HDF Annual Silicon Valley Dinner a Huge Success
By Ras H. Siddiqui

Keith Ellison
Athar Siddiqee
Javed Khan
Dr. Khalid Riaz
Pervez Qureshi

Over 500 people of Pakistani origin and their friends including, US Congressmen Keith Ellison (America’s first Muslim member of the House in Washington), gathered at the Wyndham Hotel in San Jose, California to help the Human Development Foundation (HDF) to boost the hopes of some of the underprivileged in Pakistan.
In its now 10-year quest to better the lives of the poor in that part of the world, HDF has been a catalyst for positive social change that has thus far impacted the lives of over 200,000 people, helping individuals start more than 5000 small businesses, assisting the needy by providing (water-specific) infrastructure and facilitating medical treatment to people who could not otherwise afford it in Pakistan.
HDF has been active in Northern California for a number of years as this was its 4th Annual Silicon Valley Benefit. Under its area coordinator Javed Khan and his dedicated team of supporters (including area Pakistani-American youth), the local community has supported this effort with a great deal of enthusiasm. People came from as far as 150 miles away to attend this event and to donate to the worthy cause.
The formal program started after dinner with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an by Imam Rafiq, followed by a translation by Adeeb Khan (or was it his twin brother Azeem?). Emerging area community leader Athar Siddiqee once again very ably performed the role of Master of Ceremonies (Athar also won this year’s local HDF Community Service Award, and he certainly deserved it). The twins Adeeb and Azeem Khan next came back on to the stage to sing “Meray Watan,” a song in Urdu, and a reminder of Pakistan .

Adeeb Khan and Azeem Khan
Alamgir

Javed Khan, the local face of the HDF, spoke next. He reminded everyone about the important work that the HDF has been doing in our country of origin, especially with its education focused programs. He also mentioned that many in the audience at this event owe their own success in America partly to the education that they received in Pakistan, and that it was time that the favor was returned. He said that the HDF has recently completed its first decade of work. “One of the finest NGO’s that you can find,” he said. “My request to you is to donate generously tonight,” he implored. “Inshallah, we will be able to help many poor families.”
Pervez Qureshi presented the first evening keynote. As CEO of a software company with over 2000 employees and an international presence, Pervez had the easy job of defining success (or so it would seem) at this event. According to him, defining success involves personal happiness, family, accomplishment, and giving back, amongst other things. He continued with suggestions of self-improvement strategies, creativity and persistence to reach ones full potential. He also presented a number of traits that successful people have in common for our benefit, including passion, hard work, focus and faith.
Dr. Khalid Riaz, Co-Chairperson and one of the founding pillars of the HDF, next presented his speech. He spoke about the ten years of the human development movement and shared some of his moving personal stories while growing up in rural Pakistan. He said that he would not be where he is today, had it not been for the help and wisdom of people around him. Armed with a number of slides on welfare and literacy, Dr. Riaz commented; “We have a big challenge ahead of us.” He also went into the natural disasters that Pakistan has had to face in the past decade, especially the earthquake in October 2005. He continued with (preventable) man-made disasters especially infant mortality and deaths amongst mothers during childbirth, just two examples where the situation can improve with more community focus and resource allocation. He added that with millions living on less than $2.00 per day, the situation is certainly problematic. And that is where the HDF comes in. He talked about the recent (May 2007) convention held by the HDF in Chicago and the effort put into it to come up with new ideas focusing on improving the lot of Pakistan’s poor by targeting “Grassroots Economic Development.”


Dr. Khalid Riaz Congressman Ellison and Javed Khan

A moving video presentation “Visionaries with Sam Waterston” (available to be seen on the HDF website and on You Tube) prepared everyone for the fundraising segment of the evening. What was heartening to observe was the active participation of our Pakistani-American community youth and local Indian-Americans as everyone present focused on gathering funds to help Pakistan ’s poor. This effort involved both direct writing of checks, pledges and the auctioning of a painting along with an Imran Khan signed cricket bat. The last figure that appeared on the screen indicated that just over $150,000 had been raised.
The final keynote speaker attracted a great deal of interest especially from within the Pakistani and Muslim-American community in Northern California. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) is the first Muslim Congressman elected in US history. The fact that he was elected in post-9/11 America is a testimony to the strength of democracy in America.
Keith was elected in 2006 (he took his oath in January 2007) representing the Fifth Congressional District of the State of Minnesota , an area he has lived in for over 18 years.
And for those who had not listened to him speak before this event, one can add that they were in for a treat. Congressman Ellison possesses rare oratory skills which he demonstrated quite well here.
The Congressman focused on the need to give back to the community. He said that he was inspired by speakers before him. He said that Pakistan was a very important country both to the US and the world today, because whichever way it goes may decide the future of many people. “Pakistan sits in the middle,” he said. He added that the country had reached advanced technological levels in spite of the many challenges that it faces. He said that it can also set the future of the Muslim world, which is why it is so important that Pakistan be a successful country. He added that what is being done here at this gathering is trying to achieve that goal, by offering hope, prosperity and opportunity to people. “When times get tough, people can go better or bitter,” he added. He said that some people sometimes make the wrong moral calculation. He continued by saying that the HDF was right there in the trenches. “If you want a better world, you have to do something,” he said. “There are stark choices.”
Congressman Ellison also reminded everyone that there are over 35 million poor people right here in America that need our attention. He also went into the increasing ranks of the (medically) uninsured in this country. He said that home was not where grandparents came from but it was where your kids are going to school. “We need you here,” said the Congressman. He said that we could help some of the poor in Pakistan from here in America, but we also have to be an active part of this system where decisions are made about America’s future in Washington . “The decisions will be made, but will you be part of the conversation? We need your help to talk about shared prosperity in America,” he said. “You (Muslim Americans) have to become a political force.” He said that extremists kill fellow Muslims more than anyone else. He added that true Islam is about peace. It crosses racial and ethnic boundaries and it is a beautiful thing.
“You should be proud to be Muslim,” he said.
Congressman Ellison concluded his speech with a comparison of the quest to fight poverty anywhere (including this HDF effort) to the story of a boy who is seen throwing back a few of the countless starfish washed ashore on a beach back into the water. An observer talks to the boy to convince him that his effort is futile because the countless starfish just cannot be helped and are destined to perish. In reply the boy picks up another starfish. “I can help this one,” he says and throws it into the water. “Help one, do what you can,” said Congressman Ellison as he concluded his speech to a standing ovation.
The night was not over yet as some of the community members that had just helped to raise over $150,000 for the poor in Pakistan , took the well-deserved opportunity to sit back and relax to the magical voice of Alamgir.
In conclusion, one needs to commend the HDF team in California ’s Silicon Valley for putting together this very successful event. And it appears that the Pakistani-American community here is not done yet because DIL will be holding its own 10-year anniversary and fundraiser on Monday, September 3rd in San Jose and local TCF is also planning a fundraising program in October or November of this year.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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