Meet the founder

Tariq Fancy

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Rumie began in a rather unlikely place: at a graveyard in Amsterdam.

Let me take a step back and explain the context. I was born and raised in Canada to parents who immigrated from Kenya. When I was growing up we would sometimes visit relatives in Kenya, giving me a firsthand look at the contrast between the poverty there and my relatively privileged upbringing in North America. After seeing how my uncle, Anjam, was denied an education due to a disability (there were no wheelchair-accessible school buses in Nairobi at the time), I became especially passionate about helping people to learn, better themselves and realize their true potential.

But after finishing university I got sucked into following the path of so many other graduates I knew: I put my dreams on hold and went to Wall Street instead.

As the years passed, the itch remained: I wasn’t doing what I really cared about. So I took a year off to do an MBA, and while there I met Michiel Lowenberg, a Dutch classmate who had also worked in finance but shared the same passion for using the skills he had acquired to improve the world. We became close friends and roommates.

Worldwide, 60% of adolescents faced barriers to quality learning — and 54% of adults needed skills training to adapt to a changing job market. And that was before COVID. Now, the need is even greater.

But once we graduated, we both went back to finance. It was obvious and easy to return to a cushy job, and we honestly believed we would do some good somewhere… someday. Just not yet.

Then something changed: in 2010 Michiel was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. When someone close to you goes through a rough period, you often live some of it vicariously through them. And I saw that for Michiel, ‘someday’ was no longer good enough; it was now or never. He started the charity Join for Joy, a wonderful organization that uses play to motivate children to learn – in the very same country where my parents grew up.

While battling stage 4 cancer for two and a half years, Michiel showed me clearly what I too will care about when I know my time is running out: making a difference.

And so, standing at his grave in Amsterdam in 2013, I decided to follow his example: ‘someday’ would no longer do for me either. I was passionate about a big problem, I had a big idea that could provide a game-changing solution, and it was finally time to stop thinking about it and just jump off the diving board and give it 100%. And so the Rumie story began.

Personally I do this because I’ve been lucky in life – and I know it. And if you’re reading this, chances are so are you. Let’s together build a revolutionary movement to level the playing field for those who are less lucky.