Meet the heroes – Dian Alyan, GiveLight

Meet the heroes Just Love blog post pic

One of our aims at Just Love is to find the everyday heroes. They are among our neighbours, family, friends, and the people you walk past on your way to work every morning. They might be doing something huge, or something small – the main thing is they are doing something to make their community and our world a better place. We all have the power to make a difference and we don’t all have to do the big world-changing things (although those are awesome too!). Sometimes all it takes is noticing someone who feels unseen and giving them a smile, or taking the time to really listen to someone who needs to be heard. Taking the time to heal someone else, when you might be tired or hurting yourself, is heroic in a small, yet magnificent, way and it might stir rings on the water that carries your effort way beyond the minutes spent.

The news often makes us focus only on the negative, sometimes very scary, aspects of the world. In the face of these stories of struggle, of atrocities, of greed and selfishness, it’s all too easy to lose hope, but losing hope is not an option. Losing hope doesn’t move us forward. Let’s focus on the helpers and acknowledge them as heroes, and then – let’s become them.

We heard about today’s hero, Dian Alyan, through the wonderful Life in the Bay blog, which provides advice and assistance to newcomers to the San Francisco Bay Area. The incredible team at Life in the Bay are working to help everyone, including refugees, feel at home in the Bay. Check them out here http://www.lifeinthebay.org Thank you Life in the Bay and Gita Arimanda, the author, for letting us share your inspirational piece.

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Originally posted on lifeinthebay.org on April 13th 2017.

‘See you tomorrow’ the text from Dian read. Dian Alyan is a founder of GiveLight Foundation, a global non-profit organization that takes care of orphans who are displaced by natural disasters, extreme poverty, and conflict conditions around the globe.

The next day, Michelle and I knocked on the door of GiveLight’s office and were welcomed by Safaa, one of two GiveLight staff. I asked whether it was okay to bring my 3 month-old baby in with me for the interview and she said, “Sure! Taking care of orphans is our passion. Of course children are welcome here.” We stepped into a 250-sqft, Moroccan-style room with a red carpet and pillows on the floor. “Please make yourself at home. Our office is quite small because we want to save the money for the children instead.” Not long after, Dian came to greet us. She fixed us some black tea and a platter of oranges and grapes. Moments later she was sharing her touching stories.

How GiveLight Started

Dian studied engineering in college and was working for Procter&Gamble Indonesia. She worked on some successful marketing campaigns even though she was only in a junior role. She was promoted to a global assignment and moved to Cincinnati, where she would later met her husband. ‘All out or nothing’ has always been her motto. Yet after having achieved so much in her career and financial stability, she grew restless. “I was done chasing the worldly affairs. They didn’t fulfill me. So I quit.” When she went on pilgrimage to Mecca, she prayed to God for two things: to be a mother and to have a sense of purpose. “God answered both of my prayers.”

In 2004, a massive earthquake happened off west Sumatra. It sent deadly tsunami waves from the Indian Ocean that decimated the shores of several countries. Aceh was the hardest hit province in Indonesia with the waves killing roughly a quarter million people. “I lost 40 relatives because of that disaster. I saw children losing their families,” Dian’s eyes grew a little misty. However, she did not dwell on her personal loss. “It was heartwarming to see the outpouring condolences. But tears and words are not enough. We had to do more.”

Dian started building a solid business plan for the orphanage and with the help of local volunteers in Indonesia, it was completed in a mere 7 months. Project Noordeen, as it was called, was named after Dian’s great-grandfather who has inspired her in many ways. He freed the people from the Dutch colonization in the 1930s and cared for many orphans in his village in Takengon, Aceh. The 3,000 sqft of land where the orphanage was built was generously donated by Dian’s family. Clearly, altruism runs in the family.

GiveLight Going Global

Dian said in a previous interview with Mercury News,

“I’m going to do for orphanages what Conrad Hilton did for hotels. I’m going to build the best orphanages in the world, and my clients are going to be the poorest of the poor.’’

In December 2005, 50 children moved into the first home, Noordeen, and GiveLight has expanded globally ever since. Their second home was built in Pakistan and followed by Bangladesh and then eight other countries. Currently, they are building their latest home in Morocco, named ‘Maison de Lumieres’ which means the House of Lights. This orphanage was adopted by the USF architecture department as one of their community service projects.

To Dian, a saying of the Prophet has always resonated with her throughout the GiveLight journey.

“I and one who takes care of an orphan will be like this in paradise” and the Prophet points to his two fingers joined together.

She believed in the goodness of others, which has been proven in the sheer abundance of help that people have poured into GiveLight. None of the lands in those eleven countries was bought. Everything was donated. “When it comes to GiveLight, I don’t ask people to give their money. I tell them the story and they come to help unasked.” Dian organizes a wide array of events to fundraise for her orphanage, ranging from ladies nights, global bistro showstoppers, and poster competitions for children. The funds collected almost always surpass expectation. The children in Granada School held a “Help Club” by selling T-shirts and movie tickets. They managed to pool roughly $11,000 when the expectation was that there would be a few thousand dollars. All the winners of the poster competitions even donated their award money back to GiveLight, and then some more.

Making an impact around the world…and at home

Dian’s creative ideas in marketing and event branding, combined with the generosity of the community, have changed the lives of more than 800 orphans in eleven countries. GiveLight not only provides food and shelter for these young orphans but also nurtures their young minds. GiveLight aims to provide world class education to the orphans, and at a minimum, to get them to finish high school. Five children from its earliest residents in the Aceh home have now gone to college. Donors are welcome to donate to an existing scholarship fund, but they are also encouraged to establish their own and designate it to the country of their choosing.

Apart from the global impact that GiveLight has made, the Bay Area is after all where we are focused. GiveLight is currently providing scholarship and a mentoring program to 13 orphans who have fled the conflict in Syria and are currently settled here.

GiveLight is also supported by big corporations in Silicon Valley that will match their employee donation. Some of them include Google, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Paypal and many more. If you are interested in the events being held by GiveLight, you can check our their Facebook page or be a donor and join their cause in making the lives of orphans around the world a better one.

For further information, or to get involved, you’re welcome to contact GiveLight directly at info@givelight.org

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If you know of anyone doing something to make a difference in your community and would like to write about them – or would like us to know about them – please get in touch by clicking on the Contact tab.

About Gita A

I have spent one third of my life away from home. I was born and grew up in Solo, Indonesia. After high school, I took my business degree in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore where I met my husband. Eight years later, we moved to the Bay Area when my husband was offered a position at Google. Moving to the other side of the world was not an easy task. Struggle was of course a part of it, and I have my ups and downs. Slowly but sure I find new friends along the way and life is getting more colourful each day. I know that my story is not unique. I’m glad to join the LITB team and I hope that our stories can help those who find themselves a thousand miles away from home feel not alone. We are in this together; and we, as a community, can grow stronger.

The Lost Food Project

Finding Food A Home. This was the objective of a dream that turned into a movement improving the lives of many in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A dream that started with a few trolley loads of food destined for the rubbish.

In September, 2015, the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlighted that “More than a third of all the food produced worldwide – over one billion tonnes of edible food each year – goes to waste. That is shameful when so many people suffer from hunger”. This is particularly true in Malaysia, where roughly around 3,000 tonnes of edible food is wasted every day. This is enough food to feed half a million people, in a country where many go hungry.

If that wasn’t bad enough, food waste also happens to be the largest contributor to solid waste in Malaysia and the greatest source of harmful greenhouse gases in the country.

My friend, Suzanne, a determined British expat living in the same condominium as me in Kuala Lumpur, is the person behind the dream, the movement, and today, the reason why many vulnerable people are able to receive food regularly. By bringing together a team of passionate volunteers, Suzanne’s Lost Food Project is collecting enough food for thousands of meals every week.

Her amazing drive to make a difference meant that the children and youth I was working with at a local NGO were able to eat healthily, thanks to The Lost Food Project’s weekly deliveries. In turn, we were able to allocate our scarce financial resources to other priorities such as health and education. Every week, carloads of food would be brought by volunteers, and every week our school children could have fresh fruit and vegetables otherwise not available to them. The food was also allowing these children to be able to focus and perform better at school than they could on empty stomachs.

In less than a year of operations, The Lost Food Project keeps growing and Suzanne keeps coming up with innovative ways to raise awareness and advocate for policy change (watch this space!). Today the Lost Food Project comprises a huge team made up of conscientious supermarket owners, policy makers willing to think of alternative ways to deal with society’s problems, and an incredible pool of talented and skilled volunteers from all corners of the world who help make Suzanne’s dream happen in Kuala Lumpur. Everybody working together, every week making a difference. As always, I am humbled by the impact of our efforts when we come together, our determination to share and improve the conditions of those less fortunate than us, and the different ways that we can help preserve our beautiful planet.

If this is something that resonates with you and you would like to learn more about the work that The Lost Food Project is doing in Malaysia, head to their website www.thelostfoodproject.org or find them on Facebook (@thelostfoodproject). They have opportunities for people to volunteer and ways that you can help them continue growing! Donations can be made via Simply Giving – www.simplygiving.com/Social/thelostfoodproject

Teach Love. Teach Kindness.

 

I teach, which in essence means I am amongst those who will one day inherit all we say and do today. I feel the immense power of my words and actions every single day and I am constantly reminded how simple acts of kindness can truly change lives.

With Valentines Day around the corner, I thought about how I could uniquely impact on the teaching staff at my school this year. Teachers give so much and I wanted to thank them for the roles they play, but also allow them to witness how easily love and kindness spreads when you take a moment to really feel the love around you. Sometimes we forget in our busy days how very beautiful an environment we work in.

The 14 days of love and kindness campaign was born. An anonymous campaign using simple tools: a chalkboard and chalk in the corner of our staffroom. Each day a new message on the chalkboard would greet the staff as they gathered for the morning meeting. Each day the message was accompanied by something special on a small table (marshmallows for a ‘mallow weekend’, recycled jars with flowers to take home and filter coffee) and each day I felt my heart grow in love as I saw the impact such simple actions were having on the morale of our staff.

One of the best moments was when another teacher approached me asking how she could get on board the campaign! She teamed up with two other teachers to make notes and attach sweets for each teachers’ pigeonhole.

The love began spreading!

This is what some teachers had to say when asked how the campaign had impacted them:

Grade 1 teacher: ‘I felt inspired to be more thoughtful of others.’

Grade 4 teacher: ‘It created a greater awareness of each other and promoted acts of kindness towards each other. The corner added warmth to the staff room and one was curious to know what the next day’s display/saying/call to action would be.’

Grade 12 teacher: ‘It meant a great deal to me to see a little message of encouragement every day-filled up my love tank!’

Grade 8 teacher: ‘THAT corner … made me think twice about why I felt mad about certain situations and individuals and made me realise it’s so easy to feel anger and hold grudges… however, it’s such a gift to move past that and offer kindness instead.’

At the end of the 14 days I felt hopeful. I felt the weight of the current political climate lift off my shoulders. It is possible that a heart full of love is stronger than all the hate. It is not impossible that we are able to change lives by simply being kind.

If this is the impact one simple campaign had on a room full of teachers, imagine what we can do to make this world a better place!

We are the future and it looks bright because we Just Love!

By Chay B.

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