We, we go through the whole, uh, cycle and, and, and, uh, just making sure that we can empower the communities as much as we can.
Kristi Porter (00:59:01):
Yeah, it’s wonderful. It’s a very thoughtful process. Um, okay. Before we move on with I R S A, I wanna take a quick break because we spent the bulk of our first conversation talking about travel. You’ve mentioned school, you know, the countries that you guys work in, the places that you’ve been. Um, it’s the quickest way to start a conversation with anybody who works at Vector Global Logistics, because we all love to travel so much. Um, but I’m curious because you have been a lot of places, and we started following each other on Instagram just to see where somebody was gonna be. So, um, and you, I had asked you this question before and you had such a great answer. So I’m curious if you’ll tell everybody, um, where’s one of your favorite places? It’s hard to choose, It’s always hard to choose, but what is one of your, one of your favorite places and why?
Ismail Safi (00:59:47):
Well, I, I think that’s, that’s a great question. Um, and, and I think it’s in the humanitarian sector. We get to travel a lot. Um, we go and, uh, we visit the communities, and I think that’s the best. But, uh, of my job, to be honest. Um, I get to know the communities that we are working with. I get to hear from them directly. I get to see the impact of our programs, um, in, in, in those areas. Um, and it gives us energy. It re-energizes us when, uh, when we have, uh, when we have a day, when we have a a tough day, we, we look back and we remember those conversations with, uh, beneficiaries and the need, um, that they are in and, and how we can be helping. So it, it really re-energizes us and, and, and really keeps us, keeps, keeps us focused on, on our mission and vision.
Ismail Safi (01:00:42):
Um, I think every country that I’ve visited, I’ve learned a lot, um, when it comes to cultures, customs, uh, great food, uh, and, and, and a lot more about the, um, about, uh, working with those communities and, and what works and what doesn’t work. I think one of my, my favorite places, um, was Kenya that I just mentioned. And it was because of the, the impact that I could see of just one program in the lives of people. Um, I get to see another community where we are starting that kind of project, and they told me, Look at this land. This is exactly what it was, where we came from, and the place that we came from, we could see people happy. They had a source of income, They had their livestock, they had their schools, uh, kids were going there. And even the, the, um, the farming that they were doing, um, the agriculture fields that, that we could see the solar powered wells and, and, and, and the committees that were working.
Ismail Safi (01:01:47):
And then I get, I got to see that, how that community looked like, although I had seen it in the pictures and we, but totally different when you see that, how this is how that community was, and that’s what it has turned into. And, uh, we will be able to turn this community into that kind of community, and we’ll be able to help them to have a stable source of income and, and, um, and help them. So I think that’s what stuck with me. Um, other than that I’ve been to, to many countries, For example, when I was in Bosnia, um, I got to go to Seban where the massacre happened. Um, and when I was going to one of the projects where we built shelters and houses for people who were affected by that, I could, I the graveyard was on the way. So we stopped there and we could see the sufferings that the war, the war brings to communities and how it, it, it results into mass migration, people suffering, kids like the small kids of days were killed, um, during that war and during that massacre that happened.
Ismail Safi (01:03:02):
So you see that what war brings and what we as a humanitarian can do to help those communities. Um, so I think that’s, that’s one thing that, that always stayed with me and, and, and, and will stay with me. Um, I know there is no shortage of wars these days. The wars are happening everywhere. I hope we, we lived in, in, in, in a world where we, we didn’t have war. We, we didn’t, uh, have mass migration and people were not forced to flee. Uh, but it’s this, it’s the reality of this world. And, and we as unity and in private sector, we have to play our role to help those who are suffering, um, alleviate their sufferings.
Kristi Porter (01:03:40):
Yeah. And there’s, and as you talked about too, just being able to visit the places. There’s, so that’s re-energizing for, there’s, I mean, it’s hard work. There’s a lot of hard days. There’s another crisis, there’s another war, there’s something else. So to be able to kind of see the people that you’re impacting, getting that, you know, energy back and being able to see the outcome is, um, you know, I’m sure just an unfathomable experience. And so I’m curious for if you have any advice for those of us who may, you know, we all have causes and organizations that we’re fond of that we love, but we may never get to travel to see their impact in person. Um, so do you have any tips or any advice for somebody who may just be sitting at home and loves the work that you guys are doing, or another organization or, you know, sees what’s going on somewhere else and wants to help, but is also so burdened by what it is and can’t go and see that impact for themselves? Do you have any advice to help re-energize them for the causes in the organizations that they care about?
Ismail Safi (01:04:45):
I, I think the, uh, that’s a good question. And, and I understand that, uh, most of the staff who is working, they will not be able to get to see the, the, the work that they do. Uh, but it doesn’t mean they, they’re not contributing towards what is happening, um, uh, in the lives of those people by impacting their lives in, in a positive manner. Every person in an organization is contributing towards, um, is as we say, that the first person who is sitting at the front desk is playing a role to the president or to the ceo, and to the board members of an organization. All of them are playing very critical role, and nothing will be, will be able to achieve without any of, without any of those, those contributions. Um, so I think that’s the first thing I, I, I would say to, to human organizations, I think that’s really important.
Ismail Safi (01:05:37):
Number two, um, people who visit the field office when they come back, they have to talk about the impact, um, that, that those, um, projects have had. Uh, I think the second third, um, I know it’s, uh, internet connectivity may not be very, very good in some of the, the places mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but places where there is internet connectivity, I think virtual, um, uh, virtual meetings or virtual interviews are, are showing your impact virtually can be another way to show that how we are, uh, impacting the lives of, um, of people on the ground. Yeah. I, that, that, that’s another way. Uh, but I think the most important thing is to stick to the vision and mission of your organization, to the values of the organization. Um, and no matter what you do, in what capacity you do it, you are contributing towards that impact.
Kristi Porter (01:06:31):
Yeah. That’s great. Thank you. Good advice. Okay. Back to business. Um, okay. And we have a logistics audience of course. So I can’t get you out of here without talking about logistics. So again, we talked about you provide so many different services, you know, everything from basics, from water and wash, all the way to disaster relief, all the way to Selfsufficiency and beyond. And since we’re speaking to a logistics audience, I’m curious, what are a couple things that you and your team have learned about effectively delivering products and to individuals around the world, especially in desperate situations?
Ismail Safi (01:07:07):
Um, I, I think Christie, we, we talked about the, uh, coordination a little bit before mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and coordination is key. And we talked a little bit about the, how nonprofit sector and the government and, uh, private sector for profit sector, how, how they should be, should be working together. Um, the, we know that during covid, the, um, the supply changes has become more congested, and it’s not easy to get things out. Um, one thing that I didn’t mention before is, and I saved it for, uh, for this question, was the, uh, I, I knew you, you were going to ask this question. <laugh>, um, is that Islamic relief also does, um, gift and kind. Um, and that is sending containers of, um, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, uh, medical supplies to places where they are needed the most. Um, and we are, um, emergencies happen and, and, and where those things cannot be available.
Ismail Safi (01:08:04):
Small things like bandages or medical equipment like MRIs or ultrasound machines or, um, other equipment that will be needed. So we also send those, um, as gift and kind to hospitals around the globe. And, um, I think, uh, organizations like Victor Global, and they, they, they play a very critical role in, um, in making sure that those get to the places where it’s needed the most. Um, as I mentioned before, we as a humanitarian organization, we may not know everything, um, specifically when it comes to logistics. Uh, I don’t think that’s our area of expertise, and that’s why we rely on organization like Vector Global, um, to help us with the logistics of, uh, those containers to be, to be, um, shipped, um, clear and, uh, and distributed to, to the hospitals and where people need, um, those, the most. Uh, we, we may not know a lot about, uh, how the licensing works, how the, how, how the overall, um, congestion in, uh, in, in, in the seat routes work and how you’re going to read out some of your ships and containers and, and when to arrive.
Ismail Safi (01:09:20):
That’s not, that’s not our area of expertise. And we, we don’t want to, to start a, a company for logistics. Um, so we have to work together with the, um, with organizations like Vector Global Logistics to make sure that, um, we are providing it, um, in a timely fashion and in a timely manner. I think that’s really, really important. And number two, I think it’s, it, it all comes to planning. I know in human treat Center, everything is go, go, go, go, go, go, Uh, because of the emergencies that are happening. I know we have to be very, uh, agile when it comes to responding to emergencies and repurposing things, but it comes to logistics. Um, I think you have to plan everything well in advance because when an emergency hits, um, it’s going to take anywhere from 15 days to 30 days to maybe two months, depending on where you are putting those containers. And you have to be, um, very well connected to these logistic companies to make sure that they’re able to get the containers out to use it the most. And you have to prioritize on what’s needed. Um, so thanks to organizations like Victor Global Logistics, um, who is providing that, that, that’s providing those services.
Kristi Porter (01:10:33):
Well, yeah. Thank you. Yeah, it’s a <laugh>. It’s changing all the time. I, since I sit in marketing, I still feel really impressed with myself when I get one of the acronyms. Right. Sometimes there’s a lot going on in logistics and it changes constantly depending on which ports are open and what’s happening. Exactly. Um, but you also talked about, so we’re talking about shipping products, obviously you talked about gift and kind. And then based on your experience of growing up, you mentioned the fact that sometimes people, um, whether it’s we’ve been given all of this type of thing that we’re passing out to refugee resettlement camps or, you know, whether it’s an overage, whether it’s something they specialize in, is there something, how do you think we can do that better as far as distributing products that people need when they need it, versus we were given all of this one thing by a company who really had a very wonderful reason for donating it and wants to be involved and wants to be helping, but maybe it isn’t the need at hand, and then people are having to, you know, barter and sell amongst themselves to get exactly what they need.
Kristi Porter (01:11:39):
Is there, I know that’s a really big complex issue, but I’m curious just because you have that personal experience, if you have any things that you’d like to see done differently in that regard?
Ismail Safi (01:11:49):
Yeah, so the way we, uh, as Islamic relief, uh, does gift, gift and kind is that, um, we, we get a list of supplies, uh, that’s available with the donors that we are working with, uh, very closely. And we send that list basically to, um, the country where the need is present. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and the country office basically works with the Ministry of Health, um, and with the hospitals on what is needed and what quantity is needed, um, and if there are any other, uh, requirements from the government side or from the hospital side. Um, so they list all of those. They select on what is needed and what’s not needed. Um, and based on that, we fill out our containers and send it out. We don’t send anything that’s not needed at the field level or something that the, um, the hospitals in that country will not be able to utilize.
Ismail Safi (01:12:44):
Um, because one, if we send those kind of things, it means we are just filling up containers. That’s one thing. Number two, we are just wasting our resources and money. Yeah. Number three, if it’s not used, it has to be disposed of properly, which is another cost, um, at the, at the field office level. Number four, it may be needed in another country. If we take these items and we send it to one country, the donor will not have it available anymore to another partner who may need those items in another country. So instead of just sending Gik for the sake of GI K and sending containers mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think the way we have started doing it, it makes, um, it more effective and impactful, uh, working with the, with the government Ministry of Health, um, to make sure that we don’t take any item that’s not allowed, um, in, into the country or not take anything with a short date.
Ismail Safi (01:13:37):
For example, some of the countries require at least 12 months, um, expiry time off on the, on the medicine that you’re sending. So we are abiding by all those just to make sure. Right. And then working with, with the hospitals, telling them, Okay, what is your consumption of this item, for example, in the next 12 months? And they have the data information on that. So we send the right amount just to make sure that it will be used within that period of time. In some cases, when it comes to things that are not going to be expired, I think that’s, that’s where we can do more, because it can be used during an extended period of time and, and not being expired. Um, we don’t have to, we, we don’t have to waste things and we don’t have to spend extra money just on, uh, disposing it off. I think that’s how the GI case sector should, um, should operate. I know, it’s, it’s a very tricky area. It’s not easy. Um, I know some of the companies, they have to donate some of their, um, their items mm-hmm. <affirmative> they may not need. And, um, and you don’t have a same pick and choose, but I’m very, I’m, I’m, I’m very, uh, proud of our partnership with, with our partners, uh, when it comes to gift and kind.
Kristi Porter (01:14:50):
That’s fantastic. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. That makes complete sense. And we’ve, so one of, obviously your responsibilities is the strategic direction of international programs. We’ve certainly touched on that in a lot of different ways, but I’m curious as to what some of your challenges have been, because it’s also, there’s shiny objects and then there’s needs, and then there’s wants and all of that stuff, which you have to deal with and balance daily. So what have been some of your strategic direction challenges and how did you solve them? Or how are you solving them if you’re not there yet?
Ismail Safi (01:15:25):
Yeah, I think, I think that’s, um, that’s a great question. And uh, I I, I think it, it requires a very long discussion, but I’ll, I’ll <laugh>
Kristi Porter (01:15:35):
We can just focus on that for Yeah,
Ismail Safi (01:15:37):
Exactly. But we can, we can, I’ll be brief on that. You know, that I think most of our audience may agree that humanitarian sector is a very fluid sector and it keeps on changing. Yeah. Um, when it comes to regulations that are being imposed by countries, um, the, the, the communities and their aspect of how it can and cannot be delivered, um, we are, we live in a world where most of emergencies have become unpredictable. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> war can start anytime, like of friends dropped, uh, famines, uh, at least to mass migration, and then putting people’s life at risk. Um, and Iusa is a key stakeholder in, um, in the humanitarian sector. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, one of the thing that we have to do is we have to be agile all the time. Um, so for example, if we, if we have a strategic direction, for example, for a country where we want to focus on climate change, adaptation, mitigation, and we have a huge project, for example, six to 10 million that we want to, uh, to, to, to implement in, in a specific country, you are at the final stages of, uh, just, uh, starting up and recruiting, and then all of a sudden there’s an emergency mm-hmm.
Ismail Safi (01:16:58):
<affirmative>, for example, Pakistan. Yeah. Uh, we were in the process of, uh, implementing such a project, and then the floods happen mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and it changed everything. Okay. Now, yes, we want to, we wanted to do these development projects in these areas, but all of those areas are now flooded. What do you wanna do? So you can do that development project, you have to be agile, you have to make sure that you repurpose that funding towards emergency and even do more than that funding that you already had and raised more funds to, to respond to the emergency, to serve lives. Because now saving lives have, have become a top priority as compared to taking people out of power. Sure. So that’s why as a humanitarian organization, we have to be very, very flexible. Sometime we are sticking too much with our strategy and our focus, and okay, this is what we should be doing.
Ismail Safi (01:17:48):
And I know it’s, it’s good to stick to your strategy, but also you have to be agile and, and understand the need on the ground. So your strategic areas should change based on things changing on the ground. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> strategic area was food security, but no, people need shelter, for example, in that area. You, you, you can’t do food security because someone else took over that part, and they’re already implementing that program. So why don’t you work with that organization in co, in coordination and provide the services that are needed in those communities? So I think agility and, uh, I would say that need, uh, best driven programs are, are key to, to achieving success and results.
Kristi Porter (01:18:34):
Yeah. Great advice. And then of course, all of those programs are made up of people, and that is the other unpredictable factor. Um, hiring, recruiting, retention, mentoring, all very huge subjects. Right now, you’ve led lots of teams both at there in your office in DC and around the world. So for, as someone who mentors as well as somebody who formally has people on their team, um, I’m curious if you have any advice for just keeping teams satisfied, keeping them happy, keeping, um, people, you know, there, they’re in content and ready to push forward through the next, you know, whether it’s long term sustainability program or emergency response.
Ismail Safi (01:19:18):
That’s, uh, that’s, uh, an awesome question. I, I think to keep the, uh, teams motivated and satisfied, I think it’s really, really important that they’re empowered. Um, if you don’t empower the staff and you don’t show them the impact of the work that they do, it’s, uh, individuals get frustrated. I was, I was listening to a podcast the other day, and it really, I, I, I kept reflecting on that. It, why do some people get frustrated really easy? Because, and they said that people don’t get frus, people don’t get frustrated or burn out because they are not doing their work, or they are doing a lot of work, or they’re overwork. They get frustrated when they work and they don’t see the result of their mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I was reflecting back on that. I was like, Yeah, that’s true. It’s not the overwork. Because even if you do overwork, but you’re seeing the result, which in my case I get to travel, I get to see the impact of my work, um, and as organization, what we do.
Ismail Safi (01:20:19):
So that re-energizes me mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and it helps me stay focused. It helps me do more for those communities. But people who get frustrated mostly are the people who doesn’t, who don’t get to see the, the, the, the impact of their work. So you have to empower them. You have to, to, to let them have a say in the process, but you also have to, to, um, to show them the impact of their work. And it may be different for different people. Some people you have to take them to, to, to the field to see it for themselves. Some people you have to bring some success stories. Some people you have to show them media and videos. Some people you can do lives telecast for them. Um, some people, sometime you can bring beneficiaries, for example, to talk to your team members and tell them that how their lives change. It may be different for different people and how different people get motivated mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and, and, and they’re satisfied of their work. If that doesn’t happen, um, I think people burn out and, uh, frustration is there, uh, and it, it impacts, uh, the, the work negatively that, that, uh, what we want to achieve. So I think that’s, uh, that’s something that I’ll just put it out there.
Kristi Porter (01:21:32):
Yeah. Well, I’m also gonna have you send me that link and we’ll put that in our show notes too. Cause I’m excited to hear that episode and that’s a great point. Um, so as we wrap up, I’d like to ask you one last question, which is, what does logistics with purpose mean to you?
Ismail Safi (01:21:47):
Oh, that’s, uh, that’s an awesome question. Um, logistic with purpose, I think it says it all. There, there is a purpose behind those logistics. Yeah. It’s not, it’s not just, uh, money making. It’s, uh, it’s helping people in need. It’s, uh, providing humanitarian aid to people, uh, around the globe where it’s needed the most. It’s, uh, logistic with purposes, basically engaging humidity in organization mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and making sure that all the organizations including, uh, Victor Global Logistics coming together, um, and impacting the lives of people for better, um, and helping those humidity organization achieved their vision and mission. Um, I think, uh, without that, without those, uh, logistics, I don’t think we would’ve been able to, to, uh, to, to make donations of, uh, several, uh, containers, uh, to some of the very much needed hospitals around the globe. And without logistics and supply chain, I don’t think many of the other organizations would be able to achieve their, uh, the humanitarian mission and vision. So I think it goes hand in hand. So it’s, um, it’s a humanitarian, uh, mission to me, to be honest.
Kristi Porter (01:23:06):
That’s, Well, that’s a good answer. Thank you. This has been a wealth of information. I’ve loved every second of this. I’m so glad you and I have been talking about this for months, and I’m so glad we finally made it happen. But for everybody else who enjoyed this conversation, how can listeners connect with you and of course, support Islamic relief?
Ismail Safi (01:23:25):
Uh, thank you so much again, Christie, for giving me the opportunity. I know we have been talking about for, uh, for a very long time. And, uh, my apologies because, uh,
Kristi Porter (01:23:32):
It was worth
Ismail Safi (01:23:33):
The wait. I’ve been, I’ve been traveling and, uh, and, and a lot of what’s happening, but here we are. So thank you so much for the opportunity. Um, so if you want to, um, keep engaged, you can go to www.ir usa.org. Um, you can also sign up to become volunteers. Uh, we have a wealth of information on our programs, projects around the globe. And you can, um, you can engage, uh, by, by, by, by contributing your time, volunteering, you can donate to any causes that are dear and near to your heart. Um, but you can find everything on a website.
Kristi Porter (01:24:12):
Mm, perfect. Um, and what are some of your current needs and emergencies that you’re responding to?
Ismail Safi (01:24:20):
So currently we, we are responding to, uh, emergency in Pakistan because of, it’s been millions of people who have been affected by, by the floods and people who have been displaced as, or have been in in hundred thousands. Um, and a lot of people have died. So that’s one of the emergency that we are
Kristi Porter (01:24:39):
Currently, which is largely out of the news too. So thank you for bringing that back up.
Ismail Safi (01:24:43):
Exactly. Yeah. That’s what happens when, whenever there is an emergency, uh, it’s in the news and people contribute, but then when the emergency fades away from the news, people forget about it. And, and that’s when, that’s where Islamic relief, uh, stays on the ground to provide, um, to be engaged in the recovery efforts and also doing long term development programming. So that’s one of the emergencies that we are still responding to. Provision of shelters, food items, and, um, other most needed items in, in to, to, to those in need. We are also, uh, looking into expanding our programs to other areas where we haven’t been able to respond. Um, droughts, uh, in, uh, the Horn of Africa, I think that’s another area which is not in the news. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and it has not been reflected upon anywhere. I think Ethiopia, we know the, the, the situation of war and people displaced over there as well.
Ismail Safi (01:25:35):
Kenya droughts, um, Somalia, um, official famine has not been declared, um, but it is famine like situation and humidity. And expert says that the defaming is there, but it’s not being, um, uh, it’s, it’s not being declared because of the, um, because of, uh, some of the reasons maybe political or any other issues that are happening. Um, same with Sudan and South Sudan. Um, so those, that’s where droughts happening and, and people are in need of volunteering assistance. Um, you, Afghanistan mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, we know that the harsh winters are coming up and, uh, we, we will have to step up to make sure that the it, it’s going to impact mostly children in, uh, elderly. Um, so we have to work there as well. And we are still responding to emergency over there. Um, we funded a project in Ukraine, um, uh, and, and, and, and that’s another emergency that we’re responding to. But overall, what, whenever an emergency hits, if we don’t have, if we don’t have presence as Islamic relief, we work through partners and make sure that, that we respond to that emergency and, and we help people in need.
Kristi Porter (01:26:44):
Amazing. And you help in a big way. Please thank your team for all the great work that they’re doing. Um, this is really incredible. Thank you for just giving such great advice and your time, cuz I know it’s valuable and I’m glad to catch you at the office <laugh> a little bit before you get on the next plane. So thank you so much for being here. Thank you for everybody who’s been listening in. Um, I know you’ll have a lot to take away from this, so we look forward to continuing conversations in the future on logistics with purpose. So thanks so much for your time everyone. Byebye.
Ismail Safi is the Assistant Director of international programs with Islamic Relief USA. He is managing a portfolio of more than $200 million in 34 countries around the world. He joined IRUSA in 2016. Prior to starting work with IRUSA, Safi worked on USAID and World Bank-funded projects. His early professional experience focused on human rights issues, which led to his working in the sector of peace and stability for a few years. He holds a master’s in Humanitarian and Human Rights law, an MBA, and a master’s in international development. He has worked in the humanitarian and development sector for 12 years. Connect with Ismail on LinkedIn.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level.
Joshua is a student from Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey Campus Guadalajara in Communication and Digital Media. His experience ranges from Plug and Play México, DearDoc, and Nissan México creating unique social media marketing campaigns and graphics design. Joshua helps to amplify the voice of supply chain here at Supply Chain Now by assisting in graphic design, content creation, asset logistics, and more. In his free time he likes to read and write short stories as well as watch movies and television series.
Director of Communications and Executive Producer
Donna Krache is a former CNN executive producer who has won several awards in journalism and communication, including three Peabodys. She has 30 years’ experience in broadcast and digital journalism. She led the first production team at CNN to convert its show to a digital platform. She has authored many articles for CNN and other media outlets. She taught digital journalism at Georgia State University and Arizona State University. Krache holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is a serious sports fan who loves the Braves. She is president of the Dave Krache Foundation. Named in honor of her late husband, this non-profit pays fees for kids who want to play sports but whose parents are facing economic challenges.
Vicki has a long history of rising to challenges and keeping things up and running. First, she supported her family’s multi-million dollar business as controller for 12 years, beginning at the age of 17. Then, she worked as an office manager and controller for a wholesale food broker. But her biggest feat? Serving as the chief executive officer of her household, while her entrepreneur husband travelled the world extensively. She fed, nurtured, chaperoned, and chauffeured three daughters all while running a newsletter publishing business and remaining active in her community as a Stephen’s Minister, Sunday school teacher, school volunteer, licensed realtor and POA Board president (a title she holds to this day). A force to be reckoned with in the office, you might think twice before you meet Vicki on the tennis court! When she’s not keeping the books balanced at Supply Chain Now or playing tennis matches, you can find Vicki spending time with her husband Greg, her 4 fur babies, gardening, cleaning (yes, she loves to clean!) and learning new things.
Founder, CEO, & Host
As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.
From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.
She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.
Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain Now and TECHquila Sunrise
When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.
Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.
Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring
Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.
Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.
Host of TEKTOK
If there’s one Supply Chain ‘Pro to Know,’ it’s Karin. She’s earned the title for three years and counting – culminating in her designation as the “2020 Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year.” Karin is also an award-winning digital supply chain, business strategy and technology marketing executive. A sought-after speaker at industry conferences, you will find her quoted in a variety of supply chain publications – and active in forums like ASCM/APICS and CSCMP.
With more than 25 years of supply chain experience, Karin spearheaded strategy and marketing for Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader and IDC MarketScape Leader, Logility. Karin has the heart of a teacher and has helped nearly 1,000 customers transform their businesses and tell their success stories. Today, she is a sought-after advisor helping high-growth B2B technology companies with everything from defining their unique value propositions to introducing new products and capturing customer success. No matter their goals, she makes sure her clients have actionable marketing strategies that help grow global revenue, market share and profitability.
Host of Digital Transformers
Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog. He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community. Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix and IBM. Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane University, O’Reilly Media, LinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight. Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems Engineering, Carrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.
Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español
Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.
He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.
Host, Veteran Voices
Mary Kate Soliva is a veteran of the US Army and cofounder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.
Jeff Miller is the host of Supply Chain Now’s Supply Chain is the Business. Jeff is a digital business transformation and supply chain advisor with deep expertise in Industry 4.0, ERP, PLM, SCM, IoT, AR and related technologies. Through more than 25 years of industry and consulting experience, he has worked with many of the world’s leading product and service companies to achieve their strategic business and supply chain goals, creating durable business value for organizations at the forefront of technology and business practices. Jeff is the managing director for North America at Transition Technologies PSC, a global solution integrator, and the founder and managing principal of BTV Advisors, a firm that helps companies secure business transformation value from digital supply chain technologies and their breakthrough capabilities.
Chief Marketing Officer
Amanda is a marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2016, Amanda founded and grew the Magnolia Marketing Group into a successful digital media firm, and now she develops modern marketing strategies, social campaigns, innovative operational processes, and implements creative content initiatives for Supply Chain Now. But that’s just the beginning of her supply chain impact. Amanda also served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah for several years, and is the face behind the scenes welcoming you to every Supply Chain Now livestream! She was also recently selected as one of the Top 100 Women in Supply Chain by Supply Chain Digest and IBM. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now marketing team, you can find Amanda with her and her husband Scott’s three kids, in the kitchen cooking, or reading.
Business Development Manager
Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.
Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.
An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.
A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.
A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning. He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.
Social Media Manager
My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.
Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.
Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.
Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.
Sales and Marketing Coordinator
Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.
Ben Harris is the Director of Supply Chain Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ben comes to the Metro Atlanta Chamber after serving as Senior Manager, Market Development for Manhattan Associates. There, Ben was responsible for developing Manhattan’s sales pipeline and overall Americas supply chain marketing strategy. Ben oversaw market positioning, messaging and campaign execution to build awareness and drive new pipeline growth. Prior to joining Manhattan, Ben spent four years with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics where he played a key role in establishing the Center as a go-to industry resource for information, support, partnership building, and investment development. Additionally, he became a key SME for all logistics and supply chain-focused projects. Ben began his career at Page International, Inc. where he drove continuous improvement in complex global supply chain operations for a wide variety of businesses and Fortune 500 companies. An APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), Ben holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) and bachelor’s degree in International Business (BBA) from the Terry College at the University of Georgia.
Host, The Freight Insider
Prior to joining TeamOne Logistics, Page Siplon served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the State’s leading consulting resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness. For over a decade, he directly assisted hundreds of companies to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities related to the movement of freight. During this time, Siplon was also appointed to concurrently serve the State of Georgia as Director of the larger Centers of Innovation Program, in which he provided executive leadership and vision for all six strategic industry-focused Centers. As a frequently requested keynote speaker, Siplon is called upon to address a range of audiences on unique aspects of technology, workforce, and logistics. This often includes topics of global and domestic logistics trends, supply chain visibility, collaboration, and strategic planning. He has also been quoted as an industry expert in publications such as Forbes, Journal of Commerce, Fortune, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, American Express, DC Velocity, Area Development Magazine, Site Selection Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Modern Material Handling, and is frequently a live special guest on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Radio Show. Siplon is an active industry participant, recognized by DC Velocity Magazine as a “2012 Logistics Rainmaker” which annually identifies the top-ten logistics professionals in the Nation; and named a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Executive Magazine in 2014. Siplon was also selected by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He also serves various industry leadership roles at both the State and Federal level. Governor Nathan Deal nominated Siplon to represent Georgia on a National Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee, where he was appointed to a two-year term by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was then appointed to serve as its vice-chairman. At the State level, he was selected by then-Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as lead consultant on the Commission for New Georgia’s Freight and Logistics Task Force. In this effort, Siplon led a Private Sector Advisory Committee with invited executives from a range of private sector stakeholders including UPS, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Siplon honorably served a combined 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. During this time, he led the integration of encryption techniques and deployed cryptographic devices for tactically secure voice and data platforms in critical ground-to-air communication systems. This service included support for all branches of the Department of Defense, multiple federal security agencies, and aiding NASA with multiple Space Shuttle launches. Originally from New York, Siplon received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on digital signal processing from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned an associate’s degree in advanced electronic systems from the Air Force College and completed multiple military leadership academies in both the Marines and Air Force. Siplon currently lives in Cumming, Georgia (north of Atlanta), with his wife Jan, and two children Thomas (19) and Lily (15).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics. He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.
Host, Supply Chain Now
The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.
He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.
A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.
Sales Support Intern
Alex is pursuing a Marketing degree and a Certificate in Legal Studies at the University of Georgia. As a dual citizen of both the US and UK; Alex has studied abroad at University College London and is passionate about travel and international business. Through her coursework at the Terry College of Business, Alex has gained valuable skills in digital marketing, analytics, and professional selling. She joined Supply Chain Now as a Sales Support Intern where she assists the team by prospecting and qualifying new business partners.