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ASU engineering student co-founds initiative to combat poverty in Kosovo (The State Press)

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By Andrew Nicla
October 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Global technology and entrepreneurship graduate student Mentor Dida has channeled his sense of humility and his passion for helping others through projects at ASU, and he is now working on one of his most important projects yet: helping to eliminate poverty in his homeland.

This summer, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering technology from ASU, Dida returned to Kosovo to work on projects there to help combat poverty.

Dida and his friend Landër Islami started a non-profit organization called “Prosperity Initiative in Kosovo.” Dida and Islami are two of the organization’s six co-founders.

One thing about Dida’s homeland compelled him to follow a call to action. Dida says in Kosovo there is around 45 percent unemployment and around 73 percent of that is youth.

“Our vision is to see a Kosovo without poverty, and we believe that youth should be the driving force out of poverty,” Dida said. “Prosperity Initiative in Kosovo is focused on empowering youth to be actively involved with generating solutions to get Kosovo out of poverty.”

Prosperity Initiative’s first project, which is called Lokalizo, is a platform that enables the citizens of Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo, to report issues in their community in specific areas.

The platform features a digital map where users in the area can place markers using GPS technology to mark anything from walking hazards and accumulation of garbage, to sanitation problems and collapse risks.

Nodes on the map can also be sorted by urgency according by its users. Reports with the color green signify something that is “least critical,” while red signifies something that is “most urgent.”

Dida said the project aims to empower the youth to be active citizens by reporting issues in their communities through technology.

The idea for Lokalizo was created at a seed funding competition hosted by the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund Innovation Labs in Kosovo. There, Dida and his friends collaborated with a group of international experts to polish up their idea.

“In the end we ended winning first place and managed to secure seed funding, office space, and UNICEF’s partnership for our project,” Dida said. “Currently, we are in the stage of finalizing partnerships and releasing our platform to the community.”

When the platform is released, the citizens of Prishtina will benefit the most from Lokalizo, but Dida said there are plans to expand the project to different regions of Kosovo.

“We believe that this is just the beginning for PIKS,” Dida said. “We are currently in the process of restructuring our organizations in order to have a more efficient way of managing projects.”

Prosperity Initiative is also working on two new projects. One future project is a collaboration with the Peace Corps in Kosovo to create an educational simulation environment in which students learn about diplomacy, international relations and the United Nations.

The second project is the creation of a video series that will help Albanian speakers understand and apply sustainability practices.

Dida said the resources at ASU, like Changemaker Central, Global Resolve and Skysong, have helped him achieve his goals inside and outside of the classroom.

One of Dida’s first projects at ASU was theTwo Dollar Challenge, a movement to help raise awareness of global poverty. He worked with ASU engineering professor Mark Henderson.

“Mentor is a self-starter with big ideas that he makes into realistic events and activities,” Henderson said. “He works harder than anyone on his team as a great role model.”

Aaron Krasnow, assistant vice president and director of ASU Counseling Services, has known Dida since Dida’s first day at ASU.

He said Dida is one of the students who stands out from his 15 years working in higher education.

“His maturity, commitment to self and others, passion for solutions, and positivity are unmatched. I honestly have never met anyone like him,” Krasnow said. “He is passionate and pragmatic. He is serious and loves life. He inspires others and seeks to learn from them as well.”

Dida’s passion for helping others through these projects stems from his optimistic outlook on life and a view of the world of what humanity could be.

“When the last day of your life comes and you look back at your life, you want to pass away with a peace of mind and you want to say that you lived a happy life, loved your family and friends and helped others,” Dida said. “Money can’t buy that peace of mind. That is why I have devoted my life to helping others, because it is not only good for others, it is good for me.”

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