Volunteers In Action
In the vibrant city of Dubai last month, Central and South Asia's top 12 most promising tech-enabled startups took the stage at SlingShot's Demo Day to pitch for global recognition and investment. The top four startups were selected from each of the participating countries: Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. After two months of acceleration programming, they competed in Dubai for the chance to win seed funding and support from external investors.
The University of Central Asia (UCA) has made significant progress in its performance management systems in recent years. A TKN assignment was intended to build upon this by providing additional training in several key areas.
The early years of a child are crucial in developing an adaptable and agile mind. A child’s experiences in the preschool years have lasting effects on the foundation of the child’s behaviour, emotions and education in the future. Despite research on the critical importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD), there continues to be a lack of awareness. In particular, ECD implementation in Pakistan’s most remote and rural areas is imperative.
The most recent TKN volunteers to visit The Aga Khan Medical Centre in Gilgit are Shabir and Salma Somani. The Somanis live in Seattle, USA, and are passionate about giving back to the Jamat. They travelled to the remote mountains and valleys of Northern Pakistan to improve pharmacy services in the region.
It is a rare person who sets aside a dynamic business career to become a volunteer – not just for a week or a month, but for years. Yet that is what Azmina Jivan did more than a decade ago. And she has not looked back.
The Academic Skills Support Team in the Department of Graduate Studies at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) is tasked with raising the number of high-quality applicants for the Institute’s graduate programmes from priority countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and Tajikistan. In particular, we focus on finding excellent candidates to apply for the Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP). This in itself has not been difficult; year after year, we find people with fantastic teaching potential, motivation and commitment to the Jamat. However, getting their academic skills up to a level where they could undertake the rigours of a dual programme including a Master’s and PGDip is more of a challenge. We work with local providers who teach academic skills in each country, but another important ingredient to achieving our goal has been the use of TKN teachers to shore up local and UK programmes with remotely-based, small-group, targeted online teaching.
“When moving to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in November 2020 from the United States, I was clueless what I would be doing in a city I had not known before – geographically, culturally, linguistically or any other way…” reminisces Shireen about her move to not only a new city but a new continent, 20 months ago. “However, I had one observation over the past 13 years: although many of my family members (including myself and my husband) and friends had pledged TKN during Golden Jubilee and then again in Diamond Jubilee, several were still anticipating being matched to an assignment. That is what created a spark to create projects and implement ideas through which I could engage international TKN volunteers across to match various needs and assignments at UCA” Shireen remarks.
In July 2021, Roxana Sultan, an experienced health sector executive, had the opportunity to serve on a remote TKN assignment to support AKU’s Cancer Center and Brain and Mind Institute. The six-month assignment culminated in the establishment of a new partnership to enhance cancer care and mental well-being.
Dilshad Ladhani, Dr Nasir Jaffer and Dr Alim Punja generously contributed their time and expertise recently at the Aga Khan Health Service,Pakistan’s (AKHS,P) health facilities in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Chitral. These dedicated TKN volunteers came at a time when AKHS,P is significantly expanding its footprint in GB and Chitral. New wings recently opened at the medical centres in Gilgit and Booni that include additional specialties and facilities. Diagnostic centers have started services in both regions and construction of a purpose built, modern facility to house the Aga Khan Health Centre,Aliabad, is in process. These are indeed exciting times for AKHS,P.
Access to consistent and good quality English language learning in Central Asia and the Middle East is variable and, particularly in remote districts, finding qualified English language training is a major challenge. In response, the Jamati institutions launched the English Language Connections (ELC) programme, which is growing fast.
In 2014, the Aga Khan Academies (AKA) needed a writer and editor to help communicate the broad vision of their work and impact in Africa and Asia. They turned to TKN volunteer Perviz Walji. Eight years later, Perviz’s dedicated and enthusiastic service is still helping to amplify the work of AKA.
Twelve Consultants, Four Continents, A University that serves four Central Asian Countries, and One Mission. In April 2021, recruitment began for a TKN assignment for the University of Central Asia. Twelve Finance Consultants were onboarded to embark on a memorable journey they will never forget. It was a unique initiative whereby within the University’s Finance Department, twelve highly successful professionals from around the world were recruited to serve remotely and fulfill their TKN Niyyah.