My name is Aya Salama. Since 2019, I’ve had the privilege of being involved with the Indaba community, starting when I first applied to host an IndabaX in Egypt. Throughout the years, I’ve contributed to various committees including the IndabaX Steering Committee, Programme Committee, and Applications and Selections Committee, and I’ve even dabbled in sponsorship work. 

Sometimes when I discuss my work with Indaba, I’m confronted with the question, “Why?” Initially, this question caught me off guard because the value of contributing to our community seemed self-evident. However, I’ve come to realise that everyone has their own perspective and values, which shape their priorities and decisions. This question, “Why?”—once a source of unease—has become invaluable, as it emphasises the importance of understanding and articulating our motivations clearly before embarking on any endeavour. Our “whys” fuel us through challenges, especially in volunteer work where the path can be tough. 

My initial “why” stemmed from a personal experience during my graduate studies, where I felt disconnected from the latest developments in the field. This gap between my undergraduate education and the cutting-edge was vast. Hosting the 2019 IndabaX in Egypt was a step towards reducing this gap, not just for myself but for others in my community. This effort was partly altruistic but also fulfilled a personal need to connect and share knowledge. 

As I continue to engage with the Indaba community, my “Why” evolves and expands. The community has become my window to a world that offers hope, camaraderie, and something to look forward to—a world rooted in technology yet reaching far beyond it. 

This year, as I work to revive IndabaX in Egypt, I’m rediscovering my original “Why,” now enhanced and refined through experience. I invite each of you to reflect on your own “Why.” Understanding this will not only help sustain you through challenges but will also ensure that your contributions are meaningful and fulfilling. We all have a place in this community, but remember—it’s essential to start with “Why”.

– Aya Salama, Lead for IndabaX Egypt, long time organiser for the Deep Learning Indaba. April 2024.