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Minaz Fazal and Shajahan Merchant, posing with their awards.

New York State Senator Anna Kaplan presented former Council for the USA President Banu Minaz Fazal, and former Council for the Northeastern United States President Shajahan Merchant, with the State Senate’s Commendation Award to recognize the Ismaili leaders for their dedication and outstanding contributions to their community while exemplifying the values of Islam.

School in Aliabad where the Karmali girls taught morning sessions. (Left to right) Alizeh Karmali, Ayla Karmali, Ammana Karmali.

My extended stay in Pakistan began with a family vacation from our home in Seattle, to Karachi, in February of 2019. We had gone to visit family and see where our parents had grown up, and in the process had visited some community schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods. Seeing the situations in which people were living -- conditions filled with need and poverty -- made me realize I needed to do something to help. Thus, we approached the Aga Khan Education Board (AKEB) in Pakistan to see if they could use our assistance.

Dr. Ruhee Jaffer.

The concept of public service was instilled in Dr. Ruhee Jaffer at a young age. She recalls, “My great grandfather and his family were sent to Africa from Bombay to serve. I feel honored to have the opportunity and support from my peers and colleagues to continue this tradition of service in places that hold such beautiful memories and significance for our family.”

Young members of the Aga Khan Scouts and Guides in Uganda serve meals to orphaned children at the Kasanagati Orphan Fans Society in Kawanda.

In Islamic belief, caring for the poor and the needy is a long established tradition. Serving orphaned children is especially commended, as quoted in the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family). With this in mind, young members of the Ismaili Volunteers Corps and the Aga Khan Scouts and Guides in Uganda gathered in June to serve hearty meals to orphaned children at the Kasanagati Orphan Fans Society in Kawanda.

Alaudin Bhanji receiving NASA's Outstanding Leadership Award, in 2014. He is with the (then) Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. Charles Elachi (L), and Dr. John M. Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA.

It is a rare and historic honor to have an object in space named after an individual. It is usually reserved for someone who first discovers it, generally after years of painstaking observation of the night sky through giant telescopes. So to be recognized in this manner is indeed an occasion worthy of note. Yet, this is precisely what happened at the end of 2018.

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