Diala El Fil: A Career Devoted to Helping Children
LAU alumna turns a personal tragedy into a mission to grant critically ill children their wish.
Diala El Fil (’92, ’03) suffered a parent’s worst nightmare when her five-year-old son died in an accident in 2005. But in that darkest hour, she made the extraordinary decision to create positive change and honor little Karim’s memory by founding Tamanna (“make a wish”), an organization that serves critically ill children in Lebanon.
“We want to remind them that they are cherished, valued, and deserving of happiness,” said El Fil.
Through her work, laughter and delight become part of the treatment for those who are battling life-threatening diseases.
The organization has fulfilled thousands of wishes over the years, including meeting celebrities like Ronaldo, Messi and Fairuz. Some of the most poignant requests are not about famous people, presents or trips, though. A young girl’s deepest wish was to see her father, who was away in Italy. What the girl didn’t know, however, was that her father was in jail there. Yet El Fil and Tamanna were able to gain his release and bring him back to Lebanon, where father and daughter spent two memorable months together.
El Fil has developed a system for identifying eligible children through partnerships with hospitals and doctors throughout the country.
Having earned advertising and graphic design degrees from LAU, she rounded out her education in 2015 with a TRIUM Executive MBA while running the NGO.
She has shepherded the organization’s growth, inspiring staff members and everyone involved in the wish-granting process with her dedication and enthusiasm.
“LAU gave me an excellent world-class academic foundation to build on,” she said.
This, combined with her own creative genius, helped save the organization when Lebanon’s multiple crises wiped all means of funding over the past few years.
In an inspired move, El Fil decided to turn the Tamanna office building in Beirut’s Gemmayzeh district into a beautiful guesthouse, the proceeds of which would ensure the wish-granting cause could go on.
To design all the interiors of Beit Tamanna, she enlisted 13 highly regarded architects. They were given free rein to develop their own concepts, with storybook-like results — the rooms are colorful and lush, evoking travel to far-off places. The project, completed this year, has been a success.
El Fil’s work is all about giving back to others. She sees her alma mater as an opportunity for that as well. “It’s important to give back to LAU because they are building Lebanon’s next generation,” she said. “And with the current situation, this is even more important.”