Photo: Mahmoud loads school supply bags into a car for distribution to children in need.
While he was at the Beyond YES Summit in Jordan in April 2017, Mahmoud Al Azramli (YES 2014–2015, Libya, hosted by PAX in Camby, IN) saw that he needed to do something to help children in Libya stay in school. At Beyond YES, the participants learned about various development goals and developed their own project proposals. For Mahmoud, that project proposal turned into a long and difficult effort to make a difference in Tripoli.
Mahmoud explains the premise behind his project "Bassma":
"The activity was aimed at fundraising enough money and stationary to support those families who cannot afford to send their kids to school by providing school equipment to their kids. We believe that providing young students with the necessary equipment for them to have an equal chance at school is a necessity that we have to provide. We also strongly believe that going to school and having all the equipment needed for it is every child's right and most definitely not a privilege."
After securing funding for Bassma, Mahmoud gathered other volunteers including newly returned YES alumnus Moones Hussein (YES 2016-2018, Libya, hosted by YFU in Meadville, PA). They started to gather donations in June by attending local events and handing out fliers to explain their project.
At first, Mahmoud says, "Sadly, people did not respond but we did not lose faith and we tried even harder. We started to distribute donation boxes at stationary stores and restaurants, and asked local businesses and government agencies for any kind of help they could offer. Many rejected, some gave out false promises, but we believed that even if we were able to help only one family we were still doing good and helping our community."
Their persistence finally paid off. "On the last month of our project, people started to respond. Private donors started to call us and offer monetary and stationary donations," reports Mahmoud. And volunteers even got a local charity to buy-in to help distribute the school supplies, and to vouch for Bassma and give it extra credibility when the volunteers were asking others for donations.
In the end, Bassma collected nearly $6,000 worth of school supplies which they distributed to 115 students in need in Tripoli and Sebha. What an incredible outcome for these YES alumni who refuse to give up helping their community!
Photos, left to right: Moones carries a load of donated school supplies; volunteers stuff backpacks with school supplies to be distributed.