TCF Fundraiser in the San Francisco Bay Area
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Glimpses from the TCF Fundraiser in the San Francisco Bay Area
The Citizens Foundation (TCF) held a unique “fun-raising” event in the San Francisco bay area city of Newark on Friday, May 28 th featuring the comedy of Beo Zafar and a keynote by writer-journalist Ethan Casey whose two books on Pakistan have recently made quite a stir, both within and outside the Pakistani community here in the US. And what was especially delightful to observe during the evening was the contribution of young people here as our community youth certainly did their part to keep our spirits alive with a fine musical entertainment segment which took us through Pakistani pop music’s memory lane.
A fine Chandni Restaurant dinner started the event. Young emcees Zainab Jeewanjee and Rafae Bhatti next made the necessary introductions and got the program off to an educational start with a Q/A session focusing on the work that TCF has been doing in Pakistan. This session included audience participation and prizes awarded for correct answers. An example: Q) “How long does it take TCF to establish a school in Pakistan? A) Less than one year.
To add to this information, TCF currently operates over 600 schools in Pakistan with an annual cost of teaching a student at approximately $130.00 (one hundred and thirty dollars). Over 90,000 children attend its schools today with female enrollment at around 50%. TCF employs over 7000 people in this effort and a majority of the people working there are women. The current dropout rate in TCF schools in Pakistan is less than 1%.
Readers are encouraged to visit the TCF website at http://www.tcfusa.org/ for more information.
To continue with the program, special guest Ethan Casey enlightened us with his keynote speech. Ethan is no stranger to the Pakistani-American community today. He is a Seattle-based writer and journalist whose two books “Alive And Well In Pakistan” and “Overtaken By Events” focus on our country of origin in a remarkably frank and involved kind of way. As a traveler who likes to learn from the people he meets, Casey adds himself in their lives and does not appear to be the detached foreigner in his writings. “I am not an expert on Pakistan,” he said. “I am a friend of Pakistan.” He added that he was the guy that keeps coming back. His recent article “Some of my best friends are Pakistani” was widely read and appreciated by Pakistani-Americans during a very troubled time when the Times Square, New York attempted bombing associated with someone from within the community. He said that this kind of message needed to be sent to the mainstream community here in America by a non-Pakistani-American. Mentioning the attack on the Ahmadi places of worship in Lahore, he admitted that it can be hard to maintain optimism in the current environment yet there are groups like TCF who are doing some very good work in Pakistan and need to be supported.
Ethan Casey shared words from the Dalai Lama like “Many faiths, one truth” and proceeded to quote him on “Let me tell you about the Islam I know.” Casey went on to explain his stand. “I am not a Muslim. I respect Islam. In this work that I am doing, it is helpful that I am not a Muslim,” he said. He added that he was for truth and fairness. “I am not one of you. I am not one of them. I am one of us,” he added. Stressing the point that we don’t all have to be alike, Ethan went out of his way to tell the non-Pakistanis present that there is a lot more in Pakistan than politics. “Terrorism is about despair and rage, it is not about religion,” said Casey.
Casey also praised the work of Todd Shea and Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute in Pakistan and recognized two young people in this country, Anushey Nafar of Sammamish, Washington and Umayr Sufi of Livermore, California, for their great efforts on behalf of TCF.
After a word of thanks for a number of sponsors especially the local Pakistani American Culture Center (PACC) which partnered with TCF to hold this event, the TCF story of building and contributing to lives of struggling children in Pakistan was shared. A moving video followed, showing some of the impact that this organization was making in the lives of people who are poor in resources but rich in spirits. “Parh likh kar mein kuch banna chahta hoon” (I want to make something of my life by getting an education) said one youth in the video. A short “Give children a chance to dream” fundraiser followed.
The evening was young and it appears that Amjad Noorani and Adnan Asar and others from the local TCF still had quite a program planned. Mitch Barrett, a San Francisco “street performer” kicked things off and had everyone engrossed in his show, leaving many both mystified and amazed at various times. His juggling acts alone were something to witness, and his audience participation segments became quite a hit too.
The musical entertainment that followed featured Jahanzeb on lead guitar and vocals supported by Nosheen on bass and additional vocals. From memories of movie songs, the works of bands such as Strings, Vital Signs, Euphoria ( India), Nazia and Zoheb’s “Dosti” ( Friendship) and Adnan Sami Khan’s “Kabhi to Nazar Milao,” the songs certainly swayed the audience. But Nosheen’s rendition of “Sohni Dharti” moved some to tears as she incorporated the killings of members of the Ahmadi community in Lahore into the words of this very patriotic number. A moment of deep reflection was generated by this young lady, a grim reminder of where things stand today.
Beo Zafar was the featured performer of the evening. She is certainly an accomplished individual and her comedy act is just one facet of her fame. From a well-known family, Beo’s parents met through their friend, Indian author Khushwant Singh or more accurately his wife. Beo is an accomplished poet (she has a book out with painter Tabinda Chinoy), she speaks many languages (she can make one laugh is several of them) and is a TV personality who on top of everything else also runs a beauty salon in Karachi.
Some in the audience had not laughed so hard for a while. Beo certainly has a way with words and incorporates the funny bone of almost every ethnic group in Pakistan into the skeleton of her comedy performance. From Farkhanda (Punjabi), Suzie (Chinese), to the frugality of Memons to Pathans and Sikhs and not to mention what Beo calls “Urdu Speakers” and their idiosyncrasies, Beo took us through Potohar, sang in Farsi and French and of course English. Her Kashmiri focused humor was also very well received as the audience at this “fun-raiser” rolled over throughout her polished performance. Beo Zafar is an incredibly funny entertainer period.
To conclude here, amidst the laughter and the tears, The Citizens Foundation raised some local funds for a very worthy cause. Along with the local chapters of HDF and DIL, the TCF team has continued to keep education in Pakistan in focus. For that reason alone, the community needs to support such efforts.