Immigrants from Pakistan Grateful for Lives in US
By Lars Jacoby

Giving back has never been so easy for the members of the Pakistan Information and Cultural Organization. At least once a month, a team of group members gathers to volunteer itís time for charities. "Immigrants of all countries should do this," said PICO founder Arif Kazmi, 54, of Chandler. "When you start taking part in these things and getting to know the problems of this country, when you start feeding the hungry, when you go and work with shelters, you really get to know the issues."

The group, which started as a number in the phone book so Valley residents and officials could get information about Pakistan, evolved into the non-profit PICO in 2000. The volunteer projects were kicked off immediately. Kazmi said the idea was to give back. "I said, 'You have made money, now it's your turn to give back,' " Kazmi said. Volunteer projects have ranged from serving food at Paz de Cristo Community Center in Mesa to taking calls at KAET Channel 8 in Tempe. On Saturday, volunteers helped out in the kitchen of St. Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix, one of PICO member Kamran Shah's most enjoyable efforts.

"It makes you feel good," said Shah, 34. "Serving food makes you thank God that we're in a position to help." Shah has been a member of the group for more than four years and rarely misses a chance to give back, especially when the group is working in Gilbert, where he lives. "It's my way of giving back to my city," Shah said. Because the group's membership is well over 300, teams of 20 to 25 are chosen based on their interests. PICO also helps organize many cultural activities, such as Eid/Ramadan picnics, Basant, or kite-flying festival, and the annual Arizona Asian Festival in downtown Phoenix. (Courtesy The Arizona Republic, Jan. 17, 2005)

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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