The Citizens Foundation Leadership Visits Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Citizens Foundation (TCF)-Sacramento Chapter held a unique community appreciation afternoon at a location on the hills above Sacramento overlooking Folsom Lake on May 21, 2017.
Our hosts once again came to our rescue (pardon the pun), and with the help of team members and friends hosted over 60 people who gathered for this great cause. Amongst the guest list were two leaders of the effort, Syed Asaad Ayub Ahmad and Arif Ghafur. TCF is one of the premier organizations trying to make a significant difference in the field of children’s education in Pakistan. And it is doing that with a female staff teaching both boys and girls in several hundred TCF schools all over the country.
The Sacramento Chapter of TCF has been active for less than two years but thanks to our community, and a corporate sponsor (Intel Corporation), it has been able to generate significant funding which is already helping students at three schools in Pakistan.
The afternoon started off with a delicious Mediterranean lunch and plenty of sweet desserts (a big thank you to Sister Shaista Rauf for the colorful Tuti Fruity ice cream combination). Several conversations accompanied the meal and it was great to see the large number of women present. One of newest attendees here were a couple of young ladies, leaders of the Pakistani Student Association (PSA) at UC Davis whose 7th Annual Charity Banquet, “Ek Zamana Tha” on May 6th helped to raise over $10,000 for TCF (a special acknowledgement here for Ashraf Habibullah of Computers and Structures Inc. for his generous support).
Emcee for the afternoon Asif Haq called everyone to attention. He said that today we have The Citizens Foundation – Sacramento thanking each and every one of you for your support and for being here. He also thanked our hosts Arshad & Nadira Alvi for their hospitality for holding the event at their house. He next introduced Arif Ghafur, of TCF-USA (from the Houston area), and Syed Asaad Ayub, President & CEO of TCF-Pakistan. He also took the opportunity to introduce the TCF-Sacramento Team and invited Javed Iqbal, one of the main forces of the local chapter, to address the gathering. Javed first introduced the next generation of community leaders including UC Davis PSA President Hareem Zahid who explained to us that her organization was founded over seven years ago and has been holding an annual charity banquet while sharing Pakistani culture and heritage. She said that over 400 people attended the banquet this year and that they surpassed their fundraising goal for this year.
Javed next went through the local activities of TCF-Sacramento and the fundraising events that it had carried out since its inception. He said that approximately 80 donors at these gatherings had helped to raise approximately $134,000 which included $22,000 in corporate matching from Intel Corporation. He gave further details and said that the three schools which we are helping, namely Shoab Campus in Lahore, Iskandar Khawaja Campus in Islamabad and the Abdul Karim Gadit Campus in Karachi should be visited by our donors to know for themselves as to how well their funds are being used. He also went into future plans which are being bounced around in TCF-Sacramento and some concerns that the chapter has. He ended on a note of appreciation for the generosity, support and encouragement given to TCF by the Sacramento community.
Arif Ghafur of TCF-USA spoke next. He said that his job was to promote TCF in the country and to help in raising funds for it. He explained that he has recently been visiting TCF Chapters in various parts of the US along with Asaad. He commended TCF-Sacramento for what it has achieved in such a short period of time and also briefly went into the operations of TCF-USA, raising funds via 33 chapters around the country and how the number of chapters was growing. He said that he was amazed at the generosity of some community members and that he considered himself lucky because in his role in TCF-USA he gets to meet some of the nicest people around. He focused his praise on TCF teachers who have dedicated their lives to the profession in Pakistan and on the donors in America who made it possible. He also shared a personal story of his visit to a house of a poor student in Pakistan whose mother pointed out that her daughter was forcing better hygiene in their home. It appears that the TCF teaching model certainly takes a holistic approach towards education!
Syed Asaad Ayub Ahmad from Karachi, Pakistan in his speech spoke of the inception of the TCF effort in Pakistan in the mid-1990’s. He spoke of an Austin, Texas connection towards this effort and the role of NED University (Karachi) Alumni in it. The analogy Asaad used was the movie “Kung Fu Panda” and its mysterious “secret ingredient” and explained that he is often asked what that ingredient is in TCF? His answer is, “Paagalpan” (craziness). He elaborated that our country needs this “Paagalpan” or crazy ingredient because it has 24 million children who are not in school, possibly the worst situation in the world after Nigeria. One in 10 of the children worldwide not in school is from Pakistan, said Asaad. He added that most of us sitting here in America are here because we are educated. He said that students at TCF schools come from extremely disadvantaged environments and asked the people present to come and visit TCF schools. He added that the aspiration of TCF was not to build poor schools for poor children and that the facilities being provided are, and should be, a source of pride for the students who attend, no matter what their background. The schools, he said, are a part of the communities that they are located in; advantageous especially to the girls who want to pursue education near their homes, and also a plus for the all-female TCF faculty. He added that for every good effort like this one the intent (neyat) has to be right to begin with. God willing, we will continue to educate children in our country, he said, adding that TCF cannot claim to solve all of Pakistan’s problems which should be the job of the government. The challenges are many but we cannot give up.