NaTakallam (which means “we speak” in Arabic), which connects refugees from Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Iraq, Colombia, and other displaced persons with Arabic, Spanish, Persian, and French students worldwide for language practice over Skype, was founded by Aline Sara ‘14.
Location: New York City and via Skype in 65 countries
Why We Love NaTakallam
The Syrian conflict has triggered the worst refugee crisis of our time. Despite fleeing the violence, refugees are often unable to work in their host countries. NaTAkallam is helping to change this reality by leveraging the gig economy to connect Arabic, Spanish, Persian, and French language learners around the world with native speaking refugees, providing the refugees with income and self confidence and providing language learners with an authentic and qualified teacher.
NaTakallam is addressing the challenge displaced people face supporting themselves and their families due to local labor restrictions. By providing them with consistent income, NaTakallam is helping them as well with other challenges they face such as depression and a feeling of helplessness by sharing their language and culture with their students which often lead to unique friendships. These friendships help break down negative stereotypes and form an understanding with the students, educating them on the value of displaced peoples that they might not have known.
Aline’s Entrepreneurial Journey
Aline is from Lebanon but was raised in New York. As a child, she heard a lot about her family’s life in Lebanon before the war. Interested in human rights and social justice, Aline worked as a journalist in Lebanon during the Arab Spring when a million and a half refugees entered Lebanon, the majority of whom remain unsettled. Aline started NaTakallam to help displaced people restart their lives and earn income, giving them a sense of dignity and purpose alongside it. The hardest thing about her job? Mastering the emotional rollercoaster of being an entrepreneur. For example, compensating staff leaving, holding on to your purpose and not focusing too much on income, and pivoting to respond to demands. Despite the challenges of managing your team and being comfortable in chaos, Aline says the best thing to her is knowing she makes a real impact.
Running a High Impact Business
Since its founding in 2015, NaTakallam has paired over 100 displaced persons and over 2500 students in 65 countries. NaTakallam measures its impact by the number of students reached, hours of lessons provided, and the total wages refugees earn.
Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Don’t forget the power of partnerships, and how they can increase your impact. Although being an entrepreneur is a glorified path if it is true for impact, there is no reason you should not learn as much as you can and follow your idea.
Favorite SIPA Memory
My favorite SIPA memory was working on Follies, SIPA’s annual comedy show.
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