Who would’ve thought that Project Inspire’s teaching over Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts, would not only flourish, but the entire world would follow suit. Covid 19 and its variants have kept meetings and classes virtual for the past year and a half, and it looks as though it will continue in this direction for a little while longer. Project Inspire has always been based in internet teaching, making it a natural way to reach out to those children who crave more knowledge while creating a genuine bond between student and mentor. It is through virtual learning that we are able to link a child in Nepal to a mentor in South Africa, or a teacher in Switzerland to a student in Bangladesh. And as it is with many brilliant ideas, it stems from those who have been working with GiveLight from its early inception.
One such individual is Mohammed Darwish from Northern California. He remembers fondly of his visit to the Ache home in January 2017. He said it was after that trip where he was asked by Founder Dian Alyan “to lead a ‘digital learning’ project to prepare volunteers to mentor GiveLight homes remotely via Zoom and Skype. We created a training video and materials for prospective mentors to help them create lesson plans.” Mohammed tutored the children, but in addition to that, he helped a future mentor, Cheyaan Jamal, get a program off the ground at her middle school in Southern California for her and her classmates to teach the younger students in Ache English. He said, “This turned out to be so much fun, and exciting for the children in Ache. This was the prelude to Project Inspire.”
Since Mohammed has been at the forefront of this system of teaching and learning, Project Inspire holds a special place in his heart. “Project Inspire takes our previous mentoring efforts to the next level by scaling the mentoring to multiple GiveLight homes. I am so thankful for Sister Dian for the opportunity to be part of Project Inspire, leading the tutoring efforts for the GiveLight home in Sri Lanka and collaborating with other GiveLight leads for other GiveLight homes. It is a blessing from God to be part of Inspire.”
Esma Ozgun, a student also from northern California, has been involved with Project Inspire from the start. She has helped scale the project by programming a management system and a website, and currently oversees Project Inspire in five countries.
Mohammed encourages those individuals with a love of sharing knowledge to join the Project Inspire team. He said Project Inspire looks for “anyone, regardless of age or experience who genuinely loves to contribute to the well being of others by sharing knowledge: English, math, science, Quran, or any trade or profession that will excite young minds and motivate them to pursue their own aspirations.” In addition, Mohammed said, “Mentors that are skilled at planning, organizing, and leading can also join as Project Managers by mentoring and leading the tutors and teachers by helping to coordinate resources, class schedules, onboarding and other projects.” Mohammed stated that there is definitely room for those with technological backgrounds as well. “Anyone who loves tech and enjoys working with digital tools (such as audio/video, learning platforms), can join to streamline and speed up the transformation of Project Inspire to be an efficient and productive digital learning experience for mentors and students.”
Mentors from South Africa have been pivotal in teaching children in Nepal. Salma Wadee and Yasmeen Moosa began their journey with GiveLight after they met Dian at a conference in South Africa in 2016. Salma recalls, “We had an instant connection when she shared her story and the GIveLight initiative. It all resonated so much with me.” Yasmeen said, “Her story and the subsequent work into starting her foundation inspired me. It was so admirable. I wanted to help somehow.”
With lockdown, due to Covid 19, and learning more about Project Inspire through social media, both ladies decided to become involved with the project. Salma, who previously traveled to Turkey to meet Syrian refugees through GiveLight, teaches English to the children in Nepal. She said, “Project Inspire is a platform where you connect with children from a completely different background. You gain a lot of insight as a human in just listening and learning to effectively communicate with people who live on the other side of the world where English is not the first language, and the children have a very different background to what your ‘norm’ is.” Yasmeen, an attorney, and mother of three teaches the children conversational English. To her, Project Inspire means making connections while learning something as well. She said, “Project Inspire allows you to share and perhaps broaden my own horizons as much as we assist the children in broadening theirs. Being able to give of oneself globally while far away meaning the world is getting smaller and that there is less reason not to share and engage.” Her interactions with the children have been amazing. She said, “I am in awe of their ability and resilience. They face so much adversity and yet have a thirst to thrive. Often I use what I learn from them to teach my children.” Salma’s engagement with the children has been one of discovery and cultural exchange. “When we started our sessions, I was not sure about the children’s level of English so we started by just talking and seeing what their interests are. The children I mentored are a really smart bunch of children. We always completed our lesson and then added in a little bit of general knowledge about Nepal and South Africa, every week we all prepared something. In the end they were keen on teaching me a bit of Nepali too which was great!”
Such exchanges add to the purity of Project Inspire’s purpose. Sofia Mohammed who resides in Switzerland was introduced to GiveLight through her cousin last year. Sophia wanted to be involved in a project that would allow her to “give back.’ Sofia teaches English to the children in Bangladesh. She said, “It started as a way to fulfill a desire to give time in a meaningful charitable way and has actually become some of the most valuable, satisfying, and pleasurable time in my week. I have always enjoyed and understood the privilege of teaching and inspiring children to be the best they can be and opening their minds to their possibilities, but these children genuinely enjoy the exchange and insights into life outside the places they live and learn.”
It is incredible to see Project Inspire mentors teaching from all over the globe. It is no wonder why Project Inspire continues to thrive beyond what was initially expected. It is through this exchange between student and mentor, that the children in these GiveLight homes are taught to reach for the stars with confidence, focus, and determination, while the mentors themselves learn so much from these exceptional children in the process.