Annie Barrett
corporate social responsibility, team building activities

How Corporate Teams Can Help Provide Refugees with a Sustainable Livelihood

Since 2015, the social enterprise NaTakallam has helped displaced migrants make a sustainable living as online tutors, teachers, language partners, and translators. In fact, in less than five years, the language partners of the organization, whose name translates to “We Speak” in Arabic, have earned over $1 million USD for offering their language services in Arabic, French, Spanish, and Persian. Now, to increase their impact, they have partnered with Visit.org to offer corporate teams a chance to learn about and contribute to their mission of empowering refugees.

One concrete way corporate teams are able to support NaTakallam is by attending a virtual talk led by one of the refugee partners. Teams gather online to listen to the host’s story and participate in a Q&A session. This inspiring team-building experience sparks important discussions, broadens perspectives, and raises awareness as well as monetary support for NaTakallam and its refugee partners.

As part of their Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging Week, the team at telecommunications company Lumen Technologies, attended a NaTakallam virtual talk led by a woman named Marianela Nunez who, after emigrating from Venezuela to Costa Rica three years ago, found a home with NaTakallam working as a Spanish language tutor. Together, the team spent an hour listening to Marianela’s powerful story.

Prior to the election of Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela in 1998, Marianela lived a comfortable life working at an adventure tourism agency and teaching Spanish. She was able to provide for her daughter and had enough money to pursue her love of travel. However, after the election of Chavez, her life became dangerous and unstable. Marianela fled Venezuela by foot. It took her five days to walk from Venezuela to Costa Rica and she was in constant fear of being robbed or seriously injured. 

Today, Marianela very much enjoys her work with NaTakallam. Still, adjusting to life in Costa Rica as a single woman living alone has had its challenges. She shared with the group how the loneliness she experiences has been heightened with the onset of COVID-19. 

Following Marianela’s story, the group participated in a Q&A session. Many took the opportunity to tell her how inspirational her story was. In fact, throughout the call, participants were engaged and attentive, and her expert storytelling ability transformed the Zoom conversation into what seemed like a cozy chat in her living room.

Moreover, participants had built such a great rapport with Marianela that they were able to joke with each other about finding ways to help her find a significant other!

Ultimately, Marianela came away from the experience feeling seen, heard, and less alone. Meanwhile, Lumen employees were able to get some perspective about life in a place 4000 miles away, opening their hearts, minds, and conversations to diverse experiences.

If you or your organization is interested in inviting a refugee guest speaker to share their story with your team, contact [email protected] for help facilitating the activity. With Visit.org and NaTakallam, you’ll broaden your team’s connection with the world, while making an impact on the livelihoods of displaced migrants.

Photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio