Over the last decade, Vancouver-based Iqbal Lalany has served on several TKN assignments to provide extensive medical response training in areas that need it most. In 2011, Iqbal received a call from Dr Firoz Verjee, then Coordinator of the AKDN’s Disaster Risk Management Initiative (DRMI). Iqbal was asked if he could deliver First Aid training for six weeks, a challenge he graciously accepted. At the time, although Iqbal was working for Scouts Canada, he was fortunate to take four weeks of vacation time and a two-week leave of absence, (approved by Alamin Pirani, Scouts Canada’s Executive Director) so Iqbal could serve on this TKN assignment.

“The first time Iqbal came to Central Asia, he enabled 120 Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) responders in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan to attain international Red Cross certification,” said Dr Firoz Verjee. “Since then, he has continued to build upon that success across Central and South Asia and has touched the lives of many with his warmth, generosity and passion.”

Iqbal has been called upon to serve almost every year since then, travelling to several countries where this type of training is required. In February this year Iqbal, who retired last year, delivered training in Syria with Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS). Most recently, he went back to Tajikistan in October to conduct a ‘train the trainer’ program that will also help to build local capacity.

“When you go to different countries, meet new people and experience their culture, you leave a part of your heart behind,” Iqbal explained. “It’s very humbling and gratifying when you see the varied conditions in which people live and the emergency response knowledge that’s required in these communities.”

In preparing to go to Syria and Tajikistan, Iqbal learned that there was very little training equipment available locally. He bought the equipment in Canada and left it with the local instructors upon departure. They will use this new equipment when they continue to provide much needed first aid training.

“Iqbal has served with Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and its legacy institutions for the last many years,” said Nusrat Nasab, Head of Emergency Management with AKAH. “He has conducted specialized training courses, and transferred knowledge and lifesaving skills to hundreds of staff and volunteers. Most recently, he was engaged in developing a First Aid Training Manual and slide presentations for the newly trained Instructors at AKAH. Throughout his years of voluntary service, we have found him to be such an optimistic, energetic, enthusiastic and amazingly kind human being.”

For Iqbal, the opportunity to serve as a TKN volunteer has opened his eyes to Ismailis living in different parts of the world. He had the chance to celebrate Imamat Day in Khorog (Tajikistan) and was overwhelmed by the generosity of people who invited him to join them for a meal in their homes. Similarly, in Salamiyah (Syria), students would invite Iqbal to their homes after the training session for dinner. Personally, it has been very rewarding for Iqbal to meet families, eat local food and learn about new cultures by asking questions. “When you travel, you need to go with an open mind, be humble and the attitude to learn,” he said. “As much as I’m there to share my First Aid knowledge, I’m also there to learn.”

Iqbal’s travels have also enhanced his knowledge of AKDN institutions, especially those that deal with Disaster Risk Management and Emergency Response. He notes that, while traveling to countries where there is conflict can be stressful, the opportunity to contribute his time and knowledge is of the utmost importance. AKAH and FOCUS express their deepest gratitude to Iqbal for his exemplary TKN commitment and exceptional contribution.