Fatima's Heart

Listen to the Rhythm of my Heart!

Moms Helping Moms

In September 2015, I happened to stumble upon Moms Club of Fresno North on facebook. I discovered a group of dedicated moms trying to be there for other moms, extending a hand of compassion and providing support to moms in need. It is not only a social group, set up to provide play dates and mother’s time out opportunities to its members but also a 501(c)(3) certified non-profit organization committed to making a difference. I was invited to their clothes and toys swap meeting at Woodward Park library. I met this wonderful group of very busy moms, some expecting, others nursing and then more with kids all ages. I could easily blend in with two minor girls of my own. I joined the club instantly.

Heather Blades is the president of the club. She herself joined the club five years ago when her second son was two years old. Her eldest was twenty and with such an age difference, she wanted to find moms with younger kids to hang out with. That’s when she found Moms Club of Fresno North.

Her inspirational journey from being ‘just a mom’ to the president of moms club of Fresno North involves her commitment to do more than the regular service projects the club has been doing in the past. “The first thing I did to become more involved was to become an activity coordinator,” she told me. “I took that job so I could help plan outings and play dates for the members. It seemed like an easy way to start. I was then nominated and elected to become the Membership VP. I remember what it was like to reach out to the club when I was interested in joining the club and I wanted to provide a friendly and welcoming experience to moms looking to join the club. I was then nominated for President and I was the only one who stayed on the ballot. I guess the inspiration was that I wanted our chapter to continue, so I jumped in with both feet.”

MOMS Club of Fresno North held a Golf tournament and Silent Auction Dinner for the Endowment for Valley Children’s Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program last year. The program provides cancer survivor kids with the education, support and treatment needed to live healthier, happier lives. “Today, an overwhelming majority of childhood cancer patients survive,” says Heather, “However, the same treatments that cure cancer, puts them at risk for long-term health problems resulting from surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. We were able to provide the program with a check of $15,701.”

The club has also supported Mighty Moms Foundation, another charitable foundation established by Dr. John Burnett of Fresno, California, which recognizes the intense financial burdens and emotional stress of single mothers, as they undergo cancer treatments. MOMS Club of Fresno North has been able to help two Mighty Mom families with a Thanksgiving meal and one with Christmas dinner and presents for the kids. With the generosity of many of the club members, they were also able to supply one family with household items and furniture that they desperately needed. Here is a video that tells ….. story who was helped by moms club of Fresno north.

“This year, MOMS Club of Fresno North received 4 awards at our yearly Regional Luncheon,” Heather told me. “One was for our support of the Mother to Mother fund, which helps members who have been affected by an emergency. The others were an outstanding chapter award and for our Service projects and Golf tournament. The club also has a Sunshine committee/ helping hand that helps members with meals, babysitting, grocery shopping, house keeping or any other needs during an illness, after having a baby, when on bed rest or in an emergency situation.”

Isn’t it amazing how much stay at home moms can do for the community. Every member gives something to the club. “From the moms that step up and help plan activities or take on a board position to the moms who help with service projects,” says Heather, “It would be hard to just acknowledge a few. Without all of them the club would not be what it is.”

Thank you Heather Blades for playing such an important role in the society. And thanks to all members of Moms Club of Fresno North for welcoming me with open arms and giving me an opportunity to hang out with them and know them better.

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Why Uganda?

I have known Kiyemba Vicent, the founding member of Visit Act Uganda Foundation for over a year now and have been following his organization quite avidly. Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 37.7% of the population living on less than $1.25 a day. Poverty remains deep-rooted in the country’s rural areas, which is home to more than 85% of Ugandans.

According to an article published in The Guardian earlier this year, by Alon Mwesigwa, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has estimated that 68% of children in Uganda who enrol in primary school are likely to drop out before finishing the prescribed seven years.

In practice, schools have to buy scholastic materials including pens, exercise books, clothing and even bricks for classroom construction. They also have to provide or buy lunch for their children. Some schools ask parents to pay between $2 and $5 a pupil for every three month term so that they can prepare lunch for them. But parents cannot afford to pay, and their children end up dropping out. For poorer parents, especially in rural Uganda, who live on about $1 a day, the cost is beyond reach. An estimated 30% of girls leave school when they start their periods, often because of lack of sanitary pads.

Visit Act Uganda Foundation has helped more than 200 children, youth, women and over 70 families living and affected by HIV/AID’S and poverty. The organization supports 3 elementary schools, provides life saving medicines to HIV positive children and sanitary pads to young girls so that they do not miss school.

Kiyemba Vicent tells us, “Despite the best intentions, there are few state run schools which are free in Uganda and the quality of private schools varies tremendously. The education program, that runs from February through to December, begins with 7 years of primary school education. With up to 100 pupils in a class who fail to pass their leaving examinations, this ends their hopes there.

In the few funds we get, we utilize them by buying scholastic materials like text books, stationary, geometry sets etc. We also pay for the school fee of students, lunch during school and provide sanitary pads to girls. Since the ministry of sports is under the ministry of education, we also support sports activities by buying football, netball, volleyballs and all their gears.”

Manu Costas and I, have been frequently in touch with Kiyemba Vicent. His organization’s needs are much and donations are little. The challenge for us is to make sure that the much needed support that Kiyemba and his organization needs, reach him safely and in one piece.

For this reason, we created a plan. With the money we raise, we will shop online and have stationary items (pens, pencils, crayons, geometry sets etc) and the sports gear directly shipped to Kiyemba. Lisa Robertson was kind enough to donate her children’s elementary school books, who were home schooled here in California. This saves us the effort of purchasing books. However, we do need to cover shipping costs, which according to Manu amount to $100 per 40 lb package. The books weigh around 200 lbs which brings our cost to about $500.

Our aim is to raise a thousand dollars to be able to send these books along with the online shopping of sports gear that we intend to do. And we need your support in doing that. A generous donation or sponsorship is all we need to make this happen. And it will make a world of a difference in a child’s life.

Many of us may have not experienced poverty, but some of us have definitely seen it, felt it and gone through it. This is the time to give back, to give back to a community at which no one gives a second look.

Please, we request you. Spread the word, join us in our efforts. This is the time!

Buy a sweatshirt at:

www.booster.com/support-education-in-Uganda 

For queries, donations or sponsorships, kindly email me at taimee_82@yahoo.com

Thank You.

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Help us send books and sports equipment to Uganda!

http://www.booster.com/support-education-in-uganda (CLICK HERE TO BUY A SWEATSHIRT)

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We are trying to raise funds to ship donated books, stationary and soccer equipment to Visit Act Uganda foundation in Kampala, Uganda. 40 lbs of package costs about $100. The foundation sponsors three elementary schools in Kampala, Uganda. Every cent is very important. Every child deserves education. Please SUPPORT EDUCATION FOR ALL. Thank you.

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Mr. Kiyemba Vicent, founding member of Visit Act Uganda Foundation tells us:

“Uganda is riddled with unemployment and young people are without much hope. An urgent need exists to kick-start the economy. Many foreign aid agencies and governments are working hand in hand with local authorities in an attempt to turn this into a reality.

Our organization supports 3 elementary schools (only) for now because of lack of funds, but many schools like ours need us. There are 200 students in total, my mum takes care of one school where we have 100 children and other 100 children are from the other two schools. Our aim is to help them go from primary up to university, only if we can get more sponsors.

Despite the best intentions, there are few state run schools which are free in Uganda and the quality of private schools varies tremendously. The education program, that runs from February through to December, begins with 7 years of primary school education. With up to 100 pupils in a class who fail to pass their leaving examinations, this ends their hopes there!

There are also four technical colleges, of which one is private. Those students who do qualify for tertiary education, less than 50% of them find places there.

In the few funds we get, we utilize them by buying scholastic materials like text books, stationary, geometry sets etc. We also pay for the school fee of students, lunch during school and provide sanitary pads to girls. Since the ministry of sports is under the ministry of education, we also support sports activities by buying football, netball, volleyballs and all their gears.

We would like to tell the world that our organization needs help to continue supplying HIV+ children with daily life-saving medicines in Uganda and also provide sanitary pads to girls. Many girls miss school because of that.”

http://www.booster.com/Support-education-in-Uganda ( CLICK HERE TO BUY A SWEATSHIRT)

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Selfish Reasons to Volunteer

Ok, we all know the drill, the self-less reasons to volunteer; to help others, to be grateful for what we have and give back to the community, to be kind and generous, to perform a charitable work and fulfill our civic duty and so on and so forth. Today I am going to write about various SELFISH REASONS why one should consider volunteering for a cause, for any cause!

1. To take a break:
Everybody needs a break, once in a while, from their daily rut of life. Whether you are a student, a professional or a home maker. Life can sometimes become very hectic and sometimes too boring. That’s when we look for a change, a vacation, to get away from studies, work, home, family and the same old stuff with nothing new to do. Well, here is what you CAN do! Volunteer! Keeps you happy, healthy and active.

2. To stay out of trouble:
With the Summer vacations full on, sometimes it is difficult to find things that keep kids and youth busy and involved. It is important to keep them engaged in some healthy activity, that not only keeps them out of trouble, but also nurtures their full potential. Finding meaningful projects in which they not only help others, but themselves too, is what we want to achieve here. And it doesn’t cost anything, just a will to accomplish something. Do good and stay safe. (Click here to see what you can do this Summer)

3. To kill depression:
A lot of people suffer from some kind of depression and mental stress. Causes can be many but an effective way to control the negative feelings is to create satisfaction, gratitude and give a purpose to life. Most of the people do not realize how blessed they are, even if they are in an unfortunate condition. Most people do not know how they can change the way they feel and perceive things by just helping others. And let me tell you, it works. Volunteering really helps you get out of the blues. It cheers you up, builds your self-esteem and self-confidence, helps you heal and move on, gives you a reason to smile and a purpose to life.

4. To connect:
You’re looking for a job, need field and/or hands on experience and perfect references to build your resume, want to connect with businesses and companies that need you, create relationships that can benefit you in the long run…well there you go. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who can guide you. It’s perfect for long term friendships who also mentor you on the way. In today’s world, whatever you do, it is important to socially network with people who have similar interests as you do. Volunteering gives you the ground to interact with people who share your interest.

As one volunteers and spends time helping others, it not only boosts emotional wellbeing but also encourages self-discovery of the potential one has. And once a person can identify what exactly brings self-contentment, that is where the journey to self enlightenment begins.

First published on 6-21-2015 at: http://www.cvckiwanis.bravejournal.com/entry/149495#EdI6GiMcDQ2JVrDk.99

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Bring the Goodness Out in You…find out about Kiwanis today!

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We are all born with goodness within us. That is why children are pure, innocent, honest and straight up front. Their innocence is their essence, their goodness! As they grow older, life, surroundings and experiences teach them how to manipulate, to defend themselves and to do things that may not always be right, but they do it anyways.

We are all born different. None of us chose to be born in a certain house, on a certain continent and yet we see so many injustices happening in the world around us. We see lack of tolerance and empathy. People giving more importance to their own ‘self’ than others, trying to enforce their own opinions and forgetting others have equal rights on this planet as they do.

Kiwanis is a platform that tries to bring the goodness out in people. Do good and feel good. Kiwanis’ clubs all around the globe have been bringing people together to work towards creating a positive world, spreading tolerance and empathy for others, teaching us to think beyond our own selves and fostering a loving, caring and productive environment for everyone. It all starts one person at a time, starting from our own self, then the people around us and then the people beyond. We cannot change the world without changing ourselves. We cannot create tolerance without acceptance, without getting into the shoes of others.
Read the whole post at: http://www.cvckiwanis.bravejournal.com/entry/148322#eF5RbK5Jtsckt8Rx.99

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Meet Rene S Lecour, founder of Amigo Skate Charity

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To support Amigo Skate Charity, buy the tee shirt featured above here…

“Amigo Skate” is a bunch of people, trying to make a difference in the lives of young boys. They provide positive role models, skateboard equipment and skateboarding instructions to at-risk youth of Miami and Havana.

Based in Miami, Florida, they have worked within their local community offering scholarships to skateboard camps, organized canned food drives, raised funds for breast cancer research and several other children’s causes.

The Amigo Skate Team raises awareness by providing skate demos, safety clinics and entertainment to events like the Miami Dade County Youth Fair and the Skateboard Rodeo. They also plan to launch a free summer program to teach skateboarding to children with special needs and have recently formed a partnership with Longboards for Peace to teach children, living in group homes, how to skate. They have now extended their reach internationally, to the youth in Havana, Cuba.

We had a conversation with Rene Sugar Lecour, the mastermind behind all the fundraising for Amigo Skate Charity. Here is what he had to say.

Q. Congratulations Rene. You have been selected by Cyber Kiwanis to be featured as “Community Friend” on our website. First of all, tell us about this big tour to Havana, that is coming up in June?

Well, thank you for honoring me and giving me a chance to speak out, I am extremely humbled. We will be in Havana for one week in June. Our objective is to; bring skateboards, art supplies and music equipment to give away for free to Cuba’s youth, rebuild a section of the dilapidated Havana skate park, and host the first ever ‘Go Skateboarding Day’ in Havana Cuba. Go Skateboarding Day is a day that skaters go out and skate together in a mass, to celebrate the love of the sport and solidarity with skaters worldwide. On June 21, our GSD Havana event will feature a parade style skateboard, touring the streets of Havana, several skateboard competitions at iconic locations around the city and a free party for all the participants at the close of the day.

Q. Ah! A “Skateboard”, what does it mean to you?

A skateboard can be a form of transportation, a source of entertainment or a piece of sporting equipment BUT, to us the skateboard is the vehicle that we use to deliver our message of love. We use our skateboards to form bonds of international friendship and peace.

Q. Who were the people who came up with this idea of providing skateboards to youth?

My son and I started the Amigo movement 5 years ago after watching a documentary about Cuba’s teen culture. We are both avid skateboard enthusiasts and after witnessing the hardships of Cuba’s youth we decided that we could make a positive change in their lives. Due to the restrictions set by the TRADE EMBARGO and the Cuban government, there are no skate shops in Havana and honestly none of it residents children really have the funds for sports equipment. A skateboard may not be much in the grand scheme of things in this world but it is what we have to give. If we were doctors we would send medicine but we are skaters. What started out as a couple of people donating their extra gear, has turned into a movement that is 5 years strong, with dozens of friends donating their time and hundreds of skateboards delivered to Cuba’s youth.

Q. It’s been five years you have been raising funds and traveling to Cuba, what keeps you going?

For the most part we have been self-funded over the past five years. We collect new and used equipment and we bring them in duffel bags on the plane ride to Cuba. Our members pay for their own expenses to go into Havana, give away first-hand the products that we collect, teach safety skills, repair the park and host free events. For us, it is a labor of love.

Q. What difficulties have you faced during all these years?

Well, as you can imagine, not too many people understand the mission. Skateboards? Why? My answer is always the same. We make children smile, we give them a healthy way to pass the time and we give them a connection to the outside world. Now they know that they are not alone, and they are part of an international brotherhood of skaters, that not only acknowledges their existence but also stand beside them in solidarity.

Q.What are your hopes for the future?

Our hope for the future is that one day we are no longer needed in Cuba. Until that day we will continue with our mission. Our goal for 2016 is to build a multi-use indoor facility where we can teach Havana’s children skateboarding, art and music free of charge.

Thank you Rene for your time and efforts. And congratulations on being a “Community Friend”. All your hard work is much appreciated and we wish you the very best.

Their Website: http://www.amigoskate.com/
You can also connect with Rene at: amigoskatecharity@yahoo.com

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Art of Giving

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Channeling empathy with optimism to achieve altruism is an “art” in itself. Making an impact through empathy and optimism, and connecting with the poor and sick, to channel these experiences into making the world a better place, has its own taste and flavor. Empathy tears down barriers and opens up new frontiers for optimism.

Being pre-occupied by our own concerns, puts our focus squarely on ourselves. But if we can attune to those around us, we will sense when they need our help. If we never really see and feel for the people who suffer, the optimism can’t help them. We will never be able change anything in the world.

Although the world looks large, each one of us can play a role in healing and lowering the sufferings of mankind. When people have a need, and they do, don’t turn away from it, turn towards it. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Volunteer, donate, be an activist, raise your voice, extend your hand, take a step and leave an impact.

The dark side of giving; givers tend to burn out when they become selfless. When people put others so far ahead of themselves, that they fail to meet their obligations before assisting others. That’s not sustainable. Effective givers are those who don’t keep scores or expect anything back from people they’ve helped, but who also realize they can’t help everyone every time.

Such givers are selective in three ways. They choose whom they help, being more cautious of takers; how they help, so instead of being jack-of-all-trades givers, they choose one or two ways to help, in a way that they enjoy and in which they excel; and when they help, blocking time first to complete their own priorities and then carving time to help others.

By adopting a who-how-why approach, our giving becomes efficient and energized as opposed to exhausting. We’ll also develop a reputation as having a unique skill instead of just being somebody people can go to anytime. People will respect our time more because they value the specific contribution we make.

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Memberships in Service Clubs (Part 2)

Part Two: Retaining Memberships

Once the aspiring new member decides to join, the first meeting is a crucial step as it is the first impression and deciding factor of whether they will come to more meetings. Establishing the importance of meeting among members is a way to prevent fluctuating, low attendance and diminishing interest among members. Making sure each member feels involved is the key in keeping them.

Communication is one of the major aspects of keeping a club in sync, and is important in developing a successful club.This can help the members feel a part of the club and be a valuable asset to the organization. Hopefully, good ideas will allow them to have consistent interest throughout the year. Set the tone of the club by connecting personally with interested people. Strive to create an environment where members want to be there.

Members tend to attend meetings because of the friends and relationships they have developed with other members. Keep meetings fun and lively. Without mutual respect and appreciation, any club has the potential to fail. Keeping the members coming back is what counts.

It is just the matter of getting over the initial fear, of being in a new setting, with new people. Once the new member feels comfortable, that is when friendships are made and a great time at a club begins.

Create projects that are fun, doable and everybody can participate. Reach out to the members and ask them what they need, what they want. Accommodate them, find things that interests them. Keep in touch frequently, utilize technology; texting, social networking. Make everyone feel needed. They are a part of a service club and every action of their counts. Appreciate them, acknowledge them, most of all commemorate them.

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Memberships in “SERVICE CLUB” (Part 1)

Today I am going to write about “service clubs” and the importance of maintaining memberships to sustain these clubs.

A club is a place where people come together around a common cause or concept. Clubs need to maintain memberships, to keep them running, making sure each member feels involved. Without dedicated members, a club cannot exist. Finding people who have that particular interest, that the club is all about, and having them sign up, can prove to be quite challenging.

Service clubs are volunteer based, non profit organizations whose members either perform direct hands-on community service or raise funds for other charitable organizations. Recent trends have shown a decline in memberships of these service clubs. My goal is to explore ways to gain membership and also retain them. Since it is a very broad topic, I will cover it in two parts.

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Part one: Attracting Memberships

To attract potential members who are dedicated and committed, we need to understand the nature of our probable recruits. Many people are unsure of what they want to do and what they can do and most clubs prove to be intimidating. Many do not feel educated enough to fully participate in a certain club, many do not have the money to pay the membership fee and many fear lack of time and commitment.

An ideal club should be welcoming towards beginners, who are interested in learning. It should have a minimum membership fee and flexible meeting options so people, who are not available at a certain time, can be accommodated. Once people get familiarized with the club, they can get involved in more focused projects that they feel passionate about. Such a club appears to be less intimidating, as it is more open and offers people to discover their own interests. The less limitations a club has on membership, the more members it draws in.

Clubs need to be accessible. Start by searching the club’s page online and one should be able to find general information and how to contact its most current president. Having a continually updated Facebook page, with pictures and information, current events and members willing to talk to new recruits is always very effective. In this way, people on the go can keep in touch, anytime, all the time.

Every club does their very best to appear welcoming and appealing, but gaining new members is a constant challenge. Invitation based recruitments, word of mouth, recruiting events, info fairs, social networking and advertisements are different ways to let the word out.

Invitation based recruitment establishes a sense that a person’s presence is truly desired so that the new person truly feels welcomed and important. It affirms that the club is legitimate and it instills a personal tie into the group.

Word of Mouth is the most effective way of recruiting members. Members talking to non-members, peers, community people, passing on information about the club, sharing their excitement, showing what they do best and sharing their activities and skills.

Displaying effective club activities and exciting events is also very effective. People will naturally be more interested in a club if it displays active and interesting events.

Advertisement is a great way for the clubs to catch the eyes of new members. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, emails, posters at events, tabling at vendors and booths at fairs are all ways to advertise. With current members on Facebook, they are able to send out invites to friends who they think would like to join the club. On Facebook, the members can post information about their clubs and answer any questions. It is basically a team work.

Event recruiting is also a method used by different clubs that works in creating a larger membership base. Once you have impressed a potential candidate enough that he is willing to attend your club’s meeting, then starts the second phase.

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A Mission Abroad

It’s been a while since I’ve been active on this blog, my apologies, but I was out of country visiting my parents. It was a long, fun and tiring trip (it’s funny how vacation trips are always more tiring than the mundane life), but at the end of the day…it was to see my mother and that’s a mission accomplished!

Much has happened with Cyber Kiwanis while I was away. A mid-year Cal-Nev-H North Convention in Monterey, a bowl-a-thon for Special Olympics, a St. Paddy’s Dinner and Dance by Visalia Pride Lions, donation of over 400 books to the First Lady’s Project and not forgetting, upcoming next week, our Kiwanis One Day project, cleaning up the Civic Center, park area in Hanford. Now that’s going to be fun. Members and Key clubbers will also be collecting (and counting) cigarette butts from that non-smoking ground as part of a study being conducted by the health department.

And while I was away, I had the chance of attending a meeting of Karachi Club of Kiwanis (www.kiwanis.org.pk) and meet it’s pioneer Mr. Javed Jabbar and the President, Past President, Vice President and Secretary of the club. It was a very pleasant meeting. A guest speaker, Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Afridi, a psychologist and behavioral specialist, talked about behavioral patterns in children and adolescents. It was a very informative session.

We were also invited to the Karachi Down Syndrome Program (KDSP) Carnival, that was held on 22nd March, 2015, to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. It was a very happening carnival with a huge turn over and many fun activities arranged for children with and without disabilities.

I had also managed to take with me 72 dictionaries to donate, considering baggage weight limits when you’re traveling Internationally, but thankfully I was able to have them delivered to the right people.

Zindagi Trust Foundation (www.zindagitrust.org) strives to reform already existing public schools and also has a ‘Paid to Learn’ program for children who work.

The foundation took over the management of a government girl’s school in November 2007 and documented the process with the objective of creating a blueprint for government school reform. Throughout the project, the foundation worked closely with the Education Department, lobbying the government to institutionalize the policies they introduced, so that schools across the province could benefit from them. It’s important to note here that most of the good schooling in Pakistan, at Primary and Secondary level, is being provided by private schools. The government or public schools are mostly neither well maintained nor well equipped. Hence the low rate of enrollment and high rate of primary school drop out.

Their ‘Paid to Learn’ program recruits children who work in the urban slums of Pakistan and enrolls them in an accelerated non-formal curriculum of primary education. The children get paid for attending school. This helps the children, toiling in car-repair shops & other general stores, see a window out of child labour; empowers them as responsible and more complete future citizens of a young Pakistan, all the while making a dent in the country’s literacy rate.

I feel happy that I was able to contribute in this mission of alleviating illiteracy in Pakistan. As they say, drop by drop becomes a river. Each and every drop has its own weight. Each drop makes a difference. And that is what we should all do, continue putting in our drops any time and every time. Then only will we see its impact on the society as a whole.

KARACHI CLUB OF KIWANIS MEETING PICTURES

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