Why guard.me is Committed to Giving Back
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Chinese Proverb
This saying is so well known because it’s such a powerful concept. Every day, I am inspired by the idea that education can change the world for the better. Education, and the experiences that come because of it creates better global citizens who are empowered to tackle the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives.
At guard.me, this belief in education drives us to do more. As cliché as it may sound, we view ourselves not just as an international student health insurance provider, but also as an enabler of education and growth for international students around the world. We believe it is our responsibility to actively participate in the communities in which we operate in, and to help students achieve educational success no matter where they are.
Helping Students Through More Than Insurance
We recognized from the very beginning that we wanted to do more than just sell student insurance. As I talked about in a recent article, we wanted to build relationships, both with our partner schools and with the local community.
One of the ways we have helped our international students is by offering scholarships to ease their financial burden. It is amazing how much difference a small financial contribution can make to a student who is struggling to afford tuition, rent, food, and everything else that comes with living abroad.
I still have letters in my office from students who were close to dropping their program before receiving our scholarship. These stories proved we were on the right track and we proudly continue to help more students achieve success each year.
A growing issue for international students is the accessibility of mental health resources in times of need. Being away from home, and their support system can create tremendous stress and emotional challenges for young people. With barriers such as language, cultural differences, and even not knowing where to seek treatment, international students often struggle to get help. To address this, we started the keep.me SAFE initiative, a 24/7 support service that students can access whenever they need to talk to a certified counselor who shares their language and culture.
We value giving back to students, and as we have expanded into new markets, we have maintained this sense of community involvement and our commitment to helping the regions in which we had a presence.
An Unexpected Opportunity in Turkey
Expanding into Turkey was a key milestone for us, and we wanted to make sure we did it right. To understand the local market and ease our transition into it, we partnered with a local company called a2 International Education Fairs. a2 Fairs has over 25 years of experience in the international education industry and have connected hundreds of thousands of students with more than 900 institutions around the world.
Little did we know that this partnership would lead to something far greater than a new market. In 2014, they were looking to provide assistance to build a library in the small, rural community of Yesilli, Turkey. Only 40 kilometers from the Syrian border, the region struggles to get access to educational resources and reliable internet.
When we first heard about the project, we knew we wanted to get involved. Not only did it align with our vision of helping international students, it also helped to inspire education in students who most likely would not have the opportunity to travel abroad.
In 2015, I was privileged to be able to attend the opening of the new library. Surrounded by excited children, teachers, parents, and local representatives, it was one of the highlights of my professional career. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as they discovered a whole new world (some of them had never seen books before) is something I will never forget. It is a powerful reminder of the kind of impact we can have on those who are less fortunate.
Since then, we have built an additional library in the small community of Aladağ. Just a year before the library was constructed, a fire tore through one of the dormitories at the school where students lived during the week, killing 11 students and a teacher.
While nothing can fully heal the damage and pain caused by the fire, the library represents hope and a path forward for the community. Today, it serves as a year-long resource not just for students, but for the local population in general.
Enabling Education Around the World
Every employee here at guard.me understands that we are about more than just insurance. As we continue to grow and expand into new markets, it is essential that we keep our focus on the bigger picture and build our understanding of how we can benefit those communities in which we participate. We believe it is our responsibility to help students achieve their goals whether or not they are fortunate enough to travel abroad. If education can change the world, anything that encourages education is worth doing.
Keith Segal is President and Founder of guard.me