Dubai-based network, Coffee with an Expat (CWAE), is expanding with the launch of a new chapter in Abu Dhabi, to support expat women to create meaningful connections in their own communities. Building on the success of its 5000-strong network in Dubai, CWAE aims to provide a safe space for women to meet-up, engage in valuable conversations, and share their experiences of expat life.
Founded by long-term expat, Navine Eldesouki, CWAE was established in Dubai in 2019 to build a community for expat women to connect through shared interested. The evolving range of thematic pillars includes a Gourmet Group for the foodies and a Business and Development Group for those looking to make professional connections, as well as groups dedicated to Health and Wellness, Parents and Kids, P.O.D. Moms, and Hobbies and Fun Activities.
CWAE holds regular coffee meetups, social events, and thematic workshops that are facilitated by experts in the relevant field. Overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic, the network has rapidly flourished, and the new Abu Dhabi chapter is the first phase of expansion plans for the future.
Explaining her motivation to launch CWAE, Navine said, “I have been an expat for over 24 years and I have struggled with loneliness and the other challenges of settling into new places. I always felt the need to connect with people who understood what I was experiencing and to discuss those challenges in a non-judgemental environment.
“The idea for Coffee with an Expat first came about in around 2013 when I was living in the US and realised that connecting over coffee was a fulfilling part of expat life. When I moved to Dubai in 2016, I explored some social media groups as a way to connect and came across a lot of women struggling with loneliness and related mental health issues. As a passionate expat, I felt the need to do something about that and to give back to a community that has been a big part of my life.”
CWAE had its first event in the homely ambiance of a furniture store and through word of mouth and a rapidly growing Facebook group, quicky emerged as a strong community of like-minded women, meeting regularly to share experiences, up-skill, provide support and feel connected. In addition to the special interest groups, the community now has a monthly book club and has recently established a group dedicated to Moms with children of determination.
Ela Barnett, a member of the CWAE community in Dubai shared, “I arrived in Dubai in May 2021 and didn’t know anyone. By chance or by design, I discovered the Coffee with an Expat community. Navine has a way of making everyone feel welcome and comfortable and from my experience CWAE has provided both emotional, educational and friendship support. The age range of the attendees and nationalities is one of the broadest I’ve experienced. The topics for the events range from family and parental issues to social media and branding, exercise, food, festive events and in-depth round table discussions on topics like how to make friends as an expat. Personally, CWAE provided me with a ‘family’ when I arrived and for that I will always be grateful.”
Reflecting on the rapid expansion of the network, Navine said, “The community has grown beyond my expectations and as the demand is accelerating, we recognise the need to do more. We are introducing new membership options and widening our reach, both geographically and thematically. We have seen a real social value within the community, with many women building new friendships from their interactions, and we are excited to nurture this same culture of collaboration through Coffee with an Expat Abu Dhabi.”
Looking to the future, Navine, who was named among the finalists in the 2022 Australian Community Engagement Awards, believes that the community has the potential to go global. She concluded, “The UAE is my eighth country and I know that expat life can be a challenge wherever you are. We have a global Facebook group, and my long-term ambition is to connect the international expat community with different chapters around the world.”