Born in a remote village in Southeastern Turkey, Khalil Demir understood what poverty meant at a very young age. Raised by unschooled parents, young Khalil thirsted for knowledge and pieced together the scraps of literacy his parents could offer him, teaching himself to read at a young age.
Mr. Demir began his activist career as a student before leaving Turkey to pursue his education in Switzerland. There, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology, before continuing on to the United States where he obtained advanced degrees in history and nonprofit management.
In 2001, Mr. Demir founded Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) with a group of Muslims driven to improve the lives of the poor worldwide. Since then, he has overseen the establishment of schools, orphanages, vocational training programs, and health clinics around the world; the construction of water wells, mosques and community centers in Africa, USA, and the Navajo reservation; the delivery of millions of dollars in emergency humanitarian aid to survivors of wars, natural disasters and other catastrophes, including the Syrian conflict, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti among others.
Mr. Demir has represented ZF on television and radio, including National Public Radio, and also serves as a member of the ZF Board of Directors. He has visited more than 25 countries and speaks six languages fluently. He lives in Illinois with his wife and four daughters.