Season 1, Episode 20

Building bridges not walls


Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Nada Dalgamouni


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Today’s Guest

In today’s episode I am speaking with Nada Dalgamouni.

Nada Dalgamouni is originally from Jordan.

Nada was the Global Education Director at the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit . IIMD has been serving our global community in Southeastern Michigan since 1919 in the areas of immigration, social services and education.
As the global education director, her job was to open doors to the world cultures through implementing ” Ethnic Enrichment Experience” (EEE) programs. EEE are global Learning & cultural awareness programs designed to expand the knowledge of audiences of all ages to world’s cultures and widen their views of the world we share.

She is also the Founder and Executive Producer of Children helping Children, that have been producing a multimedia & multicultural documentary featuring talented and gifted children representing the World in America since 1991. They showcase their cultural performances in special events/concerts to support organizations that helps the less fortunate.

Nada Dalgamouni is also a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for developing educational program focused in building bridges of harmony, unity, peace,understanding in the global community.


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If you have a comment or question please reach out to me at or on Instagram @gladiatrixpodcast

Nada Dalgomouni 0:02

Hi, Nada, thank you so much for joining the show. I'm really, really excited to talk to you and share with the world your story, because I know there are lots and lots of people who are just waiting to hear all about you.

And how sweet you are Malini. I have been knowing you since I came from Hawaii to Michigan, and Firstly, we start with thank you for this so wonderful opportunity. Oh, you're very welcome. You're very welcome. But there's my voice who has a very good accent. And second have you know a vocal problem, but I am getting over it with the age. And here I am I speaking a language. It wasn't my language, but I try my best.

Oh, no, I think I think everything that you have to say would be very clearly welcomed by everybody. So you were born in Jordan, were you born in Jordan? Yes, I did. Okay, so you were born in Jordan, and then you came and now Michigan is your home? Right? Yes, yeah. And you have degrees in education, and you have an in business. So So tell us tell me a little bit more about how that journey began?

Unknown Speaker 1:23

Well, actually, I was very ambitious to get my higher education. You know, I was a physical education teacher for girls high school, in Jordan. And I work to receive me and my ex husband, you know, opportunity to come to the scholarship to the United States and continue our education. But, you know, I was supposed to be going back to teach in the university, physical education. And I was like, 33 years old. I said, No, I really don't want to spend the rest of my life in the gym. But I want to stay connected as an educator, how I could be in a classroom, and it is not in a address with the school. But the idea came to me later days. But what I did, I came I have my English second language course. I moved to Hawaii and I you know, my marriage broke. I stayed with my brother because Middle Eastern woman didn't live alone. And in Hawaii, I did my best. And I came back to Michigan and I have an associate degree in business administration and another one in general education. Just as I am learning English, I don't go in either direction. And here I am. 74 years old, and the still feel every single day. I am a global learning I cultural awareness instructor.

Malini Sarma 3:37

It's awesome to have so how many years have you been in Michigan now? 30 years, three

Nada Dalgomouni 3:41

years now? Yes. as being in 1991? Yes. Okay. We are in 2000. I mean,

between 2020 Yes. That's a long times. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. almost almost 30 years. That's awesome. And you and you sound like you said you love children. And being in Jordan and you saw the effect of war on children, the Middle East. And that really, really,


Unknown Speaker 4:13

That affecting of children didn't come from from there. I can, yeah, I all my life. I was educator in the classroom. And I made sure that the children is learning about love and peace and working together to string their power as generation to come. But in 1982 that Intifada happened in Palestine and I just couldn't possibly watch you know, those very well equipped, by will look like a very modern killer. killing children. And I, I quit overnight is some thing running in my head like stop the slaughter of children. You cannot achieve political point over children's bodies. That's not right. Mm hmm. And with that I establish their children helping children. There's another fact that got me to that point. It was a Chinese University students in with the squares stop and a front of the tank for

Malini Sarma 5:44

Tiananmen Square. Yes.

Unknown Speaker 5:47

And at that time, we don't have internet, we don't have your computer at home. We hardly have. But I saw the, the picture as it transferred from Peking to CNN in Atlanta. And when I saw that picture, I saw it in Hawaii, I said, aha, you know, my grandfather, who live to be 113 years old, told me once upon a time, about the radio, and he bought it as a gift to everybody in town. He said, One day you go to see the guy, it's, you know, who speak now. In the radio. And that idea stuck in my head. And when the combination of children struggling, picture transferred, of, you know, all over the world. The idea just fly on my head, children helping children, how am I going to do that? I focused in doing a multimedia multi cultural background that focused on the need of children. By giving gifted and talented children a chance to express their artistic ability no matter what they do. They can read poetry, they calculate instrument, they can get a joke, whatever, they think that they can center the stage with it and tell their audience, look at me watch me with confidence. I would go to give that child that opportunity. And that's exactly what I did until today.

Nada Dalgomouni 7:37

That's what that's really awesome. So now, did you start children helping children when you were at the International Institute of Metro Detroit, always that

Actually, no, actually the idea born when I was in Hawaii, when I say you're not living the the suffering of the Palestinian children. I decide I am going to go to Michigan. Because first of all, my brother who I mentioned in the beginning, he was a physician and how in Germany, and he came to do his fellowship in America. And at the city here was accepted. And it's Detroit with Wayne State University, which is now DMC or so I've been in the hospital is DMC. And I came to visit him. And I met a lot of Arabic, you know, Michigan is the largest population of Arabs in America. And I felt I will like you, you know, you have the Indian community and you'll get to mostly your social life through them. And that's what I did. I took a contract with Detroit Public School.

Yeah, that's exactly what happened. I you know, I came in, I took a contract to Detroit Public School, allow me to visit like 184 different school in Detroit. And that's another factor. Factor where I found that children is not reaching the proper education. It's not just the Detroit public school. It's also in Hawaii. And Hawaii, I couldn't put it's not I know how educated for instance, the young people from India, what they know about the world we share, unfortunately, and it's not something to put down the American system, but our education in America fit in the 25th level

of the world of 196

that tells you that there is a gap in education here and some teacher has to switch or shift their attention from just the concentrate on being a teacher for science, or biology or history or language, or athletics, we have to teach the children to help each other in order to survive in the only planet we have suitable for life. As that is very much for getting curriculums. And I here I am, I'm trying to bring it to through the school system as peace education, global learning, cultural awareness, because if we didn't do that, and the world is connected the way it is today, and we are living in an ever changing world, every second, every minute. With that, we have to create a new level of education. Right. That's where I went. And I hope I hope I am succeeding.

Unknown Speaker 12:03


Nada Dalgomouni 12:04

so say that you were you had started children helping children and you were in the Detroit Public Schools. So when did you join the International Institute?

In 1991, okay, so that when I related to, okay, yeah, 1992, I took a at all code of valid T of shift. To find out I I went to the United Way, and I told them, I want to establish this program after school, where I helped the children to think globally and act locally. I give them an opportunity to spend a quality time but learning about each other culture. And I start with the principle of Detroit, I had in Southfield High School, Keith Wilson. He turned around and he gives me the key for the school. And he said to me, anytime you want to use the school, it's yours. I have the permission for you to do that. And I stopped and Sudha aunty was one of my very first supporters. She came with her daughters. And you know, we start with the Indian children. And then we have Scottish, we have Irish, we have Polish, we have Filipino and they start coming in and what I came to the Institute, it was 13 European groups there. There is India with Sudha Aunty. There is a Philippine with Mr. And Mrs. Akampo And there is China with Mr. Wang and his father. And that's it. There is no African American no Middle Eastern, no, Polynesian none. And here I am in the centennial of the International Institute have reached the number 101 like thousand a night and one night.

Wow. That's amazing. That's really cool. Because as long as I've known you, I've always known associated you with the International Institute of Metro Detroit. We've always come to you know, Noel Night and we've come for programs and we've danced the Southfield Civic Center, and they loved I think the kids we love We love coming there and meeting all the people and doing all the other dances. We've had so much fun with so much

I have y'all know that people said Like, you're not you're 74 I went to plan to retire or something. I said, doing what? I have the joy of my life. I have the best time. Yes. And F. I am one of the very fortunate people in the world to live the life I am living. Mm hmm. Why do you want me to sit home and roll my thumb?

Yeah, yeah, no, I know, I agree, you got a lot of things to do. So, you as far as I've known you, you have been the heart and soul of the International Institute of Metro Detroit, almost 30 years. What would you say? Or maybe you've already told me that, but what would you say was your biggest achievement and your biggest struggle as a director?

Oh, well, they are too many, but I am so fortunate that the

you know, the equality

will have I have higher number and achievement than the number of the disappointed or the disagreement?

I would say, you know,

start there with that from 16 to 101. You know, hundred and one that for me and achievement.

So you have 101 represented at the International Institute of metro Detroit.

Yes, I do at this time. Yes. Okay. Okay, let's start with 16. Yeah. Then I developed I developed programs, you know, the International Institute. before me, I was Volunteer coming, you know, had I, I couldn't believe that, you know, while walking at the ethnic that time they call it the ethnic enrichment, education programs. They are not a department. I change it to be global education department at IIMD. And they used to have Noel night Noel night is over 96 years from 100. Right? At the start. Stop, start with a purpose. You know, they in 1929 it's become a depression in America and people have hard time like now, which make a lot of ethnic community coming together to do like old marketplace. Okay, which is like in that in October. And then around the holidays, they would have a Christmas for the one night. When I come when I came, I said no, we have to do it all year around celebration. We have to celebrate the Chinese New Year. We have to celebrate the birth of Krishna, we have to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we have to celebrate St. Patrick. And I start creating that connection and giving each of the community a chance to feature their beautiful civilization. Which is important elements of our society as an American, because we are as simple as I could put it. We are a nation of nationalities. We are a country of all the work put together.

Unknown Speaker 18:59


Nada Dalgomouni 19:00

Yes. Why we don't celebrate it. Why we have it? Why you have to have it a conflict. Yeah, that's how that this advantage of course, you know, I really didn't have this too much to say but last year. It's the celebration of the centennial.

Okay, so it's been 100 years,

and 100 years and April 24th I send to all my friends from different ethnic community. I don't call them liaisons, I call them cultural ambassadors, like Sudha aunty and I asked them to be that contact between the institute and their community, which has been happening in the most beautiful, healthier way with the Indian community. Okay, and the Chinese as well as the Polish, you know, the Lebanese we have good connection. Yes. Now that this advantage, when I sent that email, I asked everybody, if they would like to be part of the hundred year celebration, the centennial. And to come forward, and let's storm our brain and work it, you know, work it out, where we show the beauty of America as a rainbow. You know, as a fruit salad as my friends have set? Whatever we want to present it, we have to give fa fa nobody arrived to this country with just their suit case. Nobody. They come with a civilization. And it's in display? And why not? Yes. And I faced a tremendous amount of discrimination. Because you know, that Centennial, they would just they want to throw me out. They don't want me to present the institute in any way or shape. And its politics. Of course. Of course it is.

You have not but you have not let that stop you. Because now you have a new project, right?

I have hundreds of great the project going all over the world I am not worry about. You'll see that the grandfather, I told you his story in the beginning. He taught me a lesson. He said the barking of the dogs never stop caravans. Say that again.

The barking of the dogs

never stop. caravans. The barking of the dogs will never stop the caravans Yes, yes.

Yeah, the dogs, it might be just indication that they are very close to another civilization, another town, right when they are with the caravan. Or if they are in that city somewhere. They are welcoming caravan. But we might start, you know, this interpreted as it is today. Now, with the way we are living. It's like who come first? And we'll say Who? You know who's going to be in second? It's not that way. Right? Right. America is not who compares and we all guests into the Native Americans that way. Okay. Do we are welcome in their territorial world, right. But we are in the first place they believe and we have to believe to this world we battle. It's not ours, right? We come and we go, yes, we don't take it with us. But what we have, we have a responsibility, your borrow something, you will return it back in better condition and say something extra on top of it. You don't destroy it and give it to them hundred pieces, which we are doing today and Covid19 and the fire in the West and the flood in the east. All that is a translation to what I'm saying. Right. Right.

So now you're working on you were talking about World in America. Do you want to say let's talk a little bit about more about that project? Because I know that's very, very dear to you.

Yeah, when I start facing that negativities you know, that disadvantage. And it's all built in the race and the, you know, the age and the it's all built on that. And when I you know, I couldn't look them in the eyes anymore, because I don't see the eyes have any connection? Mm hmm. Okay. I decide, you know, why I waste my life? My time. Okay. And I adjust the world in America. And I was planning to have one of the abandoned beautiful schools in Detroit. Okay. Code School. I was a technical, technical and industrial school, but they didn't have enough students to attend in Detroit. And they abandoned a building which is 265,000 square feet, okay, and they selling the beautiful property. And I said, I will buy it even if I had to have to sell my house. doing that, I went to establish the World in America and its headquarter call it the international district ID. Id is a multicultural center at a marketplace to showcase the beautiful of the people in America where they come from their culture, I want to build on it IMAX theater, I went to the cafeteria, and all the plan is put together and we start getting a membership. People have to buy a membership to invest in this place and gain money, much more than the savings account in their bank or put in The Wall Street where they will lose it overnight. Even if it's general motors

Unknown Speaker 26:23


Nada Dalgomouni 26:25

at least they can walk into the international district and look over the books. And say, all great I will be able to take extra trip to Disney with my my children because I made money as you know group. And that's was my plan. But covid stopped everything. We just have to wait now until

Malini Sarma 26:53

you know and things start to open up before you can proceed.

Nada Dalgomouni 26:57


But you do have a website and you have people working on it already. You're just kind of waiting. Yes. Finally.

Yes. www the

Okay, I'll make sure I put those in the show notes. So the other really exciting thing is that you have been nominated not once but twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. That's amazing.

Oh, wow. I am flushing you nodding

so proud of you. But but but tell me tell me how would that you know the winning the Nobel Peace Prize? I know there's some prize money but then the connection or

how it's about how it's coming? Yes. Yeah. Remember? Yeah. When I told you I came from Hawaii and I really want to do like an after school children helping children internationally club softer, and they give me Southfield High School, you know, the principal.

And I

the Detroit art festival was canceled. Okay. And the city of Southfield asked me to come bring the international Old world market to the pavilion of the South

City, municipal.

We did that. Because Detroit no longer have art festivals that add to my connection. Now, one day, they invited me to the city hall to watch a documentary about a proposal that they submitted to an award of some kind of awarding money. I don't know how much it is, but I hear it's $270,000 I don't know if that is okay. they've did not shared with me the books. But if you ever remember you know the parade we do and the children presentation and all that stuff.

Unknown Speaker 29:27


Nada Dalgomouni 29:29

From my own personal pocket. I go and buy them pizza and buy them apple and orange drinks and I get the kids to have a good time. And they do the entertainers and nothing Okay, no money it just pocketed the from the sponsors to the city. And the guy who was in charge of the community relations is a friend of mine, but he happened to be Jewish from Israel. Okay, and he just didn't like my political view. I said, I don't care. We have republic and democratic. And we have Israeli and Arab. We have Indian and Pakistanis. We have them all. I'm not going to get that as a wall between me and you. But I said to him, you know, you have you guys have to share that money with the Institute. Because you are kind of using us. I mean, you can put that in the record or you can take it okay. But that's what happened. And I told them, I'm no longer going to do it in Southfield. As a matter of fact, I did it in Troy. I did it in Novi. Yeah, no, I did it. in Romulus, Allen Park. I am not limited to the Southfield. Right. Okay. They come with the idea that I really deserve to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. That is awesome.

Unknown Speaker 31:21

It's really cool.

Nada Dalgomouni 31:22

They come with it. And I just don't know, when they nominate me, 2016 and 2018. Okay, I know they really want to say thank you in a very nice way. And for me, that's more important than the money. Really?

Yes, no, I agree. In this day, in today's day and age, I think forming an alliance and helping everybody is is is what everybody needs, honestly.


Now, so you know, you've worked with people from all over the world, you know, you've seen so many. I mean, I know some of the work that you've done. And you know, a lot of I know a lot of people, especially when the immigrants when they come in to Detroit, that's one place to turn to is because there's so many programs to help them with the language, filling up paper work, you know, how to get your documents and everything. So you've done so much. So you have a vision of how you want to see things and how people need to be influenced. So tell me more about that.

Well, you know,

when Trump said, I go to build a wall and a beautiful wall, it's going to be a beautiful wall. I tweeted him back, and he blocked me. Okay. And when I tweet them, I didn't say you did you know, this is not like to do whatever I said to him. He was campaigning for the election. That's 2000 maybe 15? I mean, 2015. I told him, why didn't you just think a little bit differently? And instead of bragging about a wall which the wall no matter what it's a wall, the wall in the prison The one in the gate? The zoo, your belt while you didn't want to stop water? flooding, but today, there is no such it's useful waii. But it's not the beautiful. Why don't you think of building bridges? bridges of harmony, unity, peace and understanding that is my vision. That's how I think I'd suggest for him to build the bridges, okay. And he blocked me.

Malini Sarma 33:51

He doesn't want to hear any positive things.

Nada Dalgomouni 33:55

He didn't want to have a Hey, give me that Phantom, either, who was was 12 years old when she stopped. You're saying the house on fire, but nobody's listening? No.

It's his loss. But I'm looking back at your journey you've had so far, you know, knowing all that, you know, now. What would you have told you younger self? Or is there anything you would have changed about yourself?

well I don't want one day list. And I don't want to take anything I did in my life out of the quotation. Even the bad things that happened. I use them to say to myself, I learned a lesson. I know who I can trust and who I can't trust and that all the people as they look like people they have eyes and nose and teeth and smiles, okay. But really, it's not every human is a human. There is evils and there is angels and I believe in those, and I feel like for evil to trumph is for good people to sit and do nothing, no matter how much you succeed and how much you fail and how miserably you could possibly fail. But to still you did something, I don't want to change anything.

That's awesome. To you are basically a product of all your experiences. Sorry, you are a You are a product of all your experiences, everything you are today, because of everything that has happened to you in the past.

Absolutely. I couldn't possibly, and I live my life to the most. And I make it full, full life with full joy. I have, of course, I have a lot of moment that I am so sad, and I am disappointed. I'm sometimes or I am I wish it goes the other way. But you know, I am a strong believer in the power of what we all agree to name God doesn't matter what name it is. But follow the G or D. It's a power. It can be the wind and the sun and breeze and everything in between. But that power is telling us how to live our life after we see ourselves in where we are.

Mm hmm. Yep, yep. Yep. So you want to be? Yep. If you have lived a very full life, you've, you know, you've traveled from Middle East, you've come to America, you learned a new language you taught in the schools, you got yourself degrees, not one but multiple degrees. You know, you have been such a in the community, you've been such a driving force. I mean, I know anybody who talks about, you know, different cultures and ambassadors of different cultures, you always think of you. You've lived a fascinating life. And you've been nominated twice for the, you know, with the Peace Prize, the Nobel Peace Prize. So to the young people of today, what, what would you What message would you want to tell them? Based on everything that you've learned so far? and looking forward into the future? What advice would you want to give to the young people of today,

I would say to them, life is a great lesson. It will teach you the positives and the negatives. And the only way you're going to survive the slide is to team with others. Okay? Maybe sometimes for just a moment, at the firm, that moment you go to learn something new and different. But life is a time to take advantage of that time and live it to the most. And don't wait for everything to come to you. Go and get it. There is nothing called impossible as Napoleon Bonaparte said, impossible. It just a vocabulary in the dictionary of fools.

Okay, I think that's awesome. Yeah, nothing is impossible. I am possible.

Absolutely. And if you feel more meant to sit down, you're just remember what Obama said? Yes, you can. Go ahead, move. Yes. Jesse. Can I make time? There is people who would say there is no time you know? I have sorry. No. The time is the moment. There is time for God. There's time for your children. There's time for yourself. There is time for just to sit in the dark and do nothing and pretend you are dead. Okay, but there is always time. Use it wisely. And that's what I tell everybody. That is add. Yeah. And peace keep peace. This is the most important element in life. like water, like love, peace. When we learn how to live with each other in peace and harmony, there is nothing impossible.

Unknown Speaker 40:14

That is very true.

Nada Dalgomouni 40:18

Thank you, Nada. This is amazing. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing you with the world. Thank you for everything that you've done. I don't know. I am so honored and I am so blessed to know somebody just like you. You're absolutely amazing. Thank you.

Thank you, sir, for the opportunity and in all languages, I think Shukriya is one of them. I yes. Yes. You guys. Whatever words I know you have in India many several languages. Yes. What?

What whatever words you use for different languages.

Great. similarity in Arabic. I don't know how they get to sound the same. But then I Arabic Say shukran shukran. Yes, that's right. God Bless you, thank you for the opportunity

Thank you so much. We will be seeing each other after the Corona.

Yes, yes. After we will definitely see each other. Thank you.

Transcribed by

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Malini Sarma

Malini Sarma

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Hello. I am Malini. I am a dancer, world traveler and storyteller. I am a hard core fan of chai and anything hot. I am always looking for new adventures and would rather be outside than inside.

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