A Weekend Spent Building A Lifelong Community: My Experience at a Startup Weekend and Techfugees Hackathon

By Maya Al Malki

On the March 10th, 2017, I had the pleasure of participating in a Startup Weekend & Hackathon sponsored by Techfugees, a global social enterprise empowering the displaced through technology. The event, which took place at the Liberté Living-La building, allowed me and several other Konexio students to get first-hand experience in developing a project. Startup Weekends are opportunities for individuals to develop, pitch, build and present a project with a team, all within 54 hours. I arrived with no clear idea of how I could take a part in such a large event. All I knew was that we were supposed to create projects that could be used to serve refugees and asylum seekers in France and around the world.

As a refugee who has been living in France for just over a year, I was very aware of the difficulties that refugees and asylum seekers are faced with. I was excited by this project, and I felt like I had a duty to express myself, to take part in this challenge, but I was too shy to get out there and speak out. However, with the encouragement and support of the organizers and the wonderful sense of community I felt taking part in the event, I eventually found the inner confidence to go up and make my first pitch ever. Once I found my team, we instantly clicked and began working on our idea. We worked endlessly from Friday to Sunday night.

My time at the Startup Weekend & Hackathon was a life-changing personal and professional . Besides having learned a lot and having developed my public speaking, writing, and teamwork skills, I was also extremely impressed by the great organizers who worked incredibly hard in order to make this weekend such a success, the wonderful participants who carried so much energy and determination to develop their projects, and by my dear team members with whom I quickly developed a family-like bond after having worked side-by-side the whole weekend.

All of us — refugees, asylum seekers, French organizers and participants — felt so comfortable during the event that by the time the weekend ended, we didn’t want to leave! I’ll never forget the sad looks on the faces of everyone on Sunday night when we had to say our final goodbyes and head home.

Although the Startup Weekend & Hackathon only lasted a few days, the memories, skills, and confidence I received will last me a lifetime.

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