Blog - Page 5 of 7 - Sonia Shah Organization

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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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Sonia Shah dreamed of changing the world through girls’ education

Karin Ronnow, CAI’s communications director wrote a blog on Sonia’s journey, the Sonia Shah Foundation, and the raiser.
Iram and a vast team of Sonia’s friends and peers worked tirelessly to pull off the Feb. 23 event in suburban Chicago. More than 400 people celebrated home page Sonia’s life and achievements, donated to the Sonia Shah Foundation, and enjoyed dinner and live entertainment by the highly acclaimed singer-songwriter A.R. Rahman.

“Iram’s vision was to make this a celebration of the potential of youth to change the world, as well as a celebration of song and music, dance, poetry and art – all of which Sonia loved so much,” Greg said. “She also wanted to bring together diverse people and organizations, as Sonia had often done, around this common cause.”

To read the full blog please click here: Sonia Shah dreamed of changing the world through girls’ education

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Rahmania for Sonia – A Success

Congratulations! ‘Rahmania for Sonia’ was amazing, inspiring and beautiful evening. Over 400 people packed into the rolling Meadows club, which was beautifully decorated with purple color theme for the lights and candles…..purple being Sonia’s favorite color. ‘A girl, A dream, A Mission’ was the tag-line for the night and appropriate to the mission Sonia left behind.
Silent and live auction were very successful with painting “Nukta” being the highlight for the evening. Greg Mortensen showed up as a surprise guest to support Sonia legacy and her mission. The entertainment of choreographed dances on A.R Rahman from Dhrishti Art was superb and kept almost all guests glued to the stage till the end of the program close to midnight.
Thank you for all the messages of praise and outpouring of support since natural viagra Saturday.
Shortly, we will be posting the entire program along with entertainment for people who could not join the event. Please stay tuned for much more to come!

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Letter to Sonia Shah by Alanna Peccia

My soul mate Sonia

I can’t believe it’s a couple days away from the first anniversary of your passing. I don’t like that word anniversary, and I’m not particularly fond of passing either. But I know you understand what I mean, darling. I wish I could say not a day goes by without me thinking about you, but I think that happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. I cared about you more than any other person I’ve ever met on this planet, yet there are days I can feel you slipping away from me. It’s unbelievable what time can do, but I have your name right over my heart to keep you with me, even though I got it in the wrong Arabic form, sounds like me. It’s crazy to me all the changes that have happened in the last year, and that I couldn’t call you to tell you about a single one. It breaks my heart that the people I love now, and the people of my future will never meet you. Although I try I visit page feel I can never quite describe just how awesome you were, and that I still feel like the luckiest person in the world that you were my best friend. You’ll always be my best friend, and someone who undoubtedly changed my life in more ways than I have even realized. And although a year has passed, and I am older and you are not, there is a part of me that will always be you and continue to grow in love. Out of all the wonderful things our friendship has taught me the most important is to love totally fearlessly whomever my heart feels I should, because the greatest gift you can give someone is the love of friendship, and that my dear friend is what you gave me.

All my love,
Alanna

Enxhi (Angie) Uzeir, 22, studies biology at East-West University in Chicago, and is one of two current SSO scholarship students.

I support SSO for the reasons of enabling me to achieve goals that might otherwise be impossible,” Angie explained. “Through it I became the first person in my family to be able to attend college and follow my dreams.” 

Mehreen Zakeri, 31, immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in February 2017 and now lives in Chicago with her husband. Prior to her move, she worked at the Oil Marketing Company in Karachi, Pakistan. Her decision to volunteer for SSO was sparked by her experience at the organization’s 2017 fundraiser in Chicago.

“During the event, I got to listen to one of Sonia’s letters,” she said. “It touched my heart, and her passion towards girls’ education inspired me to contribute towards this cause. I believe, as I quote John Dewey, an American educational reformer, ‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.’ Hence, education is the basic right of each child and specifically, an educated girl equals to an educated generation. So, this revolution is so powerful that being a part of it is an honor in itself.”

When Rory McKee, a fifth-grader in Evanston, Ill., first heard Iram Shah speaking on the radio, she was stunned to learn that there are places in the world where girls can’t go to school.

“The radio person said there was someplace in Pakistan where girls don’t get to go to school because [their families] need help running the house and doing chores, so they choose their daughters to do that,” she said. That made her mad. “Girls should go to school because boys and girls are the same. Neither one is better. They should both go to school.”

Guided by her mom, Rory went to the Internet to learn more about how Iram’s daughter Sonia had started a girls’ school in a rural Pakistani village

“Sonia’s relatives live in Pakistan, and she visited them and was moved by meeting girls there that didn’t go to school,” Rory said. “[Sonia] wanted to do something about it. And I thought, there are a lot of people at my school. I could do something there. I wanted to get more money so more girls could go to school.”

So she did. Then a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School in Evanston, she raised $200 for the Sonia Shah Organization (SSO). She said she wanted to tell these girls “that other people in the world care about them, their education.”

Zuleyma Cordero, 25, is a Sonia Shah Scholarship Program recipient, attending Harper Community College in Palatine, Ill. and on track to graduate in spring 2018 with a double major in accounting and business. She also works full-time and volunteers for SSO.

The first person in her family to go to college, she has said that Sonia’s legacy provides constant motivation, she added.

I think of what a great inspiration Sonia was and still is to this day,” Zuleyma said. “I like to reflect on how she is changing lives of young girls, including myself. And that it all started with the passion she had, and with the idea of making history. She didn’t give up at the sight of any difficulty, she pressed forward to achieve her goal.”

Zuleyma’s volunteer work includes help with fundraising campaigns and events.

Ruby Writer is a Chicago teen who became one of SSO’s first Youth Ambassadors after raising $600 to support SSO. Inspired by the film Girls Rising, she her friends “had the idea to bring the film to my school. We invited parents and friends” and explained how “necessary and life changing [education is], for not only the one girl’s life, but for the entire world,” said Ruby, now a 15-year-old freshman at Walter Payton College Prep. 

In conjunction with showing the film, Ruby launched an online fundraising campaign for girls’ education and, after hearing SSO President Iram Shah interviewed on Chicago public radio, decided to donate the proceeds to SSO.

“Sonia’s story really resonates with me because I feel as if I can compare to her,” said Ruby, who lives in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. We’re both young, driven, privileged girls, fighting for what I like to think we both feel is a fundamental right: education.”

Since then, “My mom and I have both become really strong supporters of this organization,” she said. In January 2017, Ruby and her mom, the artist Monica Rezman, were SSO’s ambassadors to the Women’s March on Washington, held on Donald Trump’s first day as president.

The mother-daughter duo also put in long hours to help organize SSO’s September 2017 fundraiser in Chicago, at which Ruby served as emcee. And she volunteered to do the audio recordings of Sonia’s college-application essays for the website.

“When I was reading them … I realized that so many people want to change the world and we all want to make an impact in such a positive way. But Sonia was able to articulate her aspirations so well. It made me cry. And since then, there’s no doubt in my mind that Sonia’s still with us here today and that she’s a role model for all of us,” Ruby said.

Shahzmeen Hussain, 22, graduated in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois-Champaign- Urbana, and now lives at home with her family in Skokie, IL.

“I came across Sonia Shah Organization at a dinner gathering over a year ago, where Iram shared the compelling story of Sonia’s sincere vision and goals for the children of Pakistan,” she said. “I come from a family that is dedicated to primary, secondary and higher education, so it was a no-brainer for me to become an ambassador for Sonia’s dream.

“It is true what they say, ‘If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.’ That change begins here, with us at SSO, and I’m proud to be able to improve the lives of children across the globe,” she said. 

Shayaan Alvi Borok,16, lives in Oak Brook, Ill., and attends Hinsdale Central High School. “My mom is one of the board members, so she told me about the organization and I wanted to get involved,” Shayaan said. “I support Sonia Shah Organization because it is truly trying to make a difference in Pakistan, a place that I have a strong connection to. I am also a woman and undoubtedly believe that all girls deserve a quality education.”

Greg Mortenson is a humanitarian and girls’ education advocate. He is the co-founder of Central Asia Institute (CAI), an international NGO that established hundreds of schools, especially for girls, in remote and often volatile regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. He co-authored three New York Times bestsellers about his experiences, Three Cups of TeaStones into Schools and Listen to the Wind.

Mortenson grew up with three sisters on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where his parents helped start a medical teaching hospital and an international school. The family returned to Minnesota in 1973, where Mortenson finished high school. He then served in the U.S. Army in Germany; studied at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., on a football scholarship; and graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983 with degrees in liberal studies and nursing. For a decade he worked as a trauma nurse, putting in extra shifts to save money for mountaineering expeditions.

The sudden death of his sister Christa from epilepsy led him to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, in her memory. His experiences there changed his life, prompting the creation of CAI and his enduring vision to promote girls’ education around the world.

Mortenson left CAI in 2016, but continues to advocate girls’ and women’s empowerment. He says, “You can drop bombs, build roads or put in electricity, but until girls are educated, a society won’t change.”

He has received many accolades for his work, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service and the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan) medal, and honorary degrees from 16 universities.

He lives in Bozeman, Mont., with his wife Tara Bishop, daughter Amira and son Khyber.

Dr. Sairah Alvi is a scientist, lecturer and philanthropist with a passion for the written word. With a PhD in hematology/oncology and extensive post-doctoral work, she works as a consultant for large pharmaceutical companies and an adjunct faculty member at International Islamic University and Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan and Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan.

Sairah’s first love, however, is Urdu literature. She is director of the Urdu Institute of Chicago, which promotes Urdu language and literature, and an ambassador for Pakistan’s National Book Foundation, organizing events at her home for writers, poets and musicians from Southeast Asia and the United States.

She was educated and has lived and worked in the United States, South Africa, England, and Pakistan. Her husband is an English South African physician and chairman of pathology at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.

Sairah earned her master’s degree in global management from London School of Economics, two masters’ of science degrees in immunology and molecular genetics from the University of Cincinnati, and a PhD in hematology/oncology from Rush University in Chicago. She did her post-doctoral work at the University of Cape Town and the South African Institute of Medical Research in Johannesburg.

She has published over 100 original articles in peer-reviewed cancer journals, and continues to lecture extensively at various universities, medical centers and scientific conferences.

Sairah hosts most SSO board meetings at her home and plays a key role in organizing annual fundraisers, SSO-related events in Pakistan, and visits to Sonia Shah Memorial School in Kangra. Her other charitable activities include support for the ARCS Foundation, dedicated to advancing women in science and technology; and HDF and TCF, which build schools and health centers in Pakistan. She is a member of Good Samaritan’s Festival Committee and her family supports numerous arts and cultural organization in Chicago, including the Chicago Art Institute and Goodman Theatre.

She lives in Oakbrook, Ill., with her husband. They have three children: her oldest daughter is a physician; her son studies economics and international relations at University of St Andrews in Scotland; and her youngest daughter is in high school and aspires to be a lawyer. 

Ms. Iram Shah is a humanitarian and global corporate executive with a career across multiple industries and countries. A senior vice president at Schneider Electric, a global leader in energy management and automation, she also runs the Sonia Shah Organization, started by her late daughter, which focuses on educating and empowering underprivileged girls.

Iram’s corporate career of more than two decades spans numerous Fortune 500 companies — including Schneider, Gatorade, Coca Cola, BP, and Zurich Financial — in five countries in industries ranging from oil and gas to financial services and manufacturing. 

She has served on several nonprofit organization boards, including Seeds of Peace, Central Asia Institute, Schneider Foundation and Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity. She is passionate about girls’ education and women’s empowerment and has been thought leader and keynote speaker at national and international women’s forums. 

Iram earned a master’s degree in business administration from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advanced General-Management Program. She was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the UK in 2005one of 11 top international Woman Leaders in Chicagoland by Chicago Women magazine in 2017; received the chancellor’s excellence award from Chicago’s East-West University in 2017.

She lives in Deerfield, Ill., with her husband Mahmood, two sons, and her mother.

Gianni and Giavanna Geati are 11-year-old twins in sixth grade at St. James School in Arlington Heights. Gianni plays basketball and soccer, as well as being a percussionist in the school band. And Giavanna, also a musician, plays piano and percussion in the school band. She also enjoys cooking and sewing. 

A year ago, when Gianni Geati was in fifth grade at Saint James School in Arlington Heights, Ill., his teacher assigned him and his classmates to each “write a news story out someone you know who has done a good deed or performed an act of kindness.” Coincidentally, Gianni, then 10 years old, had just heard about Sonia from his sisters — Giuliana, Liliana and Giavanna. They had just attended SSO’s 2016 fundraising event. 

“When [my sister] told me all about it, I was very inspired about all the things Sonia Shah did,” he said. “The next day in religion class I had to write about somebody who inspired me.”

Here’s what he wrote: 

“This girl, Sonia Shah, went to Pakistan and built a school for girls. In the past, only boys were allowed in school. Sonia helped many other girls go and get their education. She was only 17 years old when she raised money and made the plan to build a school. Unfortunately, Sonia died in a car crash. Her mother then founded the Sonia Shah Foundation.”

In an appearance onstage at SSO’s 2017 fundraiser in Chicago, Gianni explained, “I chose to write about Sonia Shah because I have three sisters and I think it’s very important for girls to get education.” 

Mr. Zahir Lavji is director of ZL Advisory LLC, a consulting service to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical-devices industries, primarily focused on commercialization. He also mentors healthcare start-up companies, entrepreneurs, university technology-transfer offices, and medical faculty. Having grown up in Africa and managed businesses globally for more than 30 years, Zahir is keenly aware of the important role education plays in personal and social mobility.

In 1972, Zahir left Uganda as a refugee during the mass exodus and emigrated to Canada where he established his new roots. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmacology from the University of Toronto, and his MBA from the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University, in Ontario, Canada.

He spent much of his professional career with Abbott Laboratories, an Illinois-based healthcare-innovation corporation working in more than 150 countries, from which he retired as vice president for international marketing. His career included commercializing billion-dollar pharmaceuticals and glucose-monitoring, medical-nutrition and critical-care devices. As regional director for Abbott in Central and Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, he successfully integrated the Knoll acquisition into single Abbott entities. And as president of Abbot Japan, where he spent eight years, he also managed business alliances with major Japanese pharmaceutical companies.

He devotes considerable time and expertise to mentoring healthcare startups from the Chicago Innovation Mentors group; chairs the Supervisory Board of Temple Therapeutics a development stage Biotechnology startup; is an active investor with Hyde Park Angels; is a Consultant with Breuer Partners & Company, a healthcare consulting organization; serves on the review committee for the University of Chicago’s Innovation Fund at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; and is a panelist for PROPEL-Sikich Investment Banking’s private workshop series.

In addition to pro-bono work in his field, his charitable activities include assisting the Aga Khan Foundation in the Midwest and serving as a standing member of the Alzheimer’s Association Chicago Rita Hayworth Gala.

He lives in Lake Forest, Ill., with his wife Rozmin and daughter Safina.

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