Blog - Page 4 of 6 - Sonia Shah Organization

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Opening the Sonia Shah Memorial School – Campaign

We’re thrilled to announce that the Sonia Shah Memorial School building is completed and open! Help us prepare to welcome the first class of girls and offer them what would never have been possible without your help and support: a world-class education. With this campaign we are raising the year’s operational costs so we can bring in girls, feed them, teach them, and give them the opportunity to make a true difference in our world.

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The status of the Sonia Shah Memorial School.

  • Since our last campaign, the school building has been completed, and a necessary water filtration plant has been built and completed. The water filtration plant is currently providing drinking water to almost 700 households.
  • The school was officially opened with a ceremony on Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the village of Kangra in Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Pakhtunkhwa’s minister of education, Mr. Mohammed Atif Khan, opened the ceremony and gave speeches. He made an inspirational analogy of a bird who is trying to put out a large fire by bringing drops of water in her beak. Someone asks her the question, “How will you put out such a big fire with such few drops of water?” The bird replied, “On the day of judgement, I want my name to be on the list of those who tried to put out fire–not in the list of those who caused the fire, and not in the list  of those who who did nothing!”
  • The school will open its doors in April 2015. Uniforms and lunch will be provided. The principal and the teachers are in the process of being hired. We will also start a vocational center for women of the village in two rooms of the school. Due to the constant electricity outage, we will install solar panels on the roof of the school.

Sonia’s mother, Iram Shah, in Kangra, Pakistan for the opening of the Sonia Shah Memorial School in fall 2014

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What this campaign will do.

This campaign will raise the money for one year of operational costs.  The school will include 8 teachers (including one principal) as well as one woman in janitorial staff. There will be approximately 150 students in 6 grades: kindergarten to 5th grade. The breakdown of our operational costs are:
  • Teachers and principal salaries, training, travel and benefits: $1000 per teacher a total of $8000.
  • Books, stationery, eLearning, and library contents: $3000
  • Utilities, water and security services: $2000
  • Student health screening, immunization and everyday emergency treatment at school: $3000
  • Lunch, uniforms and hygiene training: $2000
  • Maintenance, and monitoring: $1000
Did you know that, in the US, the cost per public school student per year is $12,608? We are sending each child to school for an entire year for one-hundredth of that cost: $126. Imagine what we can do with your contribution!

I am Sonia.

Sonia knew that her education was everything in her life, from her cultural experiences and multilingualism, her travel, her experience as the youngest intern in the President’s Campaign of 2012, and the confidence in her own power and equality.

We look at each girl in Kangra, Pakistan and know that with a proper education, she too could be that remarkable girl we loved in Sonia. We look inward and know that each of us, benefiting every second of every day from our education, is just like Sonia, too–that without that education, we are each little girl in Kangra, Pakistan. We take nothing for granted, but instead assert proudly, I am Sonia!

Are you Sonia, too? Show us! Here’s how:

  •  Every contribution makes a huge difference in our school and in the lives of our students. Give what you can and help us change the world, one girl at a time.
  • Help us spread the word by using the hashtag #iamsonia on Twitter & Instagram! Tell the world why YOU are Sonia.. and why they are, too.
  • Show your support to your networks by posting a picture of you wish “I am Sonia” written on your palm or even a piece of paper – and if you post on Facebook, make sure you tag our Facebook page: Sonia Shah Organization.

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Nothing makes us feel stronger about Sonia’s legacy than support from people like you.

The remarkable story of a remarkable girl.

Sonia was an exceptional girl. She spoke five languages, was the youngest intern in the President’s Campaign of 2012, and kept the needs of others above her own. She completed her education a year early and at only 17 years old, she dedicated a gap year to go to Kangra, Pakistan and build a school for the girls of the village.

Sonia was determined that she would get to know the women of Kangra, understand their needs and then do what it takes to help improve their lives.  Sonia created a non-profit foundation to accomplish her task, and, in typical Sonia fashion, the foundation was in the name of her beloved grandmother, the Kulsoom Foundation.

Speaking 5 languages herself, she planned a bilingual school for girls with a curriculum that would be taught in Urdu and in English.  She procured the land, gathered the necessary donations, established the curriculum, began the search for the teachers, and oversaw the groundbreaking of the building.

For a girl born and raised in the United States and Europe to go live in a rural Pakistani village, amongst the village women, and observe and respect the conservative social norms – takes courage, resolve and a heart of gold. These attributes are the spirit of Sonia.

And then just as her dreams for the school were about to take flight, her young life was tragically cut short. Usually, when a person passes away at this young an age, people speculate on what this person would have achieved if they had lived for a longer time.  However, in the case of Sonia, we find ourselves wondering how this unusual girl was able to achieve so much and impact so many in her all too brief eighteen years of life.

Sonia’s mother, a woman whom she revered for her ambition, intelligence, and heart, carries on the efforts in Pakistan, fulfilling Sonia’s dream as her legacy. Sonia’s story and dreams for girls in Pakistan have inspired so many to give their time and resources to help make this dream a reality.

Pakistan as it is.

In Kangra, Pakistan, only 3 out of 10 girls ever go to school, and hardly any of them ever get to high school. In Pakistan there are over three million girls not in school, and almost half (49%) of the girls who do begin primary school leave before completing the final grade.

This is especially troubling, as by 2050, Pakistan will have the 4th largest population in the world behind, China, India and the USA. Yet Pakistan only spends 2.7% of its annual GDP on education, spending seven-times that on defense. The effects of such a poor education system are evident. Pakistan’s total literacy rate is a dismal 50%, while only 36% of Pakistani women are literate.

Education can change everything.

As a teenager, Sonia Shah recognized and understood this potentially world-changing notion. She wrote of her heritage, gratitude, and wisdom from personal experience in an essay at only 17 years of age:

My grandmother was married at the age of thirteen and left school after passing the eighth grade. Despite her lack of formal education and a life lived in the rural northwest of  Pakistan, she was intelligent and ambitious. She convinced her husband to move their family to Peshawar, the largest city in the region, and ensured that all six of her children received the best education available. My grandmother’s almost ferocious support of her children’s education encouraged her youngest child, my mother, to enroll as the only female in a class of 80 at the local business school. On the first day of classes, my mom’s teacher asked every student in the room about their plans for the future. When my mom responded that she wanted to travel to  America to get her MBA, he laughed. Mama remained unfazed. She eventually did go on to get  her MBA at the University of Chicago, and it is thanks to her determination that I enjoy a world-class education and the comforts of the West.

In addition to her firsthand experience of the immense difference education can make, Sonia was also well aware of the facts. Indeed,

  • Literacy translates directly to success in the workforce.
  • Women with a secondary education earn 70% of what men earn; with a primary education, they earn 51% of what men earn.
  • Illiterate women with no completed education earn even less than 51% of what men earn.
  • Yet perhaps most astounding of all, women with a high level of literacy earn 95% more than women who are illiterate.

Armed with the facts, the experience, and clearly the intelligence and ambition that had been passed down through the women in her family, Sonia Shah made it her mission, despite her young age, to change the lives of thousands of girls in Kangra, Pakistan by building a girls’ school herself and providing desperately needed education.  Yet Sonia’s story was tragically cut short before she could see the opening of the school.

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Rahmania for Sonia

Rahmania for Sonia’ is a fund raising event on Feb. 23rd at 6:00 p.m. at Meadows Club, 2950 W. Golf Road Rolling Meadows Il 60008. This is for Sonia Shah Memorial School in a village of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Sonia Shah whose parents are from Pakistan decided at the age of 17 to go and live for 3 weeks in the ancestral village to understand the local needs. She realized that most girls of the village were not going to school and those who did go to ‘home school’ had no proper teachers or were doing house chores for teachers (cooking and taking care of their children ) rather than studying. These girls had such thirst for education, they would not mind waiting or doing house work for hours to be able to learn to read for few minutes.
At the time, Sonia was going to High School in Switzerland. She graduated a year early and took a gap year to start ‘Sonia Shah Foundation’ ( after her grandmother’s name ). She registered it and started to raise funds to build the school. She raised enough funds to buy a piece of land for the school and laid out foundation wall. In August 2012 as she was preparing to leave for College in Virginia, she passed away in a car accident.
Sonia was not only a brilliant student who spoke 5 languages and was the youngest intern at the Obama Campaign in the Chicago headquarter, she was compassionate and wanted to make a difference in this world. She believed that education specially for girls will eradicate poverty and terrorism and will bring peace. She was also involved in NGO’s that are working for peace in ME and building schools in South America. Sonia achieved at a very young age what most adults can not, in their entire life time.
We are continuing Sonia legacy to build the school she started in Pakistan. This event is to celebrate her life and her achievements while enjoying A.R Rahman music with choreographed dances from Dhrishti Arts dhrishtiarts.com and other entertainment with dinner. Please come and join this noble cause that Sonia started.

Madan Kulkarni

On behalf of Dhrishti Arts we are preparing for an awesome dance extravaganza for Sonia. Actress/ Dancer Aditi Bhagwat is flying in from Mumbai, Choreographers and actors Joya Kazi, Gloria Lanuza, Shivani Thakkar, Kaasi Aysola and Jack Tyler are flying in from Los Angeles, Kathak maestro Prashant Shah from NY. And of course Salsa queen Dora Baroti, middle eastern dance exponents Megan Hartman and Jessica Beuckman will rock the stage on Oscar winning AR Rahman’s compositions.And for good measure a sound and light extravaganza. Be there for Sonia, be there to have a blast…Jai Ho!!

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To My Daughter With Love

My Dearest Sonia

It has been a year that you passed away. You left your body but your spirit and energy is all around us. Though the pain is still very fresh, the emptiness is still very deep and the memories are still very strong.
When I look back on your short life and the last year, I can’t ignore the lessons I have learnt from you, lessons that website like this have made me a better person…….when you were young, I learnt from you the hunger for knowledge, craving to learn about life, people and the world, and the ability to adjust. When you grew up, I learnt from you to be humble yet confident, comfortable in your skin yet seeking friendship and love and achieving big goals without drama.
In your death, I learnt to authentically connect with God and people, to live with a purpose and have faith in a higher power, in myself and in people.
I will continue to learn from you and never stop loving you. Your legacy will never die!

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Art Tea Chicago Benefit

Please join us for an exclusive Art Tea Chicago Benefit for Sonia Shah Foundation (SSF) featuring works by Zafar Malik and Sadia Uqaili. Portion of all acquisitions will be generously donated to SSF.

Reception: 5:30 – 10:30 pm
Address: 1280 Carol Lane, Deerfield, IL 60015
RSVP: iramshah12@yahoo.co.uk By invitation only.
Detail: Chundree, Gold leaf and acrylic on canvas 72″ x 40″

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Sonia Shah Anniversary Event

Sonia Shah’s first anniversary was observed during Ramadan on July 26, 2013 with iftar at Shahi Nehari in Lombard, IL. Over 150 people gathered to remember Sonia, her dream and her mission to educate underprivileged girls. The program included an update on Sonia Shah Memorial school in Kangra, Pakistan. The construction will start in September and the school Will open in September of 2014 Insha Allah. Dr. Vaseem Iftikhar and Salma Karim recited beautiful Naats.. The keynote speaker for the evening was Professor Waqar Ul Haq who spoke about the value of charity and education in Islam.

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Tribute to Sonia Shah

These works are to honor and celebrate Sonia Shah’s tragically short but hugely purposeful life. Both of us are inspired by her youth, vigor, abiding concern for girls’ education and her dedication and commitment to empowering less privileged women. We feel extremely fortunate to have made these works in her memory for this occasion.

In fact, the idea for this particular event Art Tea was born after the interest and enthusiasm generated by the two works Nukta and Chundree created by us. Nukta was auctioned at the first ever fundraiser dedicated to Sonia’s cause and the second piece Chundree is being shown for the very first time.

All the collaborative pieces that Sadia and I have made are informed and resourced from the memories of multiple cultures that Sonia and a lot of us straddle. The incredibly intricate and rich craft traditions of our Eastern heritage and the abstractions and spatial arrangements of our Western and modernist reality feature in our work as a homage to the past and a nod to a brave future for the next generation of girls that Sonia was so concerned about. We’ve used bold and minimalist visual language to signify Sonia’s resolve and her sense of urgency to build a bright future for the less privileged and the small detailed work honors and registers our gratitude to the unsung millions of brilliantly talented women who have toiled for millennia.

This is our tribute to Sonia. May she live forever through the lives of young women that her nascent but powerful ideas will help nurture and empower and may her passion and concern for the poor be a source of inspiration for girls around the globe.

Tribute by Sadia Uqaili and Zafar Malik

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