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alexkich/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The donor: Narmin Ismail

The gift: Founding the Spark of Hope Foundation.

The reason: To help women in developing countries attend university.

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A few years ago, Narmin Ismail got involved with a charity that helped students in the Middle East attend university.

The charity didn't last very long, but Ms. Ismail became intrigued with the idea of giving young women an opportunity to continue their education. A friend suggested that she start her own organization and in 2014 she launched the Spark of Hope Foundation.

The Toronto-based charity works with universities and other charities around the world to help women from developing countries pursue their education. Scholarships range from a few hundred dollars to $5,000, and Ms. Ismail has helped raise $4-million to fund the charity.

So far, Spark of Hope has arranged funding for 71 women from more than a dozen countries, including Syria, Pakistan and refugee camps in Lebanon. A variety of universities, including the University of Calgary, are involved with the foundation.

"It's beyond my expectations and beyond my dreams," said Ms. Ismail, who came to Canada with her family from Kenya in the 1970s and founded a communications company. "I always had this urge to help people help themselves."

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