Dian Alyan and the Give Light Foundation
While seeking out her own personal destiny, Dian Alyan helped form a bridge from Silicon Valley communities to youth and families in countries such as Indonesia who are rebuilding their lives after natural disasters.
Six months after Dian Alyan's second son was born, she felt like her life was finally complete. She had a job that she loved with the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara, a loving husband, and two children. During this time nearly a decade ago, Alyan assured herself that life was wonderful and God was great -- until the tsunami in Indonesia hit.
Today, eight years after the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami, Alyan leads the Give Light Foundation, a thriving organization she founded shortly after the tragedy in order to give hope to orphans in developing countries. The organization, which builds orphanages and provides food, clothing, and much more for children, is vital to the survival of those who were left with nothing after the tsunami.
According to a report from NationMaster.com, over 100,000 people died as a result of the tsunami. Alyan, who was originally raised on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, lost over forty individuals whom she considered close. Filled with grief and exhausted by the tragedy, she finally had a realization. She figured that even if she cried for the rest of her life, she was not going to bring back the people whom she had lost.
News clips during that period showed the harsh living conditions that the tsunami had created for Indonesian children, many of who became orphans. Alyan saw that children were being sold into slavery and prostitution, some of the worst situations she could imagine. "I thought about what we could do that was long-term," Alyan said. "It seemed like, at the time, writing a check will not do it. If I am not compelled to do something, then who will?"
Two weeks later, on January 8, 2005, Alyan met with ten of her close friends and the idea of helping orphans brought the Give Light Foundation to its start. The foundation, which is an inclusive, non-profit organization, was created with the intention of helping every type of child -- no matter her religion or ethnicity. The team connects with locals in nine countries to seek orphans without any known family ties, and then introduces them to the Give Light orphanages. At these orphanages, the children are provided for in every possible way, whether it be through clothing, food, uniforms, books, or education. Alyan has even started the "Soul to Sole Campaign," in which she takes children shopping for shoes.
Alyan admitted that there have been some challenges along the way. She suggested that one of the largest hardships that she has faced so far is gaining the support of local governments. She prefers to avoid working with governments altogether, Alyan explained, because of potential corruption. "The idea of giving does not exist," she said. "Forget about giving."
The successes of the Give Light Foundation, however, seem to have outweighed the challenges. According to Noshaba Afzal, an educational consultant and core volunteer at the Give Light Foundation, 100 percent of the funds raised for Give Light Foundation go to the children. In order to raise money, Alyan and her volunteers have organized several events throughout Silicon Valley, including an annual Women's Gala and fundraising dinners. The foundation also has raised money in other surprising ways, such as from a man in Eastern Germany whom Alyan had never met but who donated 35,000 Euros to the foundation. The children at the Granada School in Santa Clara raised $11,000 right after they heard about Alyan's initial idea.
Afzal came to tears as she described the success of one of their largest events last year: 1,000 Rays of Light, attended by nearly 1,000 people in Silicon Valley. "By far the greatest success is seeing people from all walks of life, all different backgrounds, all different nationalities and religious groups coming together for the sake of supporting children they don't even know. It's amazing. It's overwhelming," Afazal said.
Yasir Ali, vice president of the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara, stated that organizations and projects such as Alyan's are important in counteracting the often negative images of Muslims produced by the news media. "People who have personally known Muslims, or have come into contact with Muslims, have a far better perspective of Islamic faith compared to people who have never met a Muslim," Ali said. "If you see them involved in social activities, it helps clear out a lot of misconceptions."
Alyan did not always have intentions of becoming a volunteer. She attended a university in Indonesia and received her degree in engineering. Alyan moved on to work for Procter & Gamble, a company that brings goods to consumers around the world. Over time, however, she felt as though consumer products were defining her life. "Although I had success, it was no longer what I deeply wanted inside," Alyan said.
After reading the novel The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Alyan wanted to be like the main character, Santiago, who traveled and found his destiny. Now, seven years after the first Give Light Foundation orphanage was built in Acheh, Indonesia, Give Light has orphanages in Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Samoa, Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia.
So far, Alyan and her volunteers have helped over 800 orphans, she said, and they hope to reach over 1,000 within the next few years. Alyan quoted The Alchemist in order to describe her experience. "If you want something with all of your heart, the entire universe will conspire to help you achieve it," explained Alyan. This exactly what happened to her, she said, and how she wants to spend the rest of her life.
Photo from Silicon Valley De-Bug
Alex Habbas is a contributing writer from Santa Clara University
This article originally appeared in Silicon Valley De-Bug »
Great article--well written and informative! It is refreshing to hear about the positive impact that people in our community are making. Ms. Alyan's compassion and leadership are an inspiration not only to those she helps but to the community at large.
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