Through a Skills Development Initiative, the Ismaili Council for the USA provides a support system for members of the Jamat seeking income enhancement and financial sustainability in an increasingly competitive economy.

“Even in my darkest moment, I did not want to let my children down,” Zeenat Noorani recounts. Recently widowed and a mother of two, Zeenat had to confront the reality of her situation: she had no source of income, and had never worked in the United States. Despite these difficult circumstances, Zeenat was able to provide for herself and her family with assistance from the Quality of Life Skills Development Initiative in the Central United States region.

Striving for continuous education at all stages of life is an important value that we are often reminded of. For those who may not have received a traditional education, today’s world offers opportunities to develop competencies in a variety of fields of endeavour, at any age. In this vein, the National Council established the initiative as part of a variety of programmes aimed at improving overall Quality of life.

By providing a platform for the Jamat to pursue continuing education, the initiative enables Jamati members to realise their visions of income enhancement through the development of skills. The programme offers courses in six key areas: foundations of English, accounting, healthcare, information technology, education, and cosmetology. Additionally, the initiative offers courses in non-traditional streams such as cell phone repair, commercial driver licensing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technology, among others. The diverse range of courses offered through the initiative ensures that all participants can confidently develop practical skills in their chosen fields of interest.

Farzana Gajani, a graduate of the cosmetology course recalls, “This education has opened several doors to opportunities of growth and enhancement in my career.” She enrolled in the course to pursue a new career path, and has already experienced both personal and financial growth. “Clients and employers are impressed, and appreciate the knowledge that I have, and that has given me excellent marketability,” Farzana says. “I finally see a much brighter future for myself and my family.”

A key attribute that drives the success of the initiative’s participants is the support provided to them by volunteers that form regional teams. Interested participants attend orientation sessions where volunteers assist them in completing a pre-assessment. This allows Jamati members to decide on the career path that suits their existing skills and interests. Over the course of the programme, volunteers also address social and familial challenges, ensuring that participants succeed not only during the programme, but beyond its completion as well.

Sahil and Nabil Samnani were 2016 graduates of the cell phone repair course. Sahil recalls: “Every member of the Quality of Life Skills Development Initiative team played an integral part in building our confidence and motivating us, not only through the class, but they went beyond the call of duty to help us in establishing our own repair business.” The initiative allowed for both Sahil and Nabil to reach financial autonomy, and also motivated Sahil to assist others by enlisting as an instructor for future participants of the repair course.

Since July 2015, the initiative has registered over 800 participants, with over 500 graduates experiencing income enhancement due to the skills developed.

Zeenat Noorani is one of these graduates. With the support of the team, she enrolled in a Montessori education course, where participants are given the skills and knowledge to attain a teaching license. It was an uphill battle for her to complete the course, as she faced financial challenges while also caring for her young children, but she never gave up. Through the continuous guidance of the initiative’s volunteers, as well as her own determination to accomplish her career goals, she finally graduated and received her teaching license. Today she works at a well-known Montessori school as a Lead Primary Teacher, and is able to provide comfortably for her family. She intends to continue her studies, and become an elementary school teacher.

Zeenat’s story is just one of many examples of perseverance and dedication. Time and again, Mawlana Hazar Imam reminds us of the importance of seeking knowledge at any age, and using our knowledge to contribute to the betterment of not only our Jamat, but of society at large. Moreover, education plays a vital role in the improvement of the quality of life of individuals, families, and future generations. Among many other programmes, the Skills Development Initiative is set up to address this need. Zeenat, Farzana, Sahil, Nabil, and other graduates are a testament to its continuing success.