Quarantine: A Chance to Look Within
Quarantine was an unwanted intervention, but truly a much needed one. It put a halt to our hectic lives and allowed time for reflection and evaluation of how we spend our days. Though for SSO, this meant postponing our social events and in-person fundraisers, it redirected our focus towards one of SSO’s main pillars: the young ambassadors. We took this opportunity to build our strength within by empowering each other. Each ambassador is special to the mission of SSO. He/she comes with diverse experiences and strengths, but there is always room for learning and growth. As we reflect on and question the way we live our lives on the daily, our young ambassadors have been asking themselves how they could better serve the world. For the past couple of months, our team has been attending workshops on self development where they can openly discuss traits and habits that keep them from achieving their personal and/or professional goals. The purpose of these workshops is to help them transform into the best version of themselves that they can present to different aspects of their lives. The YA was actually founded on the basis of some core values that are important to possess as future leaders. Qualities such as confidence, accountability, honesty – to name a few – have set high standards for what it means to be an ambassador at SSO. Some traits have been mastered and others can be improved. We have deliberately created time and space to encourage such conversations in hopes of learning from and supporting each other.
Last month we hosted one such leadership seminar, Leadership in the Context of Pandemic, led by Mr. Zafar Malik, Dean of Development and University Relations at East West University. Prior to moving to Chicago in 2000, he was based in London, working as an Art Director of Arts & The Islamic World, a quarterly journal. He also owns a studio at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, IL where he paints and exhibits regularly. Zafar Malik has been a supporter of SSO since its inception. He is also an advisor for the Sonia Shah College Scholarship Program.
Though the seminar focused on how we can cope during unprecedented times like the pandemic, the lessons Mr. Malik shared were timeless. He advised on how to seek wisdom during tough times, specifically challenges of isolation and anxiety of unemployment during COVID. He advised on keeping loved ones close and not losing hope. He emphasized the importance of learning from these times but not succumbing to them. It is in this uncomfortable space that we best grow into leaders who take initiative. We have to be bigger than the problem and learn how to give back to our communities. He encouraged self-development through educational resources: biographies, fiction, poetry and documentaries such as Daughters of Destiny, Children of Heaven, and Godfrey Reggio’s powerful Qatsi trilogy . He believes to be a leader is to think differently and to think beyond ourselves.
Mr. Malik is pensive and insightful, sharing experience-based advice on how to tackle internal struggles in order to succeed. He takes the time to address our weaknesses and creates action items for us to work on offline. He has become a valued mentor for us by offering guidance on how to excel in passion projects. This workshop was followed by a round-table discussion on the TedTalk, A Tale of Two Americas in light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. Team members shared their thoughts on the talk and how perfectly it tied in with current events, encouraging each other to take steps towards making a difference even if on a small scale. SSO also launched a COVID initiative of making and distributing masks to local communities in the months of April and May. Volunteers hand-made masks and personally delivered them to suburbs in and around Chicago. Funds raised were used for COVID relief projects in Kangra, Pakistan.
For the ambassadors, Sonia Shah Organization is a passion project for life and it sets its team on the path of continued development. We can’t change the world truly if we can’t first bring change within.