Faces of NetHope: Former refugee shares expertise, experience

  • Kristin Kalning
  • June 20, 2017
Faces of NetHope: Former refugee shares

Leila Toplic spent many years working in technology, first at Adobe Systems in Seattle, which she joined after graduating from Wellesley College, and then at Microsoft, where she spent 11 years. But Leila got her first taste of computers in a rather unexpected place: A refugee camp in southern Hungary, where she and her family lived for a year after escaping the war in Bosnia in the mid-90’s.  

With her unique background, Leila was a natural fit to manage NetHope’s program for refugee children and youth. Leila currently heads up the No Lost Generation (NLG) Tech Task Force, an initiative aimed at using technology to support the needs of refugee children and youth. In the edited excerpt of an interview conducted earlier this month, Leila describes the work of the Task Force, how she moved from a student to a teacher, and why she thinks NetHope is uniquely positioned to enact change in refugee education.  

Q: Let’s start with the NLG initiative and NLG Tech Task Force. What is it?

A. The NLG initiative was launched in 2013 to address the needs of the children and youth that were affected by Syria and Iraq crises. It focuses on three pillars: education, youth and adolescents, and child protection. Earlier this year, NetHope and NLG came together to set up a task force to connect tech solutions and resources with the needs of refugee children and youth. We do that by facilitating cross-sector, project-based collaborations with NGOs like DRC and private sector companies like Microsoft, HP, and Coursera. 

Q: After being born and raised in Bosnia and enduring the subsequent war, what finally prompted you and your family to flee the country when you were 18?

A. The war in Bosnia started when I was 14, and it was a really bloody ethnic conflict. We stayed until I turned 18, because we were hoping that the war would end and that we wouldn’t need to leave our home. Nobody wakes up one day and says they want to flee everything they love and know and want to become refugees. People who become refugees see no other choice.

Read the full story at the NetHope Blog.

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