The Citizens Foundation Celebrates One Year in Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Citizens Foundation (TCF) Sacramento Chapter celebrated one year of its existence in California’s Capital region with a lunch gathering at the Alvi Residence in the Sierra foothills on Sunday, February 26th.
This chapter activity actually returned to the site of its first home fundraiser with its majestic view of Folsom Lake. Javed Iqbal and Arshad and Nadira Alvi have been amongst the prime drivers of this chapter effort along with Omar Malik, Asif Haq, Aqil Abbasi, Khalid Siddiqui, and a certain journalist, now also joined by Asim Mirza and Meer Nazir.
The TCF story is unique and it has to be shared widely, with its success in bringing literacy to just some of the millions of children in Pakistan who do not have access to modern education. And from the onset it is important to mention that this movement which is now close to touching the lives of 200,000 kids is completely non-political in nature and likes to remain so. It is trying to fulfill a need that never seems to diminish in our country of origin and whatever we can do to assist it could help entire families get out of poverty.
The event started off with lunch, a slightly different approach, as food is usually kept as a last item at our fundraising events! This did not come as a surprise because the TCF- Sacramento approach towards raising money for this worthy cause has continued to be unique. No big events have been held here during the past year, and beyond the initial meeting in 2015 at a hotel (with the assistance of TCF-Silicon Valley representatives who drove the 150 miles to Roseville), all other fundraising activities have been small gatherings conducted in private homes.
Javed Iqbal has been sharing his PowerPoint presentations at all Sacramento Chapter fundraisers and this was no exception. Javed is a retired senior level engineer executive of Intel Corporation and since a number of attendees at this event were also employees of the company, the presentation itself was quite technical with slides, embedded videos and included a live an online Skype link. Titled “Education Crisis in Pakistan can be resolved with open hearts and compassion” Javed’s presentation covered many important challenges faced by the economically disadvantaged in Pakistan. The numbers are staggering. 25 million children are out of school in the country and millions more are being added every year. On top of that the quality of education at some government-run schools is dismal. The taking over of government schools by TCF has been very beneficial for all parties involved, especially the students.
TCF has become a game-changer for many families in Pakistan and as of today it has touched the lives of 175,000 kids by giving them quality education with which they have learned to compete in today’s job market. Some slides may have been alarming but the video testimonials presented were nothing short of inspiring. The trials and tribulations encountered by poor people in the country can only be overcome by getting involved and doing something about it. The story of Jaffer Malah, a kid from the TCF Ketibunder School in Sindh, was very moving. But the founders of TCF featured in a video were not giving up and one can only appreciate their efforts and make a commitment to help them in “Taking children off the streets and into schools.” Because as Javed Iqbal mentioned during his delivery, the only difference between these kids and us successful Pakistanis here in the US was education!
After words of support from Salima Hashmi (daughter of Faiz Ahmad Faiz) and cricket legend Imran Khan for this cause, Javed went into the TCF strategic Model. In the eight points he highlighted, the ones that really stood out were that 50% of the students at TCF schools are girls and 100% of the teachers are women! And in the 21 years or so of its existence the organization is now active in all of Pakistan’s provinces, with over 1200 schools and over 10,000 well-trained teachers. It is important to note that TCF is now assisting its students beyond schools and is helping them get into colleges and some of the brightest have even ended up attending college here in America. One such student, Sidra Saleem, addressed this gathering live via Skype and what an inspiration she was to all of us!
The presentation also stepped into the future goals of TCF (their target is to educate 1.5 million kids by 2025) using advanced education tools (technology) and highlighted the Sacramento Chapter (they raised over $80,000 with almost no overhead) which is now funding three primary schools in Pakistan and the goal this year is to support more schools. Attendees here were also invited to visit the three currently supported TCF sites in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi whenever they get a chance to visit Pakistan next. The Alvis have recently visited there and came back inspired to do more.
Special guest, Dr Islam Siddiqui added a final note to the fundraiser. Dr Siddiqui, one of the highest ranking American Muslims in the Clinton and Obama Administrations, has been a prominent face in both Washington and the Sacramento area for many years and it was good to see him back. Speaking in both English and Urdu, he thanked the hosts (Arshad and Nadira) for the invitation and their continued hospitality. He said that he was speaking as an outsider but reflected on a time about 10 years ago when he was first introduced to TCF through their fundraiser in Washington DC. He added that the event really impressed him and something clicked and motivated him to do something to assist. He especially highlighted the role of an all-female teaching staff and said that it solved many problems in conservative Muslim societies and that it was just a brilliant idea. And around 50% female students attending TCF schools is another positive. He also said that TCF was fulfilling a pressing need and that its leadership is one of high caliber.
The fundraiser commenced and the generosity shown was both visible and appreciated as the conversation continued through tea and dessert (which included a TCF-Sacramento one year celebration cake).
The goal of the Sacramento Chapter is to raise $100,000 this year and it appears that things are off to a good start thanks to both private donors and employee donation matching by companies such as Intel.
(Readers are encouraged to visit https://www.tcfusa.org/ to learn more about TCF-USA)