By Andrew Kosorok for Ismailimail
Sharing the joy of Ramadan through the light of love
Imagine a wall of water 100 feet high, so powerful and destructive it changed the topography of entire countries.
In moments on that terrifying day in 2004 the tsunami washed buildings, cars, trees, roads, and hills into the ocean, and the loss of human life was staggering – with many, many people missing still to this day.
Among those carried away in the turbulent waters were one of Dian Alyan’s favorite uncles and his family – he used to lovingly tease his beloved niece and enjoyed serenading the family from his repertoire of Elvis songs. She had been working at a mosque as Outreach Director for about 2 years, and this tragedy broke her heart.
However, this article is not about tragedy, terror, or natural disasters – it’s about the true spirit of Ramadan.
Dian Alyan describes her childhood in Indonesia as idyllic – her loving family is devout Muslim, her free time was filled with reading books and riding bikes, and her father made sure she excelled in school. A professional woman, she went on to manage teams of people marketing major global brands.
When the tsunami hit her heart was broken. “I was a new mother when this happened, and the thought of children left alone in this world was haunting me.” Rather than allow the tragedy to cripple her, she proceeded to do something about it.
“I came together with about 10 friends and we decided to focus on creating a long term program to support orphaned children. We thought of and created plans to build beautiful homes where kids are loved and raised to have a strong sense of self and belonging. The name GiveLight was inspired by my great grandfather who was a successful merchant, a philanthropist, and a man of great character.
“The epicenter of the tsunami was closest to his birthplace and I watched with horror how the whole area was torn into a million pieces. His name was Noordeen, which means “The Light of Religion”. He fought in the battlefield along with national heroes in the effort to free Indonesia from 300 years of Dutch Colonialization. His life was a beautiful combination of hard work, a deep faith in God and its manifestation through actions that benefit others.”
From that original group of friends determining to do what they could, GiveLight has gone on to build homes in Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and now Morocco – this newest home will open its doors this August. They also have partnered with credible organizations around the world to provide scholarships, food, clothing, and other necessities for orphans in ten other countries including Nepal, Haiti, Afghanistan, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.
I asked Dian how she determined the scope of GiveLight. “When we started GiveLight we analyzed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” but basic needs of food and shelter simply weren’t enough.
“Every child, no matter where they live, has emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual needs to be fulfilled. So education was key – both secular and religious. Character development is also very important, so we focus on shaping it through examples and setting clear expectations on what is right and wrong.
“Every human being has the desire to fulfil the highest level on the hierarchy of need, and that is the desire for self-actualization. We understand this principle, and the whole premise of our work is to help ourselves and our children reach our highest human potential.”
With all the dubious environments through which Dian and her teammates navigate, finding partners they can trust completely, and who share their inspired vision, is a tremendous challenge. “But I know this dream is not mine alone; there are many people who want to do the same but perhaps are not sure how.
“Over the last decade, I’ve met some of the most generous individuals who are ready to donate land, to give their time and money and to embrace the cause in the most beautiful ways.” Strangers, she said, will even ask guests to birthday celebrations and weddings to donate to GiveLight in lieu of giving presents.
In amongst the miracles of charity, the most amazing successes shine through the children. “Some have graduated from universities and many on full scholarships.” Two are married with children of their own, and the successes set wonderful examples for the younger children. “Our kids are achievers and they have big dreams, because we taught them that with hard work and dedication they can succeed in anything.”
Entire lives are changed. “Our work is driven by one word, and that word is ‘love’. Love for the Creator, love for His creation, and love for the most vulnerable segment of the human family: the orphan. Personally, I know that God has bestowed on me and my family more blessings than we deserve, and I feel the desire to share them.
“There is no greater loss than the loss of parents, and with GiveLight we not only build homes but we create a sense of family and belonging. Our kids feel safe and well taken care of in their homes because they are built and run with love. When kids are loved, they grow up to be amazing individuals with a strong sense of self-worth. And my hope is they too will one day impact the world in beautiful ways.”
GiveLight currently cares for 1000 orphans in eleven countries, with hopes to reach 10,000 orphans by 2025. With plans to expand projects in Pakistan, India, Mexico, Canada, Europe and the Middle East, this amazing dream is coming ever closer to that beautiful goal.
From an almost overwhelming tragedy, countless children are now encouraged and helped around the world – what a beautiful way to share the spirit of the Ramadan season!
For more information on GiveLight Foundation, please visit their website here.
Andrew Kosorok is a traditionally trained stained glass artist, who has also studied traditional bookbinding techniques. In addition to commissioned studio work, designing, building, and restoring stained glass windows, Andrew work with sculptural stained glass. He enjoys looking for opportunities to explore dialogs of pluralism and shared community. —> View all posts