Education from the Heart
By Ras H. Siddiqui

From L to R : Sara Sheikh, Arif Janjua, Asma Sheikh, Zara Khan, Saher Pirzada, Omar Khan and Hannah Ahmed

The San Francisco Chapter of Developments In Literacy or “DIL,” as it is popularly known, held its annual fundraiser at The Scottish Rite Center in San Jose, California on Saturday, May 7, 2005. And keeping with its past tradition, over 200 people from amongst the “Who’s Who” of the Pakistani community in Northern California showed up at the fundraiser to express their support for a noble cause - education of girls in Pakistan. Our country of origin where the abysmal female literacy rate should certainly be a matter of concern for all Pakistani Americans needs much financial assistance to make the dream of education come true for at least some of its children.
For raising this awareness in the San Francisco Bay Area on an annual basis the DIL San Francisco Board of Sara Abbasi, Ghazala Khan, Lubna Sheikh, Asma Sheikh and Saira Siddiqi deserve our sincere gratitude. And add to that a number of others who cannot all be named in this report on this function which saw our community at its best.

Above: Glimpses of the DIL fundraiser

The proceedings began with a recitation from the Holy Qura’n by Saher Pirzada. Master of ceremonies Omar Khan was a great choice. He has been making quite a contribution to the Pakistani media in this country via “Jaiza,” a television program currently shown on GEO TV on satellite. Omar said that he did not want this to be a boring program and with his pluck and enterprise it certainly wasn’t one.
Youth voice Zara Khan was invited to share her thoughts with the audience. She in turn asked Hannah Ahmed to share her own DIL school visit experience. Hannah presented the moving real life story of Zulekha, one of the DIL school students as an example. The story of Mahajabeen was also equally moving as Sarah Sheikh presented another slice of Pakistani school life in the struggling locales there. A follow-up video highlighted DIL’s efforts to promote education in areas such as Khairpur, Pishin, Dir and Orangi Town and detailed first-hand experiences.
DIL Board Member Asma Sheikh delivered the keynote speech on behalf of the local chapter. Asma presented a brief background of the inception of the organization and the vision that it wants to share with others. “DIL is a joint effort of all of us gathered here today,” she said. She expressed her thoughts on a number of historical facts, mainly as to how Muslims who at one time were the custodians of the world’s largest libraries and which produced great minds like Ibne Sinha and Ibne Rushd, were mired in illiteracy today. But on DIL schools she was visibly upbeat. “We have just begun an ambitious plan to introduce computers in all our schools,” she said. She explained how DIL worked to set up schools in those areas of Pakistan where poverty was rampant. “We have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate,” she added. On DIL’s vision she said, “Educating Pakistan’s young girls is our best hope.” She pointed out that Sir Syed once created the miracle of Aligarh (Muslim University) to give hope to his people. And today, only through education can we hope to fulfill the vision of Allama Iqbal and Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Omar Khan returned with some thoughts of his own. “We have come of age as a community,” he said. He also shared some anecdotes with the captive audience (since fundraising time was near), but the actual job of money raising was given to Mr. Arif Janjua who was certainly not very silent at what was billed as a “silent auction”. And one must add that he did a great job and would make any corporate marketing team proud.
Entertainment was not left out either. We have to thank Sunil and Chanda Khanna for their melodies, ghazals and geets and generosity. It was great to hear Sunil after a long interval. His voice has seen a marked improvement.
The final numbers are not in but around $40,000 was raised through donations, the auction and pledges. Charter members of the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN) and APPNA were certainly at the forefront here. Rana Nadim Ahmed of Home Advantage Corporation, Zain Jeewanjee ( along with Margalla Communications and SAP Corporation also played a major role. But beyond the monetary aspect, the efforts of our young people and a number of much older ones are noted here without mentioning names.
It was good to see a slight change of tactics by DIL here locally. This was a classy affair but was not an extravagant one. It kept its focus where it should be: on the education of disadvantaged girl children in Pakistan.
And in this effort two other groups are also active in this part of California, namely the Human Development Foundation (HDFNA) and The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF).
In concluding, one has to thank everyone for attending. And to Omar Khan one may add that his Jaiza program is encouraging many of us to give up cable and go the satellite route. And he does not have to give any local community reporter the title of “Legend” prematurely. DIL’s work is what had brought us all together this day. We were delighted to attend because something of substance was accomplished here. And when an effort comes from the heart (the Urdu word for heart is Dil), by the grace of God it will succeed. (Please visit for more information).



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.