2019 PitcHER Finalists

Aline Sara

Aline Sara is the Co-founder and CEO of NaTakallam, a social enterprise that connects refugees and displaced persons with work opportunities in the language sector through the freelance economy.

Lebanese, born and raised in New York, Aline completed her Baccalaureate at the Lycée Français in New York City and graduated in psychology from Tufts University in Boston. She then moved to Beirut and worked in conflict resolution and human rights before transitioning into journalism, focusing on human and women’s rights and wider sociopolitical affairs before, during, and after the Arab Uprisings.

In 2012, Aline returned to New York for her masters in International Affairs at Columbia University. She then worked as an international election observer in Tunisia, Guyana, and Haiti while continuing to write as a freelancer on the side. In 2015, in light of the challenging work situation for more than a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and while searching for ways to practice her own Arabic skills, Aline came up with the idea for NaTakallam — to hire refugees as online tutors — which has grown into a larger social enterprise working in multiple languages and communities.

To date, the venture, which is disrupting the way we typically think of humanitarianism/international development, has provided over half a million dollars in cash to displaced people worldwide. Besides income to refugees on the one hand and a service to students and clients on the other, NaTakallam helps foster intercultural exchange and raise awareness around the daily challenges of fleeing conflict zones, notably through its academic partnerships with schools and universities (including Columbia, Duke, GW, Tufts, Yale and more).

In an increasingly interconnected world, global exchange as well as language and cultural services have never been so needed nor critical to success. NaTakallam offers high-quality, curated language services delivered by refugees and displaced persons through the gig economy. These services include translation, online language teaching, and tutoring, as well as cultural exchange sessions.

NaTakallam provide refugees with the training and mentorship needed to perform the services, which offer a pathway to sustainable income during and after displacement and/or in the early stages of resettlement. Additionally, NaTakallam provides clients with a much-needed service. To date, displaced persons have self-generated over $600,000 through NaTakallam, connecting with over 6,000 unique users in more than 90 countries. Institutional partners and clients include universities such as Tufts, Duke, Columbia, and Georgetown, and organizations such as the International Rescue Committee, Ben & Jerry’s, WeWork, and Buzzfeed.

While originally born to support Syrians teaching Arabic, NaTakallam’s language sessions are now also offered in French (with refugees from Congo DRC, Burundi, Guinea), Persian (with Iranians and Afghans) and Spanish (with Venezuelans and Central Americans).

Our translation services are provided in more than nine languages including Arabic, French, Kurdish,
Pashto, Persian (Farsi/Dari), Portuguese, Spanish, Tigrinya, Urdu, with competitive pricing and personalized service.

Language Learning
We offer language sessions in Arabic (with Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, Egyptian, Yemini displaced persons), French (with refugees form Congo DRC, Burundi, Guinea), Persian (with Iranians and Afghans) and Spanish (with Venezuelans and Central Americans). For Arabic, we offer a full-on curriculum option in partnership with the head of the Arabic department at Cornell University.

Cultural Exchange Sessions
We offer impactful, unique learning opportunities to young future globally oriented students through virtual exchange with displaced people. We work with language courses (Arabic, Persian, Spanish and French) as well as with courses in English specifically connected to issues of migration and displacement and those on topics ranging from Syrian film to global health.

All of our services provide direct income to displaced persons, at times where they might be entirely cut off from the local labor market, stuck in camps or in other limbo situations.