Volunteers In Action
As some parts of the world begin to regain a semblance of normality after the Covid-19 outbreak, low and middle-income countries continue to battle against inadequate vaccine supply and vaccine hesitancy. In Pakistan, mass vaccination drives were organised by the Ismaili Council to increase immunity against Covid-19. The inoculation drives were led by a dedicated TKN taskforce comprised of health professionals, data scientists, designers, and volunteer stewards.
Dedicated and committed volunteer Amir Kassam has served AKDN and Jamati institutions for over 40 years. During the late 1970s, Amir assisted the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) UK National Committee in its project evaluation work. More recently, he has focused on sharing his extensive knowledge of agricultural development with AKF Geneva and AKF field units in Mozambique, Syria, India, Tanzania, Madagascar and Tajikistan, and with AKDN rural support programmes in Africa and Asia.
Dr Sadru Damji, a TKN volunteer based in Toronto, Canada, recently led an interactive and exciting online chemistry class in May 2021 for a group of grade 11 students at the Aga Khan School in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
For the past six years, the Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) has been breaking new ground in digital methods to study the written heritage of the Islamic tradition. At present, the University runs projects funded by the European Research Council and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that involve building a collection of Arabic texts – now more than 2 billion words – and studying the relationships between books.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken many educational institutions to their core. Globally, over 1.5 billion students in 165 countries are out of school due to the pandemic, according to estimates by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The English Language Enhancement Programme (ELEP) is an 8-level English Language Diploma Programme adopted from the Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC) to provide English Language teaching to the Jamat. Lead educators are trained and certified by the PACC who, in turn, train other educators regarding the various pedagogies and didactic ways of instilling English fluency skills within the Jamat. These primarily focus on reading, writing, speaking and listening. 38 TKN volunteers, from all over Pakistan, serve as lead educators and educators and they undergo over 50 hours of training before they start teaching a class.
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.