I was remembering the day that changed the way I look at things, and that made “giving back to society” a motto in all my future endeavors.
The setting was a classroom with 11-15 year olds from SOS Children’s Village in Lebanon, where all eyes and ears were eager and excited to know why they were invited by their school to come in on a Saturday morning.
We thought our mission as volunteers was to connect students and educators to learning opportunities via the Deloitte Middle East Digital Youth Program (DYP) and to train them on using the courses provided. Surprisingly… it turned out that that was not all we did.
The DYP’s mission is to help children master the basics of reading, science, personal health, math, technology and foreign languages by providing Deloitte computers and access to quality online best-in-class courseware that can support and reinforce these essential skills and bridge the digital divide for children in the Middle East with limited or no access to such resources.
At Deloitte, we believe that to address the high unemployment rates in the Arab countries, the issue of essential and employability skills need to be addressed. Personally, I think every one of us can make a meaningful societal impact on the education and employment of our children and hence on the development of our region.
The students’ eagerness to learn was palpable, yet they did not want to merely learn the courses themselves. Despite their youth, they wanted to learn about our way of life, the skills we used, how we were able to work in a Big 4 company, how we were able to complete our education and how this education served as a stepping stone towards building careers. Their curiosity and alertness at this age was eye-opening. After all, they are the leaders of our future.
Listening to our experience as young professionals seemed to interest them greatly and added to the knowledge they gained that Saturday morning. Via the laptops, more than 100 courses for 5-12 years olds on basic subjects such as math, English, biology, etc, were made available to them from the downloaded e-Learning for Kids* software. Although the students present were from an older age group, they still found the courses entertaining and informative, and couldn’t wait to go home and share them with their younger siblings and friends. More importantly, a 100 life lessons were probably learned that day by stepping into our shoes for a few hours.
Anyone of us, at any age, and with short or more lengthy experience, can inspire one of these students without even realizing it; you too could serve as their role models. For these students we were inspirational and a motivational force, pushing them towards achieving their own goals; all the while they never realized that for us, they too were an inspiration and motivation.
A few final thoughts to all the students we met as well as the NGO’s outstanding management team: my personal ‘Return on Investment’ from this activity was much higher than I had expected. It was overwhelming. So thank you students, thank you educators and thank you management team for letting us know and feel the real significance of what it means to give back.
*Established in late 2004, e-Learning for Kids is a global, non-profit foundation dedicated to fun and free learning on the Internet for children aged 5 – 12. Courseware in math, science, reading and keyboarding are offered.
by: Aya Dimashkieh, Brand & Communications at Deloitte Middle East