Al Waref Exclusive
By Yvonne R. Davis
Al Waref’s Figure of the Month is a man whose life experiences during his childhood - loss and struggle shaped him into a leader who literally touches the lives of over 100,000 people in his community on an annual basis through a medical health clinic practice and youth outreach.
With contacts around the globe with Captains of Industry, he is truly the personification of having 6-degrees of separation from others. He served as an editor for high profile documents such as a Business Agenda for Promoting Prosperity, in the International Edition in the U.K. This work aided in the leadership of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Pick up the phone and call this man and he knows who, what, when, where, how and even why. His motto is “it is better to give than to receive.” Servant Leadership is realized in his daily activities to the least of these.
A champion for women having equal opportunity for employment, he hires all women at his clinic and thoroughly enjoys listening to the ladies he gladly helps banter and discuss mind boggling intellectual brain teasers such as molecular science. He is Socrates to his most beloved mentee Saudi businessman Abdullah Gallaf who gives him great credit for the man he is today. A lover of Islam, people and culture, he’s cerebral and always ponders Saudi Arabia and the entire MENA region’s greatest challenge in capacity building – employment for the youth majority. He believes all humans blessed with opportunity have an obligation to uplift their community. In the words of Slain Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
A loving husband and a doting father of two boys and two girls, Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Saeed Al-Khabaz of Qatif, Saudi Arabia – A man with an eternal mission.
Growing Up Saeed
A little boy with adorable chubby cheeks his Mama, Baba and anyone who encountered him enjoyed squeezing followed by a kiss, l’il Saeed was an endless smile. With soft baby-like sun kissed skin just a tad lighter than the dessert sand, Saeed dutifully followed his mother, elder sister and Grandfather on a trip to Iraq. It was nothing new for his family to travel. In fact Saeed enjoyed it immensely. Since he was the youngest of two, he knew he would get all of the attention during the trip and reveled in being spoiled by his entire family; especially by his beloved mother. Saeed, his name which means “Happy” in Arabic was fitting for this young boy.
As happy as he always was, Saeed Al-Khabaz on this one occasion he experienced the greatest moment of sadness that accounts for his only conscious memory of his very early childhood – the death of his mother. As though it was yesterday, Saeed vividly remembers losing the love of his life at three years old. “The first event I remember clearly,” recalls Saeed. “Is when my mother died. At an early age losing and growing up without a mother made a tremendous difference in my life.”
Left with his sister to care for him as a new mother and a strict father who dedicated his life to serving the needs of his two children, this retired corporate professional, entrepreneur, communitarian in Qatif, Saudi Arabia recalls how he had to grow up a bit faster than most kids who had two parents. “My sister raised me and I grew up with books around me. My father was a big spender on books. From philosophy to history, I always had books. Sometimes we would go to bed hungry because we did not have dinner, but we always had books,” says Saeed with an engaging, but satisfying smile.
It appears books may have filled a void in the Al-Khabaz home without their mother. The words Saeed read jumped off the pages and into his dancing imagination as he developed an insatiable hunger for knowledge through studying the written word. Watching his father educate himself set a strong example of self determination through struggle.
In 9th Grade, against his father’s will, he decided to drop out of school and go to work. His father always dreamed his son would become a doctor, but the basic needs for survival were the costs that outweighed the benefit of a future in medicine. So, at the age of 16 Saeed began his career at Aramco in 1970.
After starting as an apprentice at Aramco, he developed an affinity for nurturing people. “They had an apprenticeship program and I began working and going to school again. In 1976, an opportunity came for me to study Engineering on a full scholarship in the United States at Arizona State, but I wanted to study Political Science.” Never satisfied with the answer no, he continued to negotiate with his superiors at Aramco about this desire to study political science. After his relentless pursuit, they agreed they he could switch. “I was very stubborn,” recalls Saeed. “When I have something in my mind, I might go into a dormant stage, but I always come back to what I want to do.” After two semesters of engineering he fell in love. The love he found was Human Resources. Forget political science now; he had completely abandoned engineering and managed to persuade his bosses to allow him to study to become an HR manager. Saeed was the first employee to be an HR. major in the Human Resource Department at Aramco; focusing and specializing on personnel development.
Career, Communicating and Connecting With the People
A gentle prodder would be words to describe Saeed in the workplace. He mastered how to go to the edge while balancing all that he had to do to properly deal with the human relations issues that could severely impact the company. As the youngest HR person in management, Saeed was practicing Emotional Intelligence long before it became a term everyone bandies about today. He took the vision of the company, the letter and spirit of the policies and balanced it with human touches that raised morale and inspired best-in-class work. He nurtured these processes in a corporate environment. He realized when it came to people they needed more than the technical development in the work place, but personal development. Saeed chaired three (3) international HR conferences in Bahrain with distinguished guests like former Governor and White House Chief of Staff under Bush 41 John Sununu and the former President of France Gescard De Stang. A pioneer in HR in his own right, Saeed was the first person to introduce live interactive satellite conferences from the US to the Middle East in 1995.
With a plethora of accomplishments, Saeed sees his nearly 30-year career in human resources and personnel development as a training ground for his greatest calling – serving humanity.
Al Hadi Medical Clinic & The Qatif Youth Achievement Award
“My brain spins 24-hours a day,” jokes Saeed. “I will never retire. I have so much to give.” Donning more gray hair these days, the jovial Saeed has the energy of a man in his thirties. With the wisdom of the sages, he puts his all into his medical clinic and the Qatif Youth Achievement Award.
Not even one month after he retired from Aramco, Saeed took a dilapidated medical clinic serving 40-patients per day and transformed it into serving over 100,000 a year. The Al Hadi Medical clinic in Qatif is a point of light for family healthcare needs. This clinic fulfills a part of father’s dream for his son to become a doctor. Saeed deeply feels his father would be proud to know his only son’s clinic has treated over a million patients in a decade. Saeed built strategic alliance partnerships with medical organizations in the Kingdom and worldwide to better serve his patients.
He hires young educated women desiring to launch their careers in the medical field. Women who achieve the highest status in his clinic never want to leave. It’s his warm familial atmosphere he fosters with the ardent belief in their success. “I have several women who have been offered much better job opportunities taking their career to a new level,” says Saeed. “But they all say they never want to leave Al Hadi; so they stay and continue to work with me as we hire other young women – they train them giving them all of the necessary and important skills to be successful on the job. I am honored by this.” He has both daughters working side by side with their Daddy as an administrator and a nurse.
“We have a serious unemployment problem in Saudi Arabia and the entire MENA region and it is critical that we find real solutions to finding jobs for our youth.” Hiring the young women is a small but significant step in giving hope to youth. Taking it step further, Saeed founded the Qatif Youth Achievement Award to recognize youth who take on the mantle of leadership by developing social responsibility in addition to their family obligations.
“We recognize Scientific, Literature Achievement and inventions,” declares Saeed. “There are young people with inventions no one knows about. We don’t look at the resume, we look at the work; encouraging them to achieve excellence yearly.” In its second year, seven (7) men and seven (7) women are selected annually to receive this honor. Qatif Achievement Award fever has caught on in the city so much other cities through out the Kingdom have approached Saeed to replicate.
“We teach people how NOT to be victims and to take full responsibility for self and others. We define youth under 40-years of age. Sixty percent are under 26-years old in Saudi Arabia and about eighty percent are under 40. We have quite a challenge. According to the Ministry of Planning we must create 8-million jobs over the next 10-years.” Depending upon where one lives in the Kingdom, unemployment ranges from 15-30%. The Qatif Achievement Award encourages the youth; giving them self esteem and confidence. Saeed believes this award exposes the private sector to youth achievers to lay the foundation for mentor/protégé programs as well as direct job opportunities. Media are spreading the Qatif Award buzz so much that the ears of high stature leader in Riyadh are ringing; he’s making inquiries about this wildly successful initiative.
His Eternal Mission
“Some people think I am too idealistic. I could be a multi-millionaire in no time if I followed the pragmatic approach and joined the crowd. I believe in being humble. My family supports me in this too. I live simply and all that I receive goes into hiring more people at my clinic and into community-based programs”
Saeed believes “citizenship is a continuous obligation”that never ends. He says people create a social contract with their community that should not be broken. There will be set backs, but “temporary failures are steps towards success, and if you are following your principles and showing integrity you will never go in the wrong direction. Paying a debt to your community is a blessing.”
For more information about the Qatif Youth Achievement Award – Please visit the web site