Life in the early 1990s in Karachi, the largest and most populous metropolitan city of Pakistan just couldn’t get any better. I grew up at a time where my family were striving in a booming retail business. The Ali family were known by all as being wealthy, affluent and a family of entrepreneurs. Life was treating me well. My father fulfilled all my desires; I just needed to give a slight inkling of what I wanted and my father would fetch me the latest gadgets my wondering mind could imagine.
I had just seen a commercial on the T.V, beautiful sandy beaches, kids gleaming with delight with a huge smile on their face, I wanted to be there. That very morning I told my father I wanted to go to LA, I wanted to see that very place I had seen on T.V. A week later, I was on a flight to LA, I was 9 years old at the time.
I was pretty fortunate growing up; I lived with my parents and extended family. We had a maid, a cook and I and my sister attended a private school. While we would be getting ready to go to school, Heema would be prodding along with her mother, who was our maid, helping with the household chores. Heema was also nine, and my maid’s only daughter. We never really noticed her; in fact she was in our house but practically invisible. We would often finish our dinner and Heema along with her mother would eat the leftovers on our kitchen floor. I had never seen them sit on a chair or sofa likely ordinary guests that visited. They would merely without hesitation sit on the floor; I assumed it was customary for a Hindu girl to do so in Pakistan.
Ok, so lets’ fast forward to 2004. I had now been living in London for four years, struggling to make ends meet in a foreign country, it was dreadfully different to what I was used to in Pakistan. I decided to visit home, to my surprise; Heema was there, no longer a girl but a grown woman with two daughters of her own. However, she had taken her mother’s role and her daughters were a splitting image of that little Heema I used to see as a child. They would still sit on the floor after everyone had their dinner, mop up after us and clear any clutter. Their monthly wage was a meagre £20. This wasn’t fair; they had a right to an education, if this disparaging tradition didn’t stop now Heema’s granddaughters would meet the same fate. It no longer was acceptable for me; I had to do something about this. I decided that I would help educate them; my mother was extremely supportive and helped me get admission in a private school for the girls. The monthly fee would cost me around £15 and this included their school text books and uniforms. We decided to send them to a private school as the governmental schools in Pakistan were poorly staffed and the conditions were awful, we did not want them to miss out on a respectable education because of the government dire efforts to provide a satisfactory education to the children of Pakistan.
Its’ 2013 and Heema’s daughters can now speak English fluently and read and write effortlessly. They have broken free from the very system that had befallen their mother and grandmother. They no longer mop floors or eat other people’s leftovers. Education has helped them develop as individuals and their children will no longer have to succumb to their masters.
I and my wife Madiha are now on a mission to send as many girls as possible to school. We are currently supporting forty girls with our own personal funds. However, what if my financial situations changes or I die what will those girls do?
I want to somehow reach out to more children, I had many ideas, should I build a school or open mobile schools in villages? No, why should I open a charity school and remind children that they are in school because their parents cannot afford their school fees, where is the sense of belonging in that? I want the girls to feel a part of society, to blossom within the mainstream school structures and not be forced to go to a school only attended by poor children.
So, I came up with http://www.hemaa.org/, this is a crowd funding platform, where any school in the world can become a partner, our team will make sure that all the schools that join are reputable and provide a standard of education which all parents would want their children to attend. These schools will then select children, taking into account their capabilities and financial situations and then provide a list of all these students for sponsorship and then people can contribute any amount starting from £10.
The schools will then update the progress of the students onto the portal to let those who really care see how they are progressing.
http://www.hemaa.org/ will GO-Live in October, 2013.