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Silicon Valley's Pakistani-Americans Support Pakistan's Human Development

The Human Development Foundation (HDF) held its sixth annual benefit dinner at the Wyndham Hotel in San Jose, CA, yesterday, May 30, 2009. The dinner attracted about 500 attendees. In spite of the down economy and rising unemployment in the high-tech valley, the event exceeded HDF 2008 record of $140,000 in donations by raising $170,000 this year for HDF programs, to increase literacy, improve healthcare and fight poverty in Pakistan. Similar events are held each year in all major cities in North America to raise large sums for the noble cause HDF has undertaken.

HDF's efforts are inspired by late Dr. Mahbub ul Haq, the famous Pakistani development economist who pioneered the prevailing human development theory, and founded the Human Development Report of UNDP published each year by the United Nations. The focus of the HDF effort can well be summed up by what Dr. Haq said, " the last analysis, it is a child who did not die, a disease that did not spread, an ethnic tension that did not explode, a dissident who was not silenced and a human spirit that was not crushed." Sadly, Dr. Haq's home country and his South Asian neighborhood continue to rank very low on the human development ranking of the nations of the world.

Local HDF sponsors presented a report on HDF projects in various parts of Pakistan, including community empowerment, village development, non-formal schools, adult literacy, health clinics, water management, microfinancing, etc. As the keynote speaker and US Congressman Mike Honda noted at the event, the efforts like HDF's are likely to be far more effective than the military operations to end insurgencies in South Asia.

Here are some of specific details of the HDF efforts in Pakistan:

1. Community Empowerment: Rather than giving out charity, HDF works in partnership with community participation for their uplift. Following this philosophy of "hand-up" instead of "hand-out", HDF has built the following:

a. 1302 development organizations(DOs).
b. 146 village development organizations(VDOs)
c. 61 activist workshops held
d. 10,851 people participated in community management skills training.

2. Community Physical Infrastructure Development: This program helps communities improve heir environment, including link roads, water storage, hand pumps, tube wells, irrigation, sanitation and pest control projects. Such projects are executed with community's sweat equity (DO) and manged by community (VDO) upon completion. Over 600 such projects have already been completed, and hundreds are currently underway.

3. Schools: HDF education program has grown from a few non-formal schools with 20-30 children each, to multi-grade schools with over 100 children each. Many of these schools operate in remote areas, and curriculum is activity-based to retain children's interest and reduce drop-out rates.

a. Over 10,000 students enrolled.
b. 193 non-formal one-room schools.
c. 16 primary and secondary schools.
d. 56 teacher training courses.
e. 254 adult literacy classes.
f. 3,600 adults attended schools.

Health: HDF offers healthcare programs from preventive to curative. In the areas served by HDF, here are some statistics:

a. 79% of births attended by trained personnel.
b. 65% of children are fully immunized.
c. 85% of children 2-5 years old are fully immunized.
d. 101,000 patients treated in out-patient clinics.
e. 918 health seminars presented.
f. 92 free healthcare camps organized.

Microfinancing:This program has grown from offering small loans to individuals to joint ventures and community partnerships, and "one village, one product" programs. In addition to capital, these programs also offer skills training to start and run the businesses. These microloan programs are based on the Islamic principle of Murahaba. Here are some specifics:

a. Over 6000 loans amounting to a total of over one million US dollars.
b. 98 joint ventures.
c. 8 "One Village, One Product" programs.
d. 138 poultry farming projects.
e. 9,500 people trained.

During his keynote speech, Congressman Honda said the US foreign policy should have the same goals that the HDF has in Pakistan. Drawing from his experience as a US peace corps volunteer to support education and infrastructure development in Central America in the 1960s, he proposed a similar effort in restoring US credibility in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He praised the new US emphasis on economic aid and said he supports the 80/20 rule that General Petraeus has outlined, with 80% emphasis on the political/economic effort backed by 20% military component to fight the Taliban insurgency. While the aid to Pakistan bill is still not fully developed, Honda wants to see a large part of the economic aid be funneled through non-government organizations(NGOs) and public-private partnerships to make such more effective in improving the lives of average Pakistanis. Honda strongly supports Congressman Kucinich's efforts to establish a US department of peace to focus on maintaining peace by developing and promoting conflict resolution techniques and broad efforts at human development and poverty alleviation.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich's bill proposes the cabinet-level Department of peace that embodies a broad-based approach to peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution at both domestic and international levels. The Department of Peace would serve to promote non-violence as an organizing principle in our society, and help to create the conditions for a more peaceful world.

In a panel discussion after the keynote, Ethan Casey praised what HDF and other Pakistani-American organizations are doing to decrease human suffering in Pakistan. But he emphasized the need for Pakistani-American community to also reach out to the the mainstream white Americans who are often ignorant and sometimes suspicious of Pakistan and Pakistanis. Casey, who often speaks to mainstream American audiences about Pakistan, has traveled to Pakistan several times and written a book about his experiences. Ethan singled out Greg Motenson's efforts in building schools in Pakistan's northern areas and recommended his book "Three Cups of Tea". He is planning to study Urdu as a graduate student at University of Washington in Seattle, and continue to pursue his interest in Pakistan.

Prior to the keynote and panel discussion, there was a presentation by Dr. Mubina Agboatwala, chairwoman of Health-Oriented Preventive Education (HOPE), a Karachi NGO. She talked about her visit to Mardan and the extreme heat and dire conditions in the refugee camps in the north west. These people have left the war zone for safety, following the counter-insurgency operation launched by Pakistan military. Dr. Agboatwala said that the government has registered and housed only about 15% of an estimated 2.5 million IDPs in government's tent cities. The rest are staying with friends or family, an untenable situation if the war drags on long.

San Jose city vice mayor Dave Cortese, a good friend of the local Pakistani-American community, spoke of the positive contributions of Javed Khan, the man behind the efforts of HDF in Silicon Valley, and presented a plaque to him, amidst loud applause by the audience.

The well-organized event concluded with a geet and ghazal program by singer Hanif Noormohammad.

The HDF events are sponsored by many prominent NEDians in Silicon Valley through their contributions of money and time every year.

My daughters have volunteered for this event in the past years and my family and I regularly attend it every year. It is one of the few Silicon Valley events that is truly worthwhile for us because of the money it raises to serve a very noble cause, near and dear to our hearts. Organizations like HDF represent the best way for us to move us toward a better world free of conflict where human life is truly valued.

Related Links:

Aid versus Trade, Investments and Remittances

Microfinancing in Pakistan

HDF Silicon Valley Fundraiser 2008

Aid to Pakistan Bill 2009

Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness

Facebook Group-Zimmedar Shehri

Helping Children Become Responsible Citizens

Orangi Pilot Project

Three Cups of Tea

Volunteerism in America

Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan's Vision

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Tags: Development, HDF, Human, Pakistan, Silicon, Valley


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