This Girl Scout Alum Aims to Change the World, One Date at a Time
“Once a scout, always a scout.”
Lina Zdruli remembers her own scouting experience and how valuable it was to her. She admires how other scouts in her troop had parents or grandparents who had also been scouts, and how they had left a legacy. “It is something that really forms you.”
The daughter of a Fulbright scholar from Albania, Zdruli was born shortly after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. She moved around a lot — Italy, the U.S., and Canada have all been home to her — and was part of local Girl Scout organizations through the end of high school.
Today, Zdruli focuses on Dafero, a healthy fruits consumer goods company that uses part of its sales to create self-reliance programs. Dafero is especially involved with sustainability initiatives for refugees and former trafficking survivors, who may lack the skills and experience needed to make a new life.
The organization has also created an app called Dafero Life Skills with educational modules on financial literacy, early childhood education, women’s rights, health and hygiene, and other topics. Anyone can access the app, which has also been updated as a mental health resource for those dealing with social isolation during COVID-19.
CircleAround chatted with Zdruli to learn more about her experiences in the Girl Scouts and how it shaped her career. Here are her biggest takeaways:
It’s the Girl Scout motto, but a phrase Zdruli has taken seriously her entire life. Being on the road has helped Zdruli become more efficient and practical, and has exposed her to new people, cultures, and ways of living. She’s incorporated her studies into the work she’s done with Dafero’s main product — the Dafero Date Spread.
Zdruli discovered the power of dates while traveling through the Middle East, where dates and date spread are common. After a doctor told her to limit her sugar intake, she wanted to find alternatives to satisfy her sweet tooth. “It was horrible because I love sweets, and I cannot really be without them,” she tells CircleAround. Luckily, Zdruli was prepared — she used the dates she’d been carrying on her trip as a sugar and sweetener substitute. A batch of brownies was brought in to her job at the World Bank, and the rest was history.
“Being prepared is something that really forms you,” Zdruli says. “But I would say that the adaptability I learned when I was little (moving a lot and then in scouts), really taught me about preparation. I would say that has informed my work and life afterward.”
Expand Your Environment
“Always leave a place better than you found it,” Zdruli says, explaining that her involvement with the scouts was very focused on creating a greener planet. “In our case, it was usually a physical place... but I would say that you can apply that metaphorically, as well, and it can be a situation that you can impact positively, and come out of it stronger, where your community and world is better off.”
Zdruli received her undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia before working at the United Nations in Germany to focus on food security and preventing desertification. Then, she got a master’s degree from Georgetown and wrote a thesis on company interventions for refugee employment.
“The world of entrepreneurship is something that I am super fascinated by,” she explains. “The real way to change the world is basically by integrating business and technology principles together, and helping finance things sustainably.” She worked at the World Bank, specializing in refugee livelihood, which she incorporates into Dafero’s mission today.
Change Can Happen from Small Things
Who knew that something as small as a date could have the potential to change your life? Zdruli’s knowledge of dates and their positive health effects are worth looking into. In a nation where a third of the population has, or is at risk of, diabetes, dates can literally be a life-saver. “Dates are low glycemic, and they have clinically been proven to not increase blood sugar levels within certain quantities.”
Dafero’s biggest challenge is finding a production company, or piece of machinery, that can break down the dates into a thick spread, at scale. Zdruli thinks the solution may be inventing the equipment in collaboration with her team.
But she also knows that’s part of the learning process. In the end, Dafero is a company meant to make positive change, and that’s what’s important. Zdruli emphasizes that dates can impact the global community in big ways, all from “a very small thing, like a spread."