• Where We Started

    We started small and with humble ambitions: serving students in need through Skype.

    In the summer 2013, Founder Bailey Ulbricht spent two months volunteering in Reyhanli, a small town on the Turkish-Syrian border. While there she met dozens of young college-aged Syrian students desperate to complete their university degrees. After she returned to the United States, she began Skyping a few of them to help them practice English.

     

    Soon, young Syrian refugees she did not personally know were reaching out to her, requesting English lessons. She realized she could ask some of her friends to help, and in June 2014, she ran the first pilot program with 10 pairs of tutors and students meeting once a week over Skype.

     

    The program grew dramatically, expanding each term she ran it. She began recruiting volunteers to help run the program. After graduating in 2015 she spent a year in Turkey, diversifying to include a Turkish program. In December 2016, the organization received nonprofit status in the United States, and is now looking for funding. In January 2017, the team expanded to include 5 former students who were eager to join the group.

     

    We have grown where we are because we have a young, energetic and passionate team. We believe strongly in the power of the Internet to transform educational access for those who need it most. For now, we are focusing on the MENA region, targeting communities affected by the Syrian conflict. In the near future, we hope to use our model throughout the world, providing education to conflict-affected communities and breaking cross-cultural boundaries.

  • Why English?

    Barely 1% of university-aged refugees are attending college courses.

    According to a 2015 study conducted by UNHCR, only 1% of the world's college-aged refugees are attending university courses of any kind. Further, in a 2015 report conducted by the Brookings Doha Center, ignoring the educational needs of this population could mean destabilization for the entire region. The authors note that “higher education, when properly supported, acts as a catalyst for the recovery of war-torn countries in the Arab world, not only by supplying the skills and knowledge needed to reconstruct shattered economic and physical infrastructure, but also by supporting the restoration of collapsed governance systems and fostering social cohesion.” Supporting education for this next generation is critical to the future growth and stability of the MENA region. This is something from a strategic standpoint, we should all care deeply about. And from a moral one, we should care even more. The search for knowledge and fulfillment is a basic human right.

     

    Access to higher education is admittedly difficult and multi-faceted, involving visa trouble, university acceptance, financial constraints, knowledge gaps of available opportunities, and language barriers. English remains the most common language in the world for university-level instruction, meaning even if a university were offering full scholarships to refugees (which many do), language still remains a critical barrier. English is also the most common language in which international business is conducted, and certification is often required by employers. Though seemingly trite, English remains a major barrier to refugee education and employment access.

     

    We are hoping to change that. We believe language instruction should be free, accessible and personal. By using Skype we have the potential to reach thousands of students and adult learners in need, providing individualized instruction that fits the needs of each beneficiary. We know that as human beings, we have a right to education and an obligation to help those access it. We know that the world's future depends on multi-lateral cooperation to break down transnational problems, and education remains a major component. We know that by fostering personal relationships, mentoring goes beyond the virtual classroom into empowering the lives of our students.

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