Creating community, tolerance and peace
As CEO and president of Delegata, a consulting and systems integration firm, and as a leader in local community service initiatives and organizations, Kais Menoufy leads an inspiringly complex life. But Menoufy lives by a simple, powerful ethos: that the creation of community will lead to a peaceful, tolerant tomorrow.
And his philosophy can be highlighted through faith.
“Religion should bring people together, not divide people. We are not different. We are the same,” he said.
Pained by the events of September 11, 2001, Menoufy founded Youth for a Better Understanding (YBU). He hoped to unite inter-faith youths, who would learn from one another’s diverse cultural, spiritual and economic backgrounds. He hoped to create a tolerant environment that would produce young leaders who benefit their communities through service.
Today, YBU empowers its 13 to 21-year-old participants with a “for youth by youth” approach. The group’s young members conceptualize the events and services they will provide for the community. In this way, YBU has touched the lives of over 50 youths. Many have received scholarships from the organization.
Though Menoufy’s numerous community service initiatives don’t all involve faith, it is not hard to track his personal inspiration for the ones that do.
“My father was a Muslim leader, but he put me in a Christian school,” said Menoufy. “As a child, I followed the Islamic practice, yet I went to church in school. I did the same with my children. I put them in Episcopal, Catholic and Jesuit schools. All of their education was Christian but we practiced Islam.”
Raised to respect all faiths, Menoufy does not agree with the religious intolerance he has observed as an adult.
“The love message is in the Bible, it’s in the Torah, it’s in the Quran, it’s everywhere,” said Menoufy. “But we don’t teach that enough. So I’m on a mission to build those bridges, and to see the beauty in each other. ”
His Building Bridges initiative recently led him to the Middle East with the UC Davis Delegation. They signed six agreements for collaboration with representatives of agriculture, academia, technology and business in the Middle East.
Through Building Bridges, UC Davis students will enjoy an academic exchange with Nile University in Egypt. The state of the art Library of Alexandria in Egypt will share resources with UC Davis’ library. The Research Center for Agriculture and Technology in Egypt will exchange research, information and projects with UC Davis. And several other informational exchanges will take place.
“As a step toward peace, in my mind, we join people together and find interest in a topic. We learn more about each other and our values and our principles in life,” said Menoufy.
In 2006, Building Bridges helped create a student exchange program between University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and the American University in Cairo, Egypt.
“I can’t say enough positive things about him,” said Pacific McGeorge Dean, Elizabeth Parker. “I have a background doing civil rights back to the ‘60s, and I’ve certainly rubbed soulders with a lot of people who are selfless as leaders and contributors to the emotional, intellectual and social life of the community. But he has to be in that very top group.”
Building Bridges also partnered with community businesses and invidivuals to present the first Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival.
In addition to Building Bridges, Menoufy created Closing the Gap. The latter initiative seeks “to help those who cannot achieve some of their dreams because of their financial or social limitations,” said Menoufy. Closing the Gap provided 25 students with college scholarships, and equipped 10 local students with tutored preparation for their SAT exams. Some of these students will be in the audience at A Call for Unity.
When asked what motivates him to do good in his community, Menoufy will not tell you a sob story.
“I can’t sit down and say, ‘because I was poor’ and ‘because I didn’t get a chance at life.’ I was average. I think of other people a lot more than I think of myself. I have a gift that God gave me and I need to share that,” he said.
And Menoufy is grateful for that gift.
“I’m in constant communication with [God], thanking him every second for what I experience. I don’t believe I can do anything without God,” he said.