Volunteers In Action
TKN volunteers are positively impacting the programs and initiatives of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in diverse regions of the world, whilst serving remotely from other regions in the world. Who are these volunteers? Dedicated women and men who are contributing their expertise in various areas of humanitarian assistance and rural development, and who have generously pledged their time and knowledge to support AKF’s work in communities around the world.
When the Covid-19 global pandemic hit, the whole world stopped. While many experienced difficulties establishing a “new normal” for themselves, others struggled with remembering to click the “unmute” button before speaking during Zoom meetings. Ismailis from all corners of the globe have stepped up to navigate the most challenging of situations in order to better the lives of others. Enter CONNECT, the first ever virtual camp for Ismaili Muslim Youth from across the globe.
Many of us spend our weekends having much needed downtime, catching up with chores or spending time with family. How willing would you be to give that up? Yasmin Heath from Brighton Jamatkhana in the UK did just this when she served on a TKN assignment in Europe. For one weekend every month, for six months, Yasmin travelled to Germany to voluntarily help murids from Afghanistan learn English language skills.
The path towards initiating and sustaining one's own business can be a daunting mountain to climb, and often many individuals, even those who possess good business ideas, refrain from treading this path. To harness the spirit of entrepreneurship and promote business ownership within the community, the ‘Business Opportunity Programme’ (BOP) initiative has been launched by the Aga Khan Economic Planning Board (AKEPB) in Pakistan.
In June 2017, when the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List was announced, Ashak Nathwani received the highest public recognition when he was awarded Member of Order of Australia (AM) for his service to “the Ismaili community in Australia, sustainable design at tertiary level, and engineering.” For Ashak, an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Sydney, it has been a long journey. In the early 1970s, during the Ugandan crisis, Ashak found himself “stateless”. He arrived in Australia as a refugee with only 20 cents in his pocket. The rest, as they say, is history.
FMIC Kabul, Afghanistan: Hafiza Ukani and Shireen Alwani (both Alumnae of Aga Khan University) travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2016 for a TKN assignment with the French Medical Institute for Mothers and Children (FMIC). FMIC operates through an innovative four-way partnership between the Government of Afghanistan, the Government of France, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the French NGO, La Chaîne de l’Espoir. The Aga Khan University manages FMIC on behalf of AKDN.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, AKDN agencies and our Jamati institutions in Pakistan are playing a crucial role in helping to fight this pandemic. Our healthcare professionals and front-line essential workers are working tirelessly to help the vulnerable in the Jamat and in the wider community.
On 11 July 2007, our worldwide Jamat witnessed for the first time Mawlana Hazar Imam’s live Golden Jubilee homage ceremony, when the Aiglemont media team telecasted this historic event globally. Karim Dossani was in Los Angeles at that time directing the local celebration event - a mere ensemble of five cameras and a skeletal crew of fifteen - his first major TKN assignment. “Why am I here and not there,” whispered a voice fleetingly from his heart to his mind.
Yasmin Jumabhai Ransome, a TKN volunteer from the United Kingdom, conducted an in-depth three-week training and certification program, focusing on women’s health rehabilitation, at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Pakistan in November and December 2017.
Shiraz Billing, a watershed management expert from the United Kingdom, served on a TKN assignment with Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) Tajikistan in December 2019 and January 2020. Shiraz supported and advised AKF in its management of the “Improving Livelihoods and Food Security through Sustainable Natural Resources Management Project” in the Upper Zarafshan River Basin in Sughd Viloyat, Tajikistan. This major project is jointly funded by the European Commission (80%) and 20% by Aga Khan Foundation and other consortium partners.
Over the last ten years, several Jamati institutions have moved to a far more sophisticated, evidence-driven process for long-term planning for the Jamat. This is in no small part due to the tremendous efforts by a business school professor from Florida and a lot of trust placed in her by Jamati leaders. During this time, Dr Seema Pissaris, Clinical Professor of Management at Florida International University’s College of Business, has partnered with Ismaili Councils around the world to use research driven intelligence to improve the quality of life for families.
Over the last two and a half years, a husband and wife team from Vancouver, Canada, have helped to establish the palliative programme at the Aga Khan University (AKU) Hospital in Karachi. Through onsite visits, numerous remote conferences, and ongoing correspondence with the local team, the couple were able to set up a sustainable, long-term programme, the first of its kind in Pakistan.