DIL San Francisco’s
Gala Event Raises Money for Education in Pakistan
By Ras H. Siddiqui
to R: Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Saeed Malik and Sahar Pirzada
San Francisco Chapter of Developments in Literacy (DIL)
held its annual dinner and fundraiser at the Doubletree
Hotel in San Jose, California on Sunday, April 30, 2006.
That DIL is also the Urdu language word for “heart”
is not accidental here, because over the years the Pakistan-American
community has seen a lot of heart and soul put into this
effort by volunteers of DIL for raising funds to educate
the very poor in our country of origin. And additionally,
this is primarily an effort by women to help less fortunate,
future women, because this organization has made it a point
to target low female literacy rates in Pakistan and is focusing
its efforts on educating girl-children in the poorest and
most backward areas of the country.
to R: Asma Sheikh, Lubna Sheikh, Paru Yusuf and Sara
most of the ladies locally involved in this DIL effort are
blessed with a certain degree of affluence is no secret,
but just communicate with them especially before this fundraiser
held every year and you will notice their dedication to
the cause. So right off the bat (most of the males attending
also love the game of cricket), we need to recognize Sara
Abbasi, Lubna, Sheikh, Asma Sheikh, Saira Siddiqi (who could
not be here) and Paru Desai Yusuf of the DIL San Francisco
Chapter for continuing this annual effort, while we men
play our supporting roles (who says Pakistan males cannot
follow instructions from females?) Anyway kidding aside,
this is one event of the year that the “Who’s
Who” of the Pakistani-American community in the San
Francisco Bay Area just cannot miss.
The program started off when emcee for the evening Dr. Javaid
I. Sheikh invited Sahar Pirzada for the customary recitation
from the Holy Qur’an.
Dr. Sheikh, who also happens to be a Professor of Psychiatry
and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School
of Medicine, certainly knows a great deal about anxiety
and he did not take too long in putting the 400 or so in
attendance at ease. He explained the housekeeping and the
agenda for the evening and said that the target was to raise
$75,000 during this fundraiser of which $55,000 had already
been raised. A raffle and a silent auction of special gifts
were also on the cards and last but not least, the envelopes
were there at every table for individual contributions.
He also thanked the 40 or so volunteers, Platinum Sponsors
Bhoomija and Saeed Malik and Roya and Shahid Sheikh, OPEN
President Umair Khan, and all the lovely models who volunteered
their time to be involved with Hassan Shehryar Yasin’s
fashion show. Dr. Sheikh had a few more comments to add.
“There is no better way to start nation building than
to take young girls and educate them,” he said.
gave the example of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh
Muslim University model as an effort to emulate and invited
DIL San Francisco’s Sara Abbasi to say a few words.
Mrs. Sara Abbasi welcomed and thanked everyone on behalf
of the DIL Board. She went into an introduction into the
great work that the organization has been doing in various
impoverished and educationally underserved areas of Pakistan
and wanted everyone to know that the girls there really
want to get educated. DIL schools only go up to the 9th
grade. “The fact that these girls want to continue
their education past the 9th grade is heartening,”
she said. She also shared a unique experience on a trip
to Baluchistan Province. An NGO (Non Governmental Organization)
working there with DIL used jeeps to travel around the area
to promote female literacy, and one day found one of its
jeeps and the people in it forcibly taken away by armed
men. Everyone was concerned about their safety till they
showed up later to tell their amazing story. It appeared
that these armed men had heard that wherever this jeep visits,
a girl’s school is opened, so they decided to take
the jeep and the team to their own village in the hope that
such a school will open there too.
Hassan Shehryar Yasin along with the models who took
part in the fashion show
added that DIL was working hard this year in the areas impacted
by last October’s earthquake in Pakistan. Temporary
schools were being set up in areas like Manshera, and a
really ambitious effort was underway to get children back
to their studies. “Thank you very much for your support,”
Dr. Sheikh came back on to the podium quoting the poet Allama
Iqbal and proceeded with the showing of a moving video/DVD
presentation on DIL’s School Activities. Just watching
these girls who were determined to get an education was
a moving experience. Imagine, if circumstances had been
different, these could have been our own children! From
the mountains to the plains, DIL schools are certainly making
an impact (and God bless them).
Keynote speaker Saeed Malik next addressed the gathering.
Chairman and Founding Member of Silicon Turnkey Solutions,
Mr. Malik has been described as a “serial entrepreneur”
on occasion and has already had a number of business successes
here in Silicon Valley. He is an alumnus of the University
of Karachi and San Jose State University. But beyond that
(as we discovered on this occasion), he can move people
with both his sensitivity and eloquence. This was one of
the best speeches heard at our community events for quite
some time. “This is the night of DIL,” he said.
He was all praise for this organization that strives to
bring the written word to children who would otherwise have
been deprived from reading. He spoke of love and passion,
quoting from the Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Lebanon’s
Khalil Gibran. But it was the picture of the slum outside
of Karachi that Mr. Malik painted that was really special.
“It is 8:05 AM in Orangi Town in Karachi, Pakistan….”
He described the battle for survival there and poor children
waking up. “Certainly no clothes to change,”
he said. “If they live long enough, these children
will find the curse of the slum. Life in the slums has very
few escape hatches,” he added. But he said that miracles
do happen but “you cannot win the lottery without
first buying a lottery ticket. Miracles do happen to those
that are ready for them.”
He spoke of the slogan “Learning is wealth for the
poor and an ornament for the rich” and a sign pointing
to a DIL school. “Miracles tend to happen where there
is less rather than more,” he said. Mr. Malik spoke
of a girl named “Gul Bahar” (the “flower
of the spring). “Who says that flowers don’t
grow in the slums?”
He was full of praise for the efforts being made here. “Thanks
to people like you and volunteers of DIL, a miracle is happening
at this very moment,” he said. “I must congratulate
this organization for forging ahead.” He closed with
a return to where he began. “Teach the child the written
word. When you sleep tonight the sun will have risen in
The silent auction, raffle and fundraiser took place during
and after a fine dinner catered by Mehran Restaurant (the
event raised over the target $75,000) after which the grand
finale that everyone was waiting for, closed the program.
Fashion designer Hassan Shehryar Yasin is certainly making
his mark abroad now since his impressive beginnings in Pakistan.
He had for the audience that evening a wide variety of women’s
clothing that the models were able to gracefully display.
He said that he wanted the world to know that Pakistan was
a moderate and progressive country and not the extremist
place that some may think. His clothing lineup during this
presentation was progressive, tasteful but not daring. Hassan
is certainly media savvy, projects himself well and his
HSY collection certainly speaks a great deal of his abilities.
In conclusion DIL San Francisco now has another big fundraising
success to its credit. It certainly was a glamorous evening
during which people had a great time and all for a wonderful
cause. And for Pakistanis here, it just doesn’t get
much better than this, because for the cause of education
of girl-children, our heart (DIL) beats as one.