GiveLight: How a Bay Area Heroine Built A Global Orphanage


‘See you tomorrow’ the text from Dian read. Dian Alyan is a founder of GiveLight Foundation, a global non-profit organization that takes care of orphans who are displaced by natural disasters, extreme poverty, and conflict conditions around the globe.

Gita, Dian, and Michelle in GiveLight office.

The next day, Michelle and I knocked on the door of GiveLight’s office and were welcomed by Safaa, one of two GiveLight staff. I asked whether it was okay to bring my 3 month-old baby in with me for the interview and she said, “Sure! Taking care of orphans is our passion. Of course, children are welcome here.” We stepped into a 250-sqft, Moroccan-style room with a red carpet and pillows on the floor. “Please make yourself at home. Our office is quite small because we want to save the money for the children instead.” Not long after, Dian came to greet us. She fixed us some black tea and a platter of oranges and grapes. Moments later she was sharing her touching stories.

How GiveLight Started

Dian studied engineering in college and was working for Procter&Gamble Indonesia. She worked on some successful marketing campaigns even though she was only in a junior role. She was promoted to a global assignment and moved to Cincinnati, where she would later meet her husband. ‘All out or nothing’ has always been her motto. Yet after having achieved so much in her career and financial stability, she grew restless. “I was done chasing the worldly affairs. They didn’t fulfill me. So I quit.” When she went on pilgrimage to Mecca, she prayed to God for two things: to be a mother and to have a sense of purpose. “God answered both of my prayers.”

Dian with girls in Bangladesh Photo credit: GiveLight)

In 2004, a massive earthquake happened off west Sumatra. It sent deadly tsunami waves from the Indian Ocean that decimated the shores of several countries. Aceh was the hardest hit province in Indonesia with the waves killing roughly a quarter million people. “I lost 40 relatives because of that disaster. I saw children losing their families,” Dian’s eyes grew a little misty. However, she did not dwell on her personal loss. “It was heartwarming to see the outpouring condolences. But tears and words are not enough. We had to do more.”

Dian started building a solid business plan for the orphanage and with the help of local volunteers in Indonesia, it was completed in a mere 7 months. Project Noordeen, as it was called, was named after Dian’s great-grandfather who has inspired her in many ways. He freed the people from the Dutch colonization in the 1930s and cared for many orphans in his village in Takengon, Aceh. The 3,000 sqft of land where the orphanage was built was generously donated by Dian’s family. Clearly, altruism runs in the family.

GiveLight Going Global

Dian said in a previous interview with Mercury News,

“I’m going to do for orphanages what Conrad Hilton did for hotels. I’m going to build the best orphanages in the world, and my clients are going to be the poorest of the poor.’’

In December 2005, 50 children moved into the first home, Noordeen, and GiveLight has expanded globally ever since. Their second home was built in Pakistan and followed by Bangladesh and then eight other countries. Currently, they are building their latest home in Morocco, named ‘Maison de Lumieres’ which means the House of Lights. This orphanage was adopted by the USF architecture department as one of their community service projects.

To Dian, a saying of the the Prophet has always resonated with her throughout the GiveLight journey.

“I and one who takes care of an orphan will be like this in paradise”

and the Prophet points to his two fingers joined together.

She believed in the goodness of others, which has been proven in the sheer abundance of help that people have poured into GiveLight. None of the lands in those eleven countries was bought. Everything was donated. “When it comes to GiveLight, I don’t ask people to give their money. I tell them the story and they come to help unasked.” Dian organizes a wide array of events to fundraise for her orphanage, ranging from ladies nights, global bistro showstoppers, and poster competitions for children. The funds collected almost always surpass expectation. The children in Granada School held a “Help Club” by selling T-shirts and movie tickets. They managed to pool roughly $11,000 when the expectation was that there would be a few thousand dollars. All the winners of the poster competitions even donated their award money back to GiveLight, and then some more.

GiveLight founder Dian with Life in the Bay's Michelle

Dian and Michelle showcasing the winning posters from the competition

Making an impact around the world…and at home

Dian’s creative ideas in marketing and event branding, combined with the generosity of the community, have changed the lives of more than 800 orphans in eleven countries. GiveLight not only provides food and shelter for these young orphans but also nurtures their young minds. GiveLight aims to provide world class education to the orphans, and at a minimum, to get them to finish high school. Five children from its earliest residents in the Aceh home have now gone to college. Donors are welcome to donate to an existing scholarship fund, but they are also encouraged to establish their own and designate it to the country of their choosing.

Apart from the global impact that GiveLight has made, the Bay Area is after all where we are focused. GiveLight is currently providing scholarship and a mentoring program to 13 orphans who have fled the conflict in Syria and are currently settled here.

GiveLight is also supported by big corporations in Silicon Valley that will match their employee donation. Some of them include Google, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Paypal and many more. If you are interested in the events being held by GiveLight, you can check our their Facebook page or be a donor and join their cause in making the lives of orphans around the world a better one.

For further information, or to get involved, you’re welcome to contact GiveLight directly at info@givelight.org


About Gita A

I have spent one third of my life away from home. I was born and grew up in Solo, Indonesia. After high school, I took my business degree in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore where I met my husband. Eight years later, we moved to the Bay Area when my husband was offered a position at Google. Moving to the other side of the world was not an easy task. Struggle was of course a part of it, and I have my ups and downs. Slowly but sure I find new friends along the way and life is getting more colourful each day. I know that my story is not unique. I’m glad to join the LITB team and I hope that our stories can help those who find themselves a thousand miles away from home feel not alone. We are in this together; and we, as a community, can grow stronger. Welcome to the Bay Area!

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