Tarek Zakanda (24) is one of over a million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. As an English Literature student at the University of Damascus, he was forced to flee to Beirut before he was able to finish his degree when the situation at home became untenable.

After arriving in Lebanon he initially found work as a cashier at a small shop -- one of the few jobs legally open to Syrian refugees -- but found that the small income he was earning was not enough to cover his bills or provide a decent standard of living.

To supplement his earnings Tarek soon put his education and language skills to use, seeking out foreign Arabic learners in Beirut and offering informal lessons for a small fee. It helped, but the income from teaching was unreliable and his customers were few and far between.

Eventually a friend suggested that Tarek apply to NaTakallam, a startup social enterprise employing refugees as Arabic teachers through an online platform. Tarek was soon recruited and trained as one of Natakallam’s Conversation Partners (CPs), to provide tuition and conversation practice through the internet to Arabic learners worldwide.

For Tarek, employment through NaTakallam has been transformative. With six regular students located across the globe, he is now able to fully support himself through his income from NaTakallam.

He uses WhatsApp or Skype to connect with each of his students on a weekly basis. Each hour of tuition costs the student $14 - Tarek receives $10 directly, with the remaining $4 helping to cover NaTakallam’s overheads and improve the viability of their platform. By teaching online he is unrestricted by location, can reach an ever greater pool of potential students and can connect with them wherever they happen to be - all he requires is a reliable internet connection.

Being able to choose his own working hours, the flexibility that NaTakallam affords him has given him greater control over his own future. After receiving a scholarship to study Graphic Design at the Lebanese International University, Tarek now dedicates 8 hours a week towards studying and fits in teaching with Natakallam around his academic schedule. After he earns his degree, Tarek aspires to become a full-time graphic designer and eventually to set up his own business.

Tarek is one of 58 Syrian refugees now employed by NaTakallam. Since Alfanar first invested in NaTakallam in November 2016, our venture philanthropy support has helped them to grow as an organisation, to deepen their social impact and to improve their financial self-sufficiency.

To learn more about Alfanar's investment in NaTakallam, click here