BY ANGELA MATUA
A Richmond Hill woman and a former monk have created a “help engine” to guide high school and college students in using social media to inspire each other.
Ashwin Srisailam, the creator of the Ahhaa app, became a monk at 13 in India and for the next 17 years, guided people on how to find “inner freedom and clarity.”
After his service, he moved to Los Angeles and had his “Ahhaa” moment during a leisurely walk in 2012.
“I was asking myself, ‘Is this how I see my future unfolding?’” Srisailam said. “Every person on this planet might not have access to a seminar or an expert in order to know better. That is when I used Google search to see what comes up and [Google] would do a key word search and show me about listings that are exactly based on that key word.”
Srisailam did not find the Google searches to be very helpful and dreamed up a version of a search engine that he thought could comfort people during their state of confusion.
He met Diane Bacchus-Quddus in 2013 and told her about his idea for the platform. Bacchus-Quddus was determined to make his dream a reality despite their lack of knowledge in coding and building applications.
“We both come from a background where everything is possible and that’s where we got a really great team of developers and told them the idea we had,” Bacchus-Quddus said.
The app, which was released for Android in February and for iOS in early April, resembles Pinterest in look. Users can add posts from different users to their vision boards by clicking in a light bulb on the right hand side of the post.
They can also browse through other users posts and boards, which are separated by a handful of different categories including animals, art and music, DIY, economy, education and environment.
Users have shared inspirational quotes, school projects and community service projects on the app.
Bacchus-Quddus recently showcased the app at the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens, where children gathered to clean up Queens in celebration of Earth Day.
The founders also plan to partner with 19,000 schools across the country, including John Adams High School in Jamaica, to show students how to successfully use the app. During Ahhaa’s visit to the high school, scheduled for April 30, students will also participate in a campaign to share positive messages to the people of Nepal in light of the recent earthquake that has claimed more than 4,000 lives.
Ahhaa has partnered with Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a school-wide discipline program “that includes proactive strategies for defining, teaching and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments,” according to pbis.org.
Bacchus-Quddus said Ahhaa can be used by students not only to lift each other up but also to showcase the community service and other good deeds they are participating in.
She hopes this app can be a platform that can lead students to jobs and college interviews when future employees see the positive work highlighted through the app.