In 2009, a 14-year-old girl living in a remote village in Lebanon approached Zeina and began showing her sketches of dresses she had drawn. Her designs really impressed Zeina, and made her realize the hidden talents that exist in even the most marginalized youth. This encounter inspired her to start The Nawaya Network, with the aim to connect underprivileged youth to resources to help them develop their true potential.


We aim to discover the hidden potential in disadvantaged youth, connect them to resources that would help them develop their skills, and ultimately empower them to shape their future.


To create an interconnected global community committed to the development and empowerment of marginalized youth around the world.


Zeina Saab

Founder & Director

As a Lebanese-American, Zeina's childhood was spent between the US and Lebanon. Her passion for international development set in during her university studies at UC San Diego and MIT, and she became eager to pursue a profession related to social impact work. While she values her past experiences with the UN, USAID, and the EU, she found her true calling with Nawaya, and has never been happier. Zeina has two strange conditions: She sees letters, numbers, and months in color (synesthesia), and sneezes when she looks at the sun (photic sneeze reflex).

Sarah Shmaitilly

Training Program Manager

Sarah manages the training program at Nawaya. She started as an intern in 2012, café-hopping for meetings for a year, until Nawaya finally had an office in 2013. That’s when Sarah graduated and got her full-time job as a program coordinator. She studied psychology and political science at Haigazian University, and did two semesters abroad in Temple University and the University of Vienna. She co-founded a grassroots journalism website, Beirut Syndrome, and helped start a national book drive, Books for Lebanon. She loves coffee, traveling, photography, and very spicy food!

Celine Akkary

Social Media & Marketing Specialist

Celine majored in Hospitality Management at the Lebanese University and has over 12 years work experience in Marketing Management in Beirut and Dubai, working with top tier Hollywood studios, the likes of 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros Pictures, MGM, and Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures. Celine is a go giver and believes that differences in opinion make for a more dynamic and effective work environment. Celine loves travel, weight lifting, yoga, good food, books and arts.

Rayan El Hajj Ali

Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist

Rayan majored in Business Administration, and has worked for five years with Developmental Action without Boarders – NABAA NGO’s as a community worker, administrative assistant, project coordinator, and field officer. Her passions are travel, socializing, and dancing! Fun fact about Rayan: if she’s been dreaming a sweet dream while asleep, she gladly imagines the story ending while awake.

Sara Abou Khadra

Social Worker

Sara studied Mass Communication at the Beirut Arab University. She has worked at several international and local NGOs in Lebanon as a social worker. Sara dreams about working in poor areas in Africa and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Hanin Sandeed

Social Worker

Hanin studied graphic design, yet she has spent the last few years working with a number of NGOs in Lebanon. Her work has focused on offering support to vulnerable Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian youth. She has been an outreach worker, animator, facilitator, trainer, psychosocial supporter, and even an aid distribution worker in Syria. Her life motto is "live and let live." Always optimistic, Hanin loves travel, listening to music, and reading novels.

Hala Al Aqraa

Social Worker

Hala has majored in TESEL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and has worked as a social worker, psycho-social supporter at NGOs across Lebanon. Hala works out regularly and reads classical novels. Hala is a Palestinian refugee born in Lebanon and believes in being a positive point of change in people’s lives.

Bilal Ghalib

Innovation Consultant & Facilitator

Bilal Ghalib is an entrepreneur, activist and maker. For seven years he's been helping establish collaborative making spaces in America and the Middle East. He's curious about how DIY and grassroots development can create opportunities for refugee communities. He'd love to chat with you about what is a good life, community, economy and making.