Ali Tarabit has been a volunteer with the charity organization Aviation Sans Frontières (ASF) for almost three years. With his help, ASF has revolutionised its office operations, improving its efficiency and opening up new possibilities.
Flying high: a technology volunteer’s story
His story illustrates how much valuable impact any Microsoft-led volunteering initiative can have on local communities.
When Paris-based Microsoft employee Ali Tarabit received an e-mail about the company’s employment involvement programme, he already knew that he wanted to work with an organisation that makes a practical impact on the lives of disadvantaged people. Inspired by his African heritage, Ali Tarabit chose to support Aviation Sans Frontières (ASF), which provides NGOs in Africa and beyond with airborne transport to facilitate the dispatch of rescue and emergency aid in difficult access areas.
With the agreement of Microsoft France management, Ali has spent two days a week for the past three years working with the ASF office team based at Paris’ Orly airport, from where the organisation’s missions are co-ordinated.
Food supplies are unloaded from an ASF plane in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Since his arrival, he has been lending his support to setting up a new IT system for ASF. When he joined, the organisation was relying heavily on paper-based work. Consequently, communication between ASF’s more than 2,500 member organisations was slow and difficult to co-ordinate, and aircraft safety checks were based on paper documents which had to be reviewed frequently to ensure safety standards.
Since the arrival of 35 new computers, half of them sponsored by Microsoft, and ten new servers, the ways in which ASF operates have changed beyond recognition. The arrival of e-mail communication and access to a shared electronic calendar means that planes can be booked more quickly by NGOs in need, leading to faster turnaround and more efficient services - which can often literally be a lifesaver for those dependent on aid and transportation. In addition, the digitisation of data means that aircraft can be more easily serviced and parts in need of exchange can be identified quickly, improving aviation safety. Furthermore, ASF now has access to a constantly expanding database comprising past and current projects, which allows the organisation to analyse and review its performance, set itself new targets and undertake new projects.
One of these new projects, to be rolled out soon, is the e-aviation scheme, which allows French children from schools in disadvantaged areas to spend a day at ASF, learning about the basics of aviation and career options in that sector. A total of 30 PCs, equipped with flight simulation hardware and software, enable the aspiring pilots to take part in a ‘virtual mission’. As a teacher leading a pilot group remarked: “The training day is a tremendous opportunity for us to get these children interested in geography, maths and physics: our teaching job begins where ASF’s project ends.”
ASF ground operations have undergone a small revolution, and Ali Tarabit believes this is just the beginning. Soon, the arrival of new SharePoint servers will allow ASF to run joint operations with similar organisations in other European countries, jointly raising the profile of their services. “It will enable us all to get connected and bond. I am very proud to be working with people that bring such passion and dedication to a job that makes a real difference everyday,” says Ali Tarabit.
Ali Tarabit’s story is just one of many successful volunteering projects which are undertaken at Microsoft, and the new Microsoft Employee Volunteering Program is expected to generate many more successful partnerships which will make an important contribution to local communities in the future.