Peer to Peer

Peer to Peer strives to support the local refugee population by helping refugee youth integrate into their new communities.

Photo of Shivani Shah
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Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

March 31, 1998

Help us stay in touch!

Maryland: College Park (20740)

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: Instagram: @peertopeerorg Facebook:

Date You Started Your Project Started

October / 3/ 2017

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

As stated by the UNHCR, half of the world’s refugees are children. The children that do get resettled in a new country, must be able to adapt to the new and learn the necessary skills to start and thrive in this new environment. This issue is the focus of Peer to Peer. The organization recognizes the challenge these refugee youth face and works to support them academically, socially, and emotionally in safe, welcoming environments.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We have been working to solve this problem by providing student mentors from the University of Maryland to volunteer at after-school tutoring held by the International Rescue Committee of Silver Spring, Maryland. In the year we have been active, we have not only provided tutoring 4 to 5 times every week, but we have also helped host field trips to expose students to new learning experiences. This coming year, we have many plans to grow Peer to Peer and increase its impact. First, we have planned a "speaker series" on campus. As a service-based organization, it is important that Peer to Peer advocates for the refugee cause, because service delivery alone will not achieve large-scale social change. With experts in the field talking about the global climate on displacement, I hope to garner interest among UMD students. For the refugee students we work with, we plan to develop and implement a loose curriculum during our after-school tutoring sessions. This way, there is more structure to the program. We have also planned a "College Application Prep Series" for our refugee students and their families. With this, we hope to relieve stress and unease that comes with applying to college.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Like many, I was left distraught when images from the aftermath of the Syrian civil war began to surface. Although initially overcome with sadness, I knew that there was work to be done. I began looking for a way to volunteer with organizations who aid refugees and others who have been forcibly displaced. In my search, I discovered a local International Rescue Committee (IRC) office that resettles refugees in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Having found out about a large population of resettled refugees living right by the University of Maryland, I decided to reach out to the IRC office to see how I could help out. After speaking with the IRC, I was certain that others at the university would want to help as well. It was then that Peer to Peer was established. I reached out to my friend, Gina, and together we began to build this organization.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Soon after Makia was born in Sudan, a war began and the village that her family called home was no longer safe. She and her family were forced to flee and found themselves in a refugee camp in neighboring country Chad. When Makia’s sister fell ill, her family was not able to find proper medical care. The United Nations workers told Makia’s father to consider applying for resettlement to a country with proper medical care. The process took 3 years, but in 2015, Makia’s family made it to Maryland. Soon after, Makia began middle school where she had little knowledge of the language or culture. Makia is one of the amazing students in the afterschool program. She has a passion for writing and hopes to continue to use her voice to empower others. She was at the afterschool program when she wrote a short story with the guidance of a UMD mentor, which was later published on the IRC website.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Peer to Peer is unique because it strives to have a compound effect on an entire community. First, it shows that even in the midst of a global crisis, there are ways to effect positive and meaningful change in your own community. Additionally, the goals of Peer to Peer are multi-faceted. Not only do we hope to help the refugee youth reach their academic goals, but we also strive to facilitate cultural exchange between the UMD mentors and the refugee students. Lastly, we are working towards expanding our impact by increasing advocacy for those who have been forcibly displaced.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Spring 2018 was Peer to Peer’s second active semester as a student organization. We have had 112 mentors (not exclusive) volunteer over the course of 50 tutoring sessions. We have 16 refugee students registered for the program at Parkdale High School. On average, attendance is typically around 70-75%. We are proud of this attendance rate, seeing as the program is designed to be on a drop-in basis. Before the program started, our students did not stay after school because of lack of transportation and confidence. Since the after school program, students feel comfortable navigating public transit independently, freeing them to stay after school for more than just the Peer to Peer program. We are also very proud of our work with helping the students prepare for the SAT. 100% of seniors participating in the program took the SAT.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

This semester, after meeting with the team at the IRC, we have decided to solidify Peer to Peer’s position in this program. We will be working with a staff member to develop a curriculum for the students. Additionally, I would like to host more speaker events on campus. I have two events planned for the semester but would like to increase that number to really have more student engagement. Lastly, I would like to begin expanding to other campuses across the country. Just in a year, Peer to Peer has seen great success as an organization and I hope to increase its impact by working in new regions.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Plan & Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Donations between $100-$1k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Peggy Liang

Attachments (1)

Maryland Today | For Teenage Refugees, Homework Help—and Down-to-Earth Insights.pdf

An article about Peer to Peer in Maryland Today, produced by the Office of Strategic Communications at the University of Maryland.


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Photo of Danyal Malik

Amazing idea! Gonna do great things with this.

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