Blog - Page 4 of 6 - Sonia Shah Organization


Happy birthday, Sonia!

Today we celebrate Sonia’s birthday, and the remarkable young woman that she was. Her mother, Iram, writes..

Today is Sonia’s birthday December 24th!
The happiest moment of my life was when I heard Sonia’s cry when she was born, the most painful moment was when I heard that she died and the hardest thing I will ever have to do is to live every day without her for the rest of my life.
Sonia had a short life but she achieved more than most people would in their entire life times. ” In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years”. 
Sonia left a legacy that will continue for ever!
Happy birthday my baby!

Though her life was cut far too short, she accomplished more in her short life than many ever do! We are so grateful for this, of course, as we change the world, one girl at a time, at the Sonia Shah Memorial School in Kangra, Pakistan. In an essay, Sonia wrote,

I want to serve and help others while I am pursuing my passions and interests. I want to leave this world knowing that I have changed it in some quantifiable, positive way, no matter how minuscule. I want to make history, instead of just witnessing it.

She truly accomplished this dream, in under 20 short years. We miss her everyday, but are so thrilled to be able to carry on her mission to educate girls in Pakistan. So many joined in to share their memories of Sonia on her birthday..

Sonia has changed so many lives and given purpose to my life. Stay Blessed.
Happy Birthday to a beautiful person who lives on in the hearts of many.
What am amazing and accomplished young woman with a similarly amazing Mom!

Make sure you end the year on a meaningful note – contribute to our mission in Pakistan to send girls to school and change the world, one girl at a time! It costs only $126 to provide basic education for a child for one year–a small contribution to change a girl’s life. For $300, you can adopt a girl and provide all of the basics that help keep a girl in school–basic healthcare, lunches, uniforms.



The Sonia Shah Memorial School Is Open!

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After much preparation, fundraising, setbacks, and determination to see Sonia’s dream through, we are elated to announce that the Sonia Shah Memorial School is open, and the first class of students is in attendance. We can’t think of a better way to remember Sonia as we approach the 3rd anniversary of her tragic passing.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.52.36 AMTake a look at a progress report on the school and enjoy some photos of our very first students!

  • Construction, furnishing and setting up of school has been completed.
  • The Construction Work of HDF – Sonia Shah Memorial School Kangra was started on September 23, 2013 and completed in the month of February 2015. Additional work proposed subsequently has also been completed.
  • On 19th of October 2014, a ceremony was held to inaugurate HDF- Sonia Shah Memorial School. Education Minister KPK, Mr. Muhammed Atif Khan was the Chief Guest at the occasion and inaugurated the school. Apart from large gathering of village elders, Sonia’s mother, Iram Shah, was also present at the event. Watch the video from the inauguration.
  • Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.53.37 AMThe availability of teaching positions was advertised in newspaper & shortlisted candidates were called for interview. A panel conducted the interviews. Initially three teachers were hired, and more teachers will be hired as needed.
  •  The new teachers participated in a six-day long teacher-training workshop in the month of March 2015.
  • Enrollment campaign for admissions in Class Nursery to Class 5 in the School was started in April 2015. The social mobilization and motivation activities continued through HDF Mardan Region staff and teachers of the school. Banners were displayed on the school and at prominent places in the village. So far 38 students have been enrolled: 23 in Class Nursery, 14 in Grade-1 and one student in Class 4. Efforts are underway using our own staff and school teachers to enroll the maximum number of students in the school.
  • Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.53.48 AMText books have been provided to all the enrolled students.


The Sonia Shah Memorial School was bombed on December 14, 2014. There were no injuries, but the water-filtration plant was destroyed and several walls and windows of the school building were destroyed or damaged. The damaged parts of the school building and the room of filter plant have been reconstructed. As per assessment of M/S So-Safe Water Technologies (Vendor of Filter Pant) the original water filtration plant was completely destroyed, but a new plant was recently installed. Since the attack, two armed security guards have been deployed in the school to guard the school at night.

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The Sonia Shah Memorial School Is Open!

At long last Sonia’s dream was fulfilled on Sunday, October 19th with the opening of the Sonia Shah Memorial School in the village of Kangra in Pakhtoonkhwa, Pakistan. It was an emotional but happy occasion, and the village elders gathered for the occasion. Pakhtoonkhwa’s education minister, Mr. Mohammed Atif Khan, offered the opening ceremony; the program started with Khatme Quran and was followed by speeches.

Mr. Atif  Khan gave a touching speech reminding people of a young girl’s dream and mission to change the lives of poor girls of the village. He urged the audience to support and encourage such commitment and sacrifice. He ended his speech with an inspirational analogy of a bird who is trying to put out a  fire by bringing drops of water back and forth 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 included in the list of those who were trying to put out fire.. not in the list of those who caused the fire, nor in the list of those 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 2 rooms of the school. Due to the constant electricity outage, we will install solar panels on the roof of the school. The water filtration plant is already providing drinking water to almost 700 households. Stay tuned for more update and progress! Click here to stay updated.

Thank you to all those who encouraged, supported and contributed to Sonia’s mission of educating and empowering under-privileged girls. Your name is in the list of those who tried to put out the fire!

Sonia’s legacy goes on!

We will continue to look to you for your support and commitment to this noble cause.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Sonia Shah Organization

The Sonia Shah School was bombed.

The Sonia Shah School was bombed.

This week has brought the gravest of tragedies: the massacre of 148 at a school in Peshwar–132 of the victims children. Our hearts break for these children and their families, and there are simply no words to express this fully.

A couple days before the attacks in Peshwar, the Sonia Shah Memorial School was bombed. We are beyond grateful that no one was hurt, but the water filtration plant–which provided clean drinking water to more than 700 families–was destroyed. Walls were demolished; windows were shattered.



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Sonia’s dream has been damaged, but it will recover. Luckily, we can share with confidence that the villagers are enthusiastic about the development of the school and the water filtration plant. We know we have to rebuild–for the girls, for the villagers, for Sonia. We cannot give in to terrorists, and this devastation, along with the tragedy of Peshwar, shows us that now more than ever, our cause is critical.

We are matching donations until next Sunday.

From now until next Sunday, December 28th at midnight CST, we are matching every penny contributed to our current campaign which will help run the Sonia Shah Memorial School for an entire year and rebuild the water filtration plant, which cost more than $16,000. Your support is more important now than it has ever been before. Stand with us! Let us show the world that we believe in the importance of educating girls and changing the world.


If you have not yet contributed, now is absolutely the time. Double your difference, your influence, your piece of Sonia’s dream. Together we can rise up and say, “You won’t win. We won’t stand for it.”

Share the campaign with your networks and learn more here:–2/

Stand with us!

Sonia Shah Organization


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 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!!