IBM employee Tauheed Khan has a very important second job. He’s founder and CEO of the not-for-profit organization, Children of Tomorrow (CoT),which seeks to provide computer-based education for the "poorest of the poor" around the world, beginning with Khan's native Pakistan and nearby Nepal.
Except right now, he and other CoT volunteers are also hard at work raising funds for low-cost water filters for Pakistan. They were diverted from their original mission by yet another disaster in Pakistan: massive flooding last summer that swallowed a fifth of the country, leaving thousands dead and millions homeless.
"What can you do? You keep going ahead with plans for educating these kids, but first you must try to save their lives," says Khan, a New York City-based client executive serving French banking customers. Nevertheless, Khan is moving ahead with ambitious plans to use computer technology to teach basic math, English and local language skills to destitute four to eight-year-old children. He concedes it is an intimidating, evolving task.
For Khan, education offers hope
“When I visited Pakistan after the flooding last year, the schools that we hoped to work with were gone,” he says. “Lots of the kids we hope to help educate were roaming the streets. I couldn't help thinking, ‘These children are perfect targets for a growing disillusioned youth population.’ But I also believe that if every one of them becomes educated, extremism loses its hold.”
Unlike more conventional startups, the globally diverse CoT volunteers communicate with each other and potential allies across the planet, in ways inconceivable without modern collaboration tools:
- Khan and CoT co-founder Debra Ryan live in New York City, but Khan is a native of Pakistan and Ryan is from Australia.
- The CoT web designers and editors live in Rome (one, an expert in social media, is a citizen of Holland who moved to Italy by way of New York).
- The graphic designer hails from Ireland, and an unpaid economics advisor contributes his time from Colorado, USA.
- And they all communicate via Facebook and the Children of Tomorrow website that went live in November, email, and, of course, via Twitter (follow@ChildofTomorrow).
In their second year as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, CoT volunteers are conducting online fund-raisers with a global reach, supplemented by local events this winter in New York City, to be followed by others in Toronto, Lahore and Dubai.
Khan says he was inspired by a 2005 meeting with “Three Cups of Tea” author and humanitarian Greg Mortensen’s efforts to “promote peace one school at a time” in impoverished villages in Pakistan. “He asked me, ‘Hey, why don’t you collect money for me?’ But I knew that I didn’t just want to collect money for Pakistan, I decided to become a value-added service provider to schools around the world.”
As with any not-for-profit, the long-range business plan for CoT starts with fund-raising. But it also calls for using technical and social networking savvy to build alliances with global and local humanitarian groups and spread locally appropriate computer literacy to those “poorest of the poor” wherever they can be found, including in Africa and Central and South America.
IBM Celebration of Service
IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.
About Children of Tomorrow
Children of Tomorrow is an approved agency under the IBM Employee Charitable Contributions Campaign, and about 15 IBM employees are already actively supporting the program. Two New York City bands - the alternate rock band, Blue Pages and Band 6 comprised almost entirely of IBM employees will entertain at a February 5 fundraiser for Operation Clean Water Pakistan.
Price of admission: $30, enough to purchase one water filter for a family of eight.