"I dream that one day, The Global Schoolhouse Initiative will be a household name and pave the way for so many other organizations and individuals to contribute to sustainable, accessible, and free education to the world"
– Yasmeen Sehbai
"It really started with a thought. A thought about the world and the situation where so many billions of people are in poverty, hunger, suffer inhumane treatment, and much more. A thought of how they might be able to change their circumstances if given the right tools." – Yasmeen Sehbai, CEO & Founder of the Global Schoolhouse Initiative. The Global Schoolhouse Initiative is a global charity that provides displaced and underserved children with free, emergency education, teaching them the necessary tools and skills needed to manage and process their challenging circumstances. Reflecting on the endless list of unfortunate circumstances that many people around the world find themselves in, Yasmeen Sehbai, founder of The Global Schoolhouse Initiative (GSI), believes that with the right mindset and proper resilience education, many are able to change their circumstances. Working with children who face the daily challenges of abuse, neglect, food insecurity, resources, and lack access to clean water, the GSI team educates them on resilience and peace development. “While there is a focus on basic education skills like math, reading, writing and literacy, we like to always bring the kids back to the idea of looking within and reframing how they see themselves so their self-worth and self-esteem is built strong enough to withstand the hardships that we cannot remove them from”, says Yasmeen. GSI believes that education is an essential way to make a change in many areas in our lives and our planet as a whole. Yasmeen went on to say, “I feel that a true education is not only mathematics, reading and writing skills but learning how to think critically and process information in a constructive and beneficial way. Of course, that changes between cultures and regions, but critical thinking is a skill that can be taught, and is at the core of solving any problem”. With the goal of deploying 5 – 10 schoolhouses a year, Yasmeen and her team experience an array of emotions at every new location deployment. The experience of meeting and interacting with the kids continues to give Yasmeen that push and feeling of hope. "The GSI team comes together and we work in harmony, helping each other when we can. We often have to rely on each other for moral and emotional support as well, as it is really difficult to see the hardship that these children are facing. We leave the deployment fulfilled, but a piece of our hearts always stays behind", says Yasmeen. Yasmeen continues to work towards achieving her dreams with the GSI, providing more children with the education they need to thrive through their circumstances. Yasmeen Sehbai has lived in different parts of Canada, the Middle East, and Pakistan. Being bi-racial, growing up became challenging when it came to fitting into the Pakistani and Canadian communities. Oftentimes, she’d find herself having to “switch hats'' to better suit the culture she was dealing with. In Pakistan, she was often criticized by teachers at school for not knowing enough about the Pakistani language of Urdu or history, and in the Canadian community, teased and bullied by the other kids because of her cultural identity and inability to fit in. Entering adulthood, Yasmeen has found ways to cope with the challenges she’s endured and has found the beauty in it, this being that these challenges have made her wiser in interacting with different cultures. “I learned about something called code-switching in linguistics and thought that this also applies to cultures. I learned that this is something I am constantly doing, alternating between different cultures in my mindset and values to kind of ‘fit’ wherever I am at the moment. Though challenging, it has made me wiser, helped me to be more compassionate, empathetic and understanding of the things that get lost in translation between cultures, religions, and even value systems”, shared Yasmeen. As a child, it has always been her dream to help people and it brings her great joy that she’s been able to achieve this dream with GSI. Yasmeen went on to say, “Helping people has always been a dream, but was something that existed only in my mind. When it becomes a reality, there is a huge responsibility that comes with it, and that is humbling”. Yasmeen resides in Montreal with her husband, kids, three cats and one dog. “Accepting what you can and cannot do is essential for achieving happiness, which to me is the ultimate success” – Yasmeen Sehbai
Our Favorite Questions
What are your dreams today? "My dreams today are to be successful enough to be able to keep funding The Global Schoolhouse Initiative and continue to provide free education to children who don’t have access to any. Deploying 5-10 schoolhouses a year is my target and that's what keeps me going. Seeing how much education is needed around the world, and how resilient all of these communities are just feeds the dream even more. I dream that one day, The Global Schoolhouse Initiative will be a household name and pave the way for so many other organizations and individuals to contribute to sustainable, accessible, and free education to the world."
What is your secret recipe for a successful, happy life? "As cliché as it sounds, my recipe for a successful life is some sort of version of the serenity prayer. Having the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, courage to change what you can, and wisdom to know the difference. Really, I feel when you break down any problem or situation through this lens, things get a lot simpler and give you a clear indication of what your next steps should be. Accepting what you can and cannot do is essential for achieving happiness, which to me is the ultimate success. I also feel that developing your instincts or your ‘gut’ feelings is key, as this is really a guiding force in almost every decision I make. Trusting that internal voice and navigator is essential because this ensures that you are being true to yourself and living a life based on your deepest and innermost values and belief systems."
What keeps you going? "My drive for something better and need to be the best version of myself. I have always been very independent, and since I was young I always had different versions of myself that I imagine. I would draw on these versions of myself in time of need to hope to one day get to that ideal version of myself. I still remember the day I looked in the mirror at 26 years old, wearing the same outfit my ‘ideal self’ wore in my mind and thinking . . ." "Hey, when did you get here?”. The exhilarating feeling of working so hard to better myself and achieving my goal is one of the biggest driving forces I have and still use to this day."
Where's home to you? "Home is where my family is, my husband, Omar, and my 3 beautiful children, 3 cats and my dog"