Posted on January 11, 2018

Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) alumnus Haroon Yasin (SFS ‘15) was recently named as one of the winners of the 2018 Queen’s Young Leaders Awards for his work to educate underprivileged children in Pakistan. Later this year, Yasin will travel to the United Kingdom to receive his award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Yasin is the co-founder of Orenda, an educational organization that uses cartoons and digital streaming technology to bring school curriculums to children who are unable to attend formal classes, or who are at risk of dropping out of school. Using a mobile app with cartoon characters living in ‘Taleemabad’ (Urdu for ‘Education City’) and complementary work books, Yasin and his co-founder, fellow GU-Q alumnus Ahwaz Akhtar (SFS ’16), are making learning fun and engaging for around 1300 children in the country.

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“Recently, after having seen the benefits of the Taleemabad cartoon series, we have started developing tools to take our digital learning model to the masses,” said Yasin. “The award has given us the publicity and forum to ensure that the maximum number of people benefit from the service we have designed.” The Queen’s Young Leaders Award is a global program that recognizes and celebrates people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth who are using their skills to impact their communities. As part of his prize, Yasin will be taking a custom-designed course at the University of Cambridge to continue developing his communication, fundraising, and leadership skills.

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The GU-Q alumnus hopes this course will enable him to scale up Orenda’s work, as the organization expands the app’s reach internationally and rolls out new ‘digital books’ for children without internet access. “We have recently manufactured an extremely low cost device that can play all the content via built-in memory,” said Yasin. “It can store up to a year’s worth of content, and can play it for up to 8 hours consecutively without a charge. Using SMS messages, the device also keeps on submitting progress reports to our server so that the child can be helped when they get stuck.”

Yasin was one of three winners from Pakistan, and one of 60 young people selected from thousands of applicants from across the world for the 2018 Queen’s Young Leaders Awards. Shortlisted applicants were selected by a panel made up of young people from across the Commonwealth, and the finalists were chosen by members from The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Comic Relief, and The Royal Commonwealth Society.