Aline Sara is the co-founder and CEO of NaTakallam, an award-winning social enterprise that hires displaced persons as online tutors, teachers and translators. When she moved to Beirut in 2006 to pursue a career in human rights and conflict resolution, Aline felt the need to improve her Arabic skills. Despite her Lebanese heritage, Aline grew up in New York and never perfected it. After a stint as a Beirut-based journalist during the years that led to the Arab Uprisings – events that would displace millions, notably Syrians – Aline returned to the US for a Masters in International Affairs at Columbia University. But the seeds for her business had been planted. In 2015, she pitched NaTakallam--a forerunner in leveraging the digital economy to provide livelihoods to the displaced--at a World Bank competition. Today, NaTakallam has distributed $900,000+ in self-earned income to refugees and their host-communities, connecting them to 10,000+ learners and clients worldwide.
NaTakallam (“we speak” in Arabic) offers high-quality, curated language services delivered by refugees and their host communities through the digital economy. These services include online language teaching and tutoring, translation and virtual interpretation services, as well as cultural exchange sessions. On the one hand, NaTakallam provides its workers with the training and mentorship needed to perform the services, offering them a pathway to sustainable income during and after displacement and/or in the early stages of resettlement. On the other hand, NaTakallam provides clients with a much-needed service with baked-in impact.
To date, the social enterprise, which is disrupting the way we typically think of humanitarianism/international development, has provided $900,000+ in cash to over 200 workers from refugee/host community backgrounds, worldwide. Along the way, NaTakallam fosters intercultural exchange and raises awareness around the daily challenges of life in or near conflict zones, notably through its academic partnerships (with institutions, including Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Tufts, Yale among others) and while providing services to both private and public sector organizations, such as the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, Ben & Jerry's and more. While originally born to support Syrians teaching Arabic, NaTakallam's language sessions are now also offered 8 different Arabic dialects, in French (with refugees from Congo DRC, Burundi, Guinea), Persian (with Iranians and Afghans) and Spanish (with Venezuelans and Central Americans).