Gabriela Corbera, Editor: Cecilia V. Lalama

Abraham Path Paves the Way

Photo: By the Abraham Path Initiative

Last month, Abraham Path Initiative was chosen as our featured organization of the month. The BNID staff had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Cully Lundgren, Development Director of Abraham Path Intiative to get an inside scoop of the organization and his advice for development professionals.

Oftentimes in development, we find very different approaches to the field. Abraham Path offers one of the most unique approaches to development. 

“The Abraham Path is a long-distance walking trail across the Middle East. The path retraces the journey of Abraham, who is known for his hospitality and kindness toward strangers,” according to the Abraham Path Iniative website. The Abraham Path Initiative, which is a “ non-profit, non-religious and non-political organization” according to their website, cultivates the development of a unique path championing “local and international partner organizations.”

Abraham Path Intiative’s unique and holistic approach to community-led tourism invites global tourists to explore the Middle East in an interactive and adventurous manner.

With a $2.3 million dollar grant from the World Bank, the Abraham Path Initiative has been accredited by the development community as a leading organization in supporting local development efforts in the Middle East. The grant is directed specifically towards programs in Palestine among their many other sites. This grant was initiated by current executive director, Stephan Szepesi who previously worked at the World Bank before joining Abraham Path.

According to Lundgren, “the Abraham Path Initiative is a platform for other things. It’s a catalyst [for]generating real economic opportunities empowering small businesses and small entrepreneurs.”

Photo: By the Abraham Path Initiative

Before joining the Abraham Path Initiative, Lundgren received a BA from UMass Amherst (1995) and a Masters in History from the University of Lund in East and Southeast Asian Studies (2000). He worked for Mercy Corps as the Director of Development for seven years. Lundgren says he enjoys connecting with people. “I like developing relations with people who believe in our mission.”


Aside from also being a board member of BNID, Lundgren has had experience in various sectors in development. He volunteered in Indonesia during the tsunami crisis in 2004 delivering aid kits to survivors, as well as interning with Save the Children as Program Assistant on a U.S. Aid funded project working with midwife clinics in Indonesia.


Lundgren’s experiences in development has translated into many lessons in the development community and have taught him to be more strategic in his work..

Lundgren believes one needs to be “stubbornly persistent,” with our long term visions in development. “Have a vision for yourself…have it be a big vision, a long term vision of where you want to be.”

 Photo: By the Abraham Path Initiative

He also believes that to be successful in the field, rising professionals need to learn how to communicate effectively.. This includes “being able to over-communicate than under-communicate,” he says and “always be open to learning.”

Lundgren offered his advice on leadership in international development. To become a more effective leader in non-profits or in any field, Lundgren believes one should “ask for critical feedback, ask for people’s advice, and never do things in isolation, you won’t learn from it.”

“You should also be willing to pay your dues. It will persevere and take off.” Lundgren referred to working entry-level positions and unpaid internships that are often common among rising professionals in the field. Just like many development professionals, Lundgren has done his share. One of his recommendations for the BNID community is also to “learn the language” of the places you will be working in.

While having diverse experiences in the field is important, Lundgren suggested having specific skill sets. “Pick something, it will give you a path.” According to Lundgren, development is becoming more professionalized. “Even the private sector is playing an important role, so focus on your direction.”


Photo: By the Abraham Path Intiative 

Lundgren’s wisdom and guidance for the BNID community is the result of years of experience in development. His diverse roles have taught him many lessons in development, and given him the opportunity to work in new sectors in a variety of areas of development, such as community led tourism, the mission and principle of the Abraham Path Initiative.


“In community led tourism, you won’t be successful unless you have a local approach,” he said. “We really aim at finding local champions and transfer skills to locals.” For example, the Abraham Path Initiative does GPS tracking with locals on the ground that allows them to become familiar with GPS systems and route paths in their local areas.

Something Lundgren stresses to those interested in “walking the path” is to not be seduced by the media portrayal of the Middle East. Lundgren believes the region is often misrepresented. While there may be a little unrest in certain areas, the Middle East, for Lundgren and the Abraham Path Initiative is home to a rich, diverse culture that offers opportunities for exploration and interaction with local people and businesses.

Photo: By the Abraham Path Initiative  

So, whether you are looking to immerse yourself in Middle Eastern culture, walk the ruins of Petra or the West Bank, or follow the journey of the kind and compassionate Abraham, consider supporting community led tourism, and walk the path with the Abraham Path Initiative.

For more information on the Abraham Path Initiative, see: