Four years ago, I decided that while I was great and perfectly sufficient as the focal point of my own existence, I needed something more. I needed to have a footprint bigger than the one I had at the time, to make an impact or contribute to an effort that was bigger than my journey, to be awakened by something more than just my daily 7 am alarm.
And so I decided to get involved with a charitable organization known as Developments in Literacy Canada. It is an organization with several chapters in the United States, Canada and England. The purpose is simple: the education of young girls in impoverished areas in Pakistan. The Canadian chapter runs and manages six schools in the city of Karachi. This year, now that the spawn is old enough, I am serving on the Board of Directors.
The Ottawa chapter is run entirely by volunteers with no paid staff whatsoever. They are kind, warm people who like to laugh with each other and simply want to give to a place and a people much in need. So they give their ideas, their time, their energy, and their own money to the cause.
Last year was a special year for the organization as its efforts were lauded by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a written statement:
Why did I choose this cause to dedicate my time and resources to amongst so many others?
Because I know first hand the power of education and how it holds the potential to change lives. My father was one of six children born in a small town in Pakistan. He was the only one ambitious enough to finish school, then get a degree and then his masters from England. And look at how far I have come as a consequence of his drive.
When I visit Pakistan, I am gobsmacked by the vision of an alternative reality. I see what I could have been, or not have been, if my Dad did not have the determination and ambition he did.
And it’s humbling.
Sometimes I’ll see my daughter playing with her innumerable toys, or eating gelato outside an ice-cream shop on a sunny afternoon, or enjoying all-you-can-eat sushi with us or sitting on an airplane, heading to an exotic travel destination, and I am reminded of how different her life would have been, how different her access to the world, and therefore her dreams and aspirations would have been if the pursuit of learning hadn’t lit up our lives.
I see my own career, and the opportunities I have today and know full well that they wouldn’t have existed if I was still in that same town in Pakistan, if I hadn’t been born to the one child out of six who had a love for books, and lucky enough to be born to a mother who was a teacher.
In an impoverished place, this power of education can do wonders when handed to a woman. Because a woman is the pitcher from which morals and ideals flow into the glasses of future generations. And because a mother is a child’s first education, if she’s educated, the child is starting ahead of the curve.
A woman’s education can change the paths her children will take, the successes they will enjoy, the people they will become. It can create new opportunities, and open up minds. And in the process, it can lift an entire nation from poverty.
And a woman’s education has to start when she is a girl-child. So this cause is closest to my heart.
If you are in need of a new cause to devote your time and resources to, this is a great one.
And you can do more in your own communities by volunteering for organizations like Big Brother/Big Sister, or teaching high school dropouts key skills you may have in a non-structured environment, or donating to organizations that provide meals to children in school who can’t afford them, or simply donating school supplies to the less privileged in your communities.
A pen is mightier than a sword, and today, we need a whole lot of pens to subdue the swords.