A Flicker of Light

by Nasha Khan

It’s a clear day, the sun is out, and I’m with my sister on the familiar, winding road leading straight to the heart of Laguna Beach. We talk of sisterly things, note my quarrel with punctuality, and sigh at the sea of taillights ahead — realizing even this feels like vacation without the sum of our raucous offspring. Everyone seems to be headed to the beach today — but not us. Preened and heeled, with no kids in tow, we’re on our way to a quaint, little playhouse — a stone’s throw from the boardwalk — to watch a play about Muslim women.

Unveiled.

I’ve come to learn of the play perchance, in the way distant family members hear of passing news from faraway relatives. It’s a natural consequence of my detachment with the Muslim community of late. I’ve been away — far longer than the three years I was actually gone.

Swaying on doubt’s unsteady platform, I made a move forward some years ago, by moving away — to the desert. Under the pirouetting shade of powdered dunes and towers built on sand, I desperately hoped to unearth the bones of my fragmented and lost identity, reattach them, and secure my now intact self to a place of belonging. I was only partly successful, but not for want of effort. Foot-dragging my way back home with a heavy heart, I ultimately recognized any hope in relocating that errant sense of self and its rightful place in life could only be found here — at the very berth of my loss.

As I tap my fingers on the steering wheel in rising impatience, I’m not sure why I’m here anymore. Increasingly reclusive, I find large social gatherings cumbersome — and I know nothing of the organization or the people hosting this play. I feel Old Man Anxiety aiming for my throat while my sister texts the gaggle of friends meeting her there. I look beyond the dysphoria to the clearing traffic, hit the gas, and carry on.

Walking toward the playhouse later, I learn that all those Moroccan tea party photos plastered on Facebook’s newsfeed belong to the organization behind the play — GiveLight Foundation. The words, “Dian” and “orphans,” find their way into my newfound knowledge. I’m interested, but more focused on getting there.

The Laguna Playhouse — a seemingly tiny retreat flushed against the hills, promising breathtaking views of the ocean — is a treat for any art enthusiast. Formed during the mid-1920s, it has long been a refuge for theater readings and performances. I immediately appreciate the venue selection for this particular play.

Ambivalence at rest, I enter the courtyard to a comforting sight. A slew of 20 to 30-something women in black, with blue scarves, welcome us in true Muslim form — smiling, laughing and small-talking throughout the check-in process. My awkward humor blunders in acknowledgement. Entering the theater building, I spy complimentary refreshments, Unveiled book-stacks, and a three-tiered cake with the words “Give Light.” I also notice a small woman in a turquoise scarf and an embroidered jacket huddled behind the information table, and try to recall my sister’s chatter — something about orphans and tea parties. My memory is rubble lately.

Once inside, we take our seats immediately and absorb the crowd — a predictable majority of (presumably) Muslim women from the soup-pot that’s America. But every few scarfed and un-scarfed heads later, a male one hovers over the information booklet. Presumptuous as it is, I silently applaud him for venturing into veiled and “unveiled” territory. Throughout the play, my eyes meander over, hoping to capture an “epiphanic” reaction. Sometimes I’m rewarded with an enraptured stage-stare or a thoughtful head-bob.

Despite championing the arts, I’m no theatergoer and find one-act plays boring unless the actor is understatedly extraordinary. Looking around the small theater with a lone table and two chairs sitting center-stage, I prepare myself for a battle in concentration while toying with the smartphone imprinted on my fidgety palm.

Hosai Mojaddidi — a name I often see on social media — welcomes the audience in eloquent, warm and soft affirmations. I can see why her name pops up so much. She alerts us to the booklet I’ve been browsing, and again, my attention’s drawn to “Give Light.” There are too many organizations lining up for the needy, Skepticism whispers, standing cross-armed and purse-lipped over my shoulder. I’m wary of empty promises. But my compassion runs far deeper than I let on — and I’m alerted nonetheless.

Like most Muslim-American events, this too begins with a stunning recitation of the Qur’an in all its lyrical, spiritually uplifting, and intellectually sound Glory. I recognize the verse though I understand only some words. Mojaddidi returns on-stage to translate then introduce the founder of GiveLight Foundation — the show’s beneficiary. My drifting attention catches the woman in the turquoise scarf and embroidered jacket walking purposefully toward the stage. Arriving at the microphone, her expression dissolves into a smile as open as her words. Dian.

She stands center-stage, bathed in a light all her own. Her face is earnest, her voice direct and open. She speaks of the career she abandoned in the corporate village for the life she embraced in an excessively tortured world. “It didn’t fulfill me,” she says. I know that feeling even without the material success. As she continues, I realize I know no one who could leave the multimillion-dollar career track for nonprofit work — but many who believe they would. When she recounts the tsunami that devastated nearly one-third of the globe, my chest clenches. I consciously harden myself to avoid the crushing impact of a profoundly personal pain. Then I think of the children playing on the sand right before the wall of water swallowed them whole, and my breathing labors. “Losing one family member is hard. Losing 40 was unbearable,” she says. We blink back tears in reflection. I ask the girls dabbing their eyes behind me for some Kleenex, with nervous laughter. My emotionally controlled sister appears stoic, but the moist glisten in her eyes betrays her.

Listening to Dian’s story of loss and gain reminds me of my own life lessons and the missed opportunities to turn them into something more lasting than persistent melancholy. I decide I admire her.

Her life’s purpose, she says, is to serve the orphans left behind after the tsunami’s merciless onslaught. A muffled gasp follows the statistics — which has less to do with the death toll than the number orphaned. My mind strays to the children on the sand again, then to the castaway expressions on the tear and muck-streaked faces of the young, long after the ocean’s cold retreat. I “uh-oh” satirically to suppress the overpowering emotion this evokes. A barely audible repertoire of sniffles ensues behind me.

“The heart’s drawn to beauty and goodness,” she reasons. She believes in people more than I do. They’ve given her dream wings — not her idea alone. Were it not for them, the 800 orphans the foundation supports across the globe would be homeless. I recall the remarkable details of the orphanages screened before Dian’s introduction, and feel my armor collapsing. Courtyards, pillars, marble floors — the architectural details astound me. There are computers and educational resources in every home. Every orphanage is built with such loving attention for the child obscured in the deluge of inconceivable loss.

Wrapped in my thoughts about Dian, the foundation, and the orphaned children, I nearly forget why I’m here again. Then the lights dim around me and the stage comes alive.

A cloaked table, a tea set, and a chair inhabited by five women. This is the play in a nutshell. Cracked opened, the shell reveals astonishing layers to this one-woman act. The five characters are distinct in origin, appearance, mannerism, and voice; yet the same in identity and plight. They veil by choice, despite opposition. They reason, even when the absurd screams racial slurs into their faces. They exercise compassion under duress. They use their minds to think beyond what’s being said, and their voices when too much of nothing lingers in the acrid air of fear and distrust. Through a finessed storytelling, each character finds her thread of light in the gloom of disbelief, and raises the self out of despair to learn and impart necessary, transformative lessons. Their words hang between the audience’ rapt silence and the muted recognition of foul reality — cloaked in bigotry, intolerance, fear, and ignorance.

British-born, Chicago-based Rohina Malik, of South Asian descent, is the quintessential western Muslim woman, simply by definition — as are the characters she breathes to life with her compelling performance. Even when her solo-act dances around clichés and cultural stereotypes, her delivery remains powerful, convincing, and therefore, forgivable. We may not all confront the extreme circumstances of Malik’s strong-willed, tea-totaling heroines, but we share the same challenge of defining ourselves under intense scrutiny and pressure — and finding a safe home for our anomalous identities.

The drama unfolds my own internal conflicts that sit patiently in their musty corners — awaiting resolutions amid silken cobwebs. It occurs to me that being here has served a purpose I hadn’t foreseen. It dares to suggest that after everything’s been said and done, and my heart has healed of its unspoken inflictions, it’s possible I belong here.

After Malik’s encore, Mojaddidi invites the foundation’s team on stage. I compare the lineup to a print ad representing Muslim-American women — each standing apart in outward appearance and together despite it. This is what people should look like everywhere. And none could be better than the other when viewed in plain sight. A remote but familiar sensation swells within me. It may be pride.

Leaving the auditorium buzzing over tea and cake, my sister and I walk into the chilled dusk. My head pulses with ideas, and my heart is full. I think of my life’s work in creating learning opportunities for children. I remember the Afghan “coolies” with baskets larger than them at Sunday Bazaar, preadolescent nannies holding babies on slight hips, the toddler camel-jockey rubbing sand from his eyes — in places I have been. And the orphaned ones, where I still have no reach. Like Malik, and Dian before her, I too feel the weight of social responsibility and have thus let my work always choose me. Unlike them, I’ve remained closeted in my efforts — always maintaining a safe distance behind the scenes.

Making a hobby of charities to feel good has never resonated with me. Giving because we understand it’s a responsibility — an amaanah (trust) from Allah (God) — does. To then lend myself to something that builds a refuge for orphans — “the most innocent among us,” as one volunteer quoted — becomes inescapable.

Our drive home is mostly silent. I really want to work with them, I say. My sister nods in understanding. You should, she says, as we turn onto my street.

Childhood is an important time in one’s life. It’s important to me. A small portion of mine was spent within the impenetrable and colossal walls of a shared home — housing an extended family and a flock of hired help flitting about ceremonially. Those memories still evoke only the most positive of emotions — more than thirty years past. They moor me to safety in life’s gray moments.

GiveLight Foundation returns the orphans’ childhood to them, and provides anchors for them. As long as the children remain in these homes, they are cared for in the way an extended family watches over its young. This moves me beyond the words unfurled through my fingertips.

“The heart, when freed of ego and disease, yearns to give without expecting anything in return… Human capacity is tremendous if we know what we’re meant to do….”

Dian’s parting lines haunt my thoughts late into the night. Even the skeptic cannot deny the truth in her words. Surely all goodness lies in the shedding of the nafs (ego). As darkness overcomes me, the unnamed faces of the desolate and young flicker beneath my eyes.

And I know what I’m meant to do.

 

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Tea & Charity in Southern California

One of the most exciting things about Givelight is how our friends choose to show their love and passion for the cause. They embrace the cause in such personal ways by opening their homes, pouring their hearts into preparing a creative and fun event for their friends to learn about Givelight.  As we aim to expand our presence in Southern California, we were blessed by having 3 wonderful friends who planned and hosted a series of themed tea parties to benefit our children. With their act of kindness and love, they were able to inspire others to help and support our work. Time and again we witness that love knows no boundaries.

Two Moroccan themed tea parties hosted by Roohe Ahmad and Iffat Abbas

We asked our Socal volunteers to express their thoughts and feelings about the event they hosted.  Below are their accounts, which we hope will give you better insights into how this work can impact a person as a giver but more importantly as a receiver.  When we give, we actually receive something far greater; an inner satisfaction and peace knowing that our lives can give meaning to others.

Roohe Ahmad’s account:

Why did you decide to join give light?

In Ramadan 2010, I drove up to the Bay to visit friends, and happened to attend the Ray of Light Fundraiser. I had heard of Givelight before, but just in passing. This event really moved me on all levels– my heart & soul were literally trembling. And this response was not only within myself either, I saw countless people memorized and moved to tears at the simple and noble mission that Givelight has. I also have never seen so much money raised in such a short amount of time mashallah!

What was also amazing was hearing Dian speak. Her sincere love, passion for the children was inspiring. Through these past few years, each time that I hear her story I HAVE to cry. It makes me want to be a better person, to do more, to serve Allah via His most innocent of creation—the orphans.

Later in the Spring of 2011, I learned via friends that Givelight was going to do their first event in So Cal. I felt like a prayer was answered because I was dying to help, but just didnt know how. All praise be to God the doors opened and now we are trying our best to raise awareness of this special organization in our area.

How would you describe the event you hosted

I had been meaning to introduce Givelight personally to my friends ever since I had attended Givelight’s Gala in Ramadan. I live in the Inland Empire, which is approximately 30 miles from Downtown LA and 30 miles from Orange County, where a majority of So Cal Muslims reside. I invited about 100 friends from all over the Southland, but due to multiple events/engagements that particular weekend, as well as the distance, about 20 ladies showed up to the Moroccan themed tea party at my home. However every single person who attended was beyond moved. We had a lovely spread (with the help of my talented family and friends) that we enjoyed along with one another’s company—and watched videos regarding Givelight and were able to Skype in Dian herself as she was poolside, watching her two sons swim mashallah. It was pin drop silence in the room as everyone watched the videos, many of the mothers clutching their young children they had brought; when we Skyped in Dian, everyone was even more so visibly shaken and inspired.

I had many of my family and friends state that Givelight would be their charity of choice; they were so impressed by the sensational work of the organization and the savvy nature of raising awareness  (via pj parties, ladies teas/parties, game night, walkathon and other creative ideas). They were also impressed by the collaboration with big name corporate sponsors.

What are your dreams for give light?

What is unique about Givelight is that the money raised goes directly to the orphans and the orphans are supported with respect, dignity, and the love they so crave. I love how the orphans are encouraged to succeed on all levels–academically, personally, spiritually. My dream is to see awareness of these projects increase, and that these orphanages are able to spread all over the world.

Iffat Abbas’ account:

Why did you decide to join give light?

I first time heard of GiveLight when I was invited to join for GL SoCal Gala.  I read about their mission, watched their video and I was totally drawn to this beautiful institution and I signed up to join. I call GiveLight institution as its not JUST an orphanage but rather a place where our future generations are getting  education (both religious and traditional), learning proper behavior and getting properly nurtured to be a productive member of the society.

The day of the Gala I heard Dian’s story and how Give light started and I couldn’t hold back my tears. Dian showed us pics of the orphanages that were built for these orphans and they were nothing but a true sanctuary for these well deserved children.

Her story touched deep deep into the soul and gave me tremendous inspiration of how we can all make a difference in this world.  I made the leap and promise to myself that I will what ever I can to support and do whatever I can for this wonderful organization.

2. How would you describe the event in a few sentences.

Our Tea party was on Morroccan theme as GivelIght was opening their orphanage in Morocco.  I got to work with some really amazing and inspiring ladies for organizing that event.  It took a few weeks to plan the evening, it was all ladies event.  It was so nice and wonderful to see our community to come together for this beautiful cause.  Our tea party was at 4pm on a Sunday and you know that all the ladies who attended the event took the time out from their friends and family to attend this special event.

I felt very grateful to Allah swt to give me this opportunity to organize such a event at my place.

3. What’s your dream for GL’s future?

I pray to Allah swt to reach Givelight’s message to all around the world.  I pray with sincere heart for those beautiful children to have not just a place to live and a place to grow which is exactly what Givelight brings.

I want to see this Light reach many hearts and souls and awaken them so there are no children left orphans in the world without anyone to take care of them God willing.

Umbreen Malik’s account:

 

Why did you decide to join give light?

A few years back I briefly met Dian at a friends house. She spoke just a few short words and I felt a light enter my heart.

Some time later I was invited to a Moroccan tea party. There I heard Dian’s story for the first time. Dian was truly inspiring I was so moved by her. Her genuine words were full of passion. She wasn’t helping orphans she was helping her children. I was   so impressed by her. I think we all have it in us to want to help, but she has made it a reality for us & has given us the chance to make a difference. I am so grateful to God that He gave us the opportunity to meet her children.

How would you describe your event?

Saturdays event was a British themed tea party. My sister Samia, Roohe & I put together an intimate tea party for 17 close friends.

When Dian was talking there was not a dry eye in the house. She shared a story of when she went to Bangladesh there she saw children waiting in line with buckets. Whilst we were eating in fine bone china those kids were eating in buckets! I couldn’t hold back the tears or swallow my food.

Later when I asked Dian why her words touched us so deeply. She humbly said her father was always kind, loving & spoke to her with compassion. That might be true. However I also found what really attracted me was her level of Ihsan/excellence. The prophet ( peace be upon him) said: “Verily, God loves if any of you does a job, he does it with excellence.” You will find excellence in Dian’s work.

Give light gives their children new clothes to wear. They live in homes not orphanages. I was shocked to see the beautiful Moroccan home design, she gives them a higher standard of living. They have their own bank accounts, so much dignity & respect for them. She asks them what they would like to be when they grow up. For a child that doesn’t know where there next meal is coming from it gives them hope for the future.

They are taught to be apart of the community. Raising them so they can give back to the younger children. She can’t give them parents but she is giving them the understanding to be good parents. She is helping them permanently escape the poverty circle.

My friends were so grateful to me for being introduced to the Givelight foundation.

What are your dreams for give light?

I hope to see GL touch the hearts of more people. More homes for the children. Children that are educated at a higher level. Global support. I pray that Allah finds the best caregivers for the children, IA.

Poem inspired by Givelight Foundation

Written by: Viviana Loporto

For: All children of the world

Give us light

we are a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

And sadly, A lot of FORgot

give us light! trust our sight!

We are so bright and you know that’s right

Givelight to our heart, and we will ask the angels to listen to our daily prayers.

Please give us TIME, give us Friendship and companion

don’t isolate us!

don’t degrade us,

respect us, listen to us, love us!

heal our pain, be our stable guide,

like the brightest stars, be our friend,

give us your hand, don’t be afraid!

and please don’t walk away, don’t look away

can’t you hear our pain? can’t u look at our face?

you know we’re there, you know we’re cold, we’re sad, and we’re torn.

We may be little but we KNOW

You are like me, you fear, you scream, you know our needs….

We can’t do just money, toys, or food,

we’re not a thing, or two…..We need you!

we need time-Your time, your attention and sweet destination…. We need your kind face, please let us embrace!

Teach me to understand, I need to sing and say,

we are a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

And sadly, A lot of FORgot

give us light! trust our sight!

We are so bright and you know that’s right

Givelight to our heart, and we will ask the angels to listen to our daily prayers.

I will grow,

I will move on, but my roots will be strong and will be with u always like a beautiful tree, can’t u see? Your reward is among the best! Try it and collect!

Calling you in here and out there, we must work together for the better.

Together we can do so much, we are like a reflection of each other, don’t u see us in you?

You can’t forget us, we are connected and interrelated,

we got to play, we got to run and climb, there’s nothing too high, touch my hand and NEVER let go,

we are a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

And sadly, A lot of FORgot

give us light! trust our sight!

We are so bright and you know that’s right

Givelight to my heart, and we will ask the angels to listen to our daily prayers.

Give us light, never hold us back,

give us comfort, we need each other to survive,

in this life and in the life to come.

Viviana Loporto was very eager to attend Umbreen’s party because she felt a personal connection to our cause.  Unfortunately she fell sick the day of the event and despite missing the fun, she wrote this moving poem.

Now that you’ve read these accounts, tell us if you are inspired to do something. It does not have to be big, just a genuine effort to show that you want to save a life. Even just one.

 

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The Art of Giving

Art of Giving as the name suggests was project basically aimed to inspire kids to use their talents to benefit others. I’ve always been interested in art and creativity and to know that with these projects, we could benefit an orphan was a great opportunity to give back.

Our first pilot project was launched with 7 kids from Granada school. Here the kids learned to express their creativity through different art projects and had the opportunity to link their artwork to charitable giving. It was an hour well spent.

We had amazing volunteers, who spent their time with these kids every week, teaching them, inspiring them for a great good. I would like to take this opportunity to thank these wonderful ladies – Dian Alyan, Samaa Sayed. Susan Hijazi , Yumna Daimee, Natasha Tufail, Mehrnaz Hada, Sameena Usman, Ayesha Rania , Sarah Wajih.

Here are some project details:

  • We made cards, which can be used as thank you cards or correspondence with orphans in different parts of the world.
  • Sadaqa Jar, which the kids can take home and participants will collect coins at home to be given to their charity of choice whenever they choose to.
  • Learn calligraphy technique at the end of the session
  • $30 per student went towards sponsoring an orphan’s meal for 30 days

Every week in more details:

Week 1:

The students made a “giving tree” where they wrote the word “light ” in different languages on one side and on the other side they wrote their ideas of giving.

Week 2:

The kids made paper flowers (Origami) with the love of our friends around the world in their hearts.

Week 3:

Kids made Sadaqa jars with a twist. They made kitty cats out of the jars and had loads of fun doing it.

 

 

 

Week 4:


This week the project was making their own pillows and decorating them.

Week 5:

The kids made cards for our orphan friends around the world with a heart-felt message of greeting, friendship and encouragement.

Week 6:


Kids made a caterpillar out of egg cartons

Week 7:


Students thoroughly enjoyed their painting class on canvas. They learned some background painting techniques and chose from Allah (swt)s beautiful 99 names to really make their paintings glow.

Week 8:

This week kids made a collage, putting together memories from all their Art of Giving classes. It was a fun experience playing around with materials, colors and images.

Week 9:

This week they learned calligraphy. It was amazing to see their different creative ways of writing the same word Iqra.

The students enjoyed each and every class and wanted to come back next semester.

Here is what Director of After School Program GIS  Fadwa Musleh has to say about this program:

“GiveLight offered students an opportunity to experience the joy of giving to others.  The students always came out of the class pleased to share their art projects with their family and friends.  The adult volunteers were committed to encourage the students to enjoy art while learning the art of giving. “

What I have taken back from this experience is the joy of being able to help an orphan, not only with the funds, but also from inspiring these kids in the class to use their talents, their time and effort to benefit someone else. Spending time with these lovely kids doing art was just the cherry on top.

This has been such an inspiring experience for everyone who participated. With the success of our pilot project, we are planning to expand this project to other schools as well. If you are interested in being a part of this, please email info@givelight.org.

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Game On – GiveLight

If there is one thing that GiveLight knows and does best, it’s helping orphans while having some fun.

I have attended many GiveLight events, but game night wasn’t one of them. Not being a big sports loving person myself, I wasn’t sure how this event was going to be.

But before I say, ‘I loved the event and I am so glad I made it’, Let me give you some insight to the whole experience.

Let’s start from the very beginning.

I received the FB invitation for this event and since it was hosted in my neighborhood I decided to go. Driving up to this place I found myself in front of this beautiful home. A very gracious host, Zeba Siddiqui, soon welcomed me. Even though I had never met her before, she made me feel comfortable and invited me into her home. Did I say beautiful home? It is mashallah!

I usually look for ideas and design inspiration wherever I go. As such, I was immediately drawn to the intricate table setting and the amazing food spread. They had freshly baked bread, chaat, dessert, not to forget the GiveLight cake. The food was delicious and very soon we had our plates full.

 

Game night - food spread

Drifting in and out of food coma, I heard a sister announcing THE game and explaining its rules. The timely serving of hot Moroccan tea was just what I needed to get back and get ready for the game. It was GAME TIME… but what came next was unexpected. I wish I had prepared for it.

Game night - October 2013

We played a fun spoken parlor game, called Antaskshari (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antakshari), where we were divided into teams. In this game, the first team sings a movie song and the next team has to choose a song that begins with the last consonant the previous song ended with. Even though I used to be a pro at this game about 15 yrs ago, my Hindi song knowledge has diminished since I disconnected from B4U (Indian channel) and moved to Netflix. The game was so much fun, ladies jumping up and singing their song, giving the other team some time to think about their next song.  What a fun night… singing away, while we raised much needed funds for our beloved orphans. That’s what I love about GiveLight and all their events: they always involve helping the kids and having fun.

Pro-players at the Carrom board

Once we exhausted all our Hindi songs, we moved onto another game, which again I hadn’t played in 15 years: Carrom, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrom) -also called “strike a pocket”. We had some serious pro players in the group and we could see the competitive side of everyone. The teams went head on and played a very good game. It was fun watching, cheering for our teams, cracking jokes, taking pictures and socializing. It was a night to relax, reflect, inspire and have fun.

Game night - Feb 5, 2011

Since we introduced the idea  a few years ago, we’ve had different hosts but the results remain consistent:  we enjoy playing games with people we care about and we generate funds for our children.  Our generous hosts have included Nasira Shahin, Asia Hersi,Fatimah Abdallah, Sameena Chisty, Sameena Usman, Khadija Mohiuddin Harsolia, Nasira Shahin, Zarin Azizi Isaaq and Microsoft Theatre in Valley Fair Mall.

Game night - December 28, 2011

To give more perspective on how this unique idea was born, we interviewed Abiya Ahmed and here’s her account:

I can’t remember what came first – my friendship with Dian or my GiveLight support – probably the two were simultaneous! In any case, Dian and I always aimed for lunch once a month in order to catch up with each other. At one such lunch, she mentioned that GL was having a fashion show at some restaurant and I should come for the fun and food. I was a GL supporter by then for sure, but I declined the invitation without a second thought, telling her I wasn’t at all interested in a fashion show.

“What are you interested in then?” she asked.

“I love board games! We should have a game night just like there’s a fashion night!” I replied.

If you know Dian, you will know that she doesn’t miss an opportunity when she sees it. Seizing the moment, she challenged me to organize a game night where ladies could just get together, have some snacks, play games and donate something to GL.

And so it began. We had the first game night at Dian’s place actually. All it took was for us to create a Facebook event with a catchy description, invite people to come play for a cause and enjoy delicious desserts! We had about 15 ladies show up, if I remember correctly. From Scrabble to Taboo, we had several board games and the ladies all had a great time and we ended up with a modest collection for GL.

Alhamdulilah, we haven’t looked back since. Several game nights have been held at various sisters’ places, and GL even started hosting them at the Microsoft Store at Valley Fair! Even though I am not directly involved anymore, the GL Game Nights are so easy to organize that anyone can host them. The bottom line is that “girls just wanna have fun” and who doesn’t like to play games? Combine that with sponsoring orphans, you just can’t go wrong!

Here is what Zeba Siddiqui had to say about GiveLight and her inspiration behind hosting this event.

I had seen a teary eyed, and heard emotional Sr. Dian at my children’s Sunday school when the deadly Tsunami had taken so many precious lives leaving behind vulnerable little children. We were all touched by her initiative to open an orphanage in Achi and “GiveLight” where most needed.
My personal interactions with Givelight started a few years after that when Sr. Dian asked me if I can host a ladies game night at my place. Motivated by its founder who knows how to keep supporters engaged in a fun way, I hosted the event, where participants each contributed $20 or more for GL. We just placed a pretty vase on the dessert table and without any pressure, alhamdolillah it started filling up. That was the moment, I realized, alhamdolillah how blessed we are as a generous community. Sisters who had only known each other by face at Masjids, or other social events, became good friends, all in a relaxed and friendly environment within a couple of hours. Seeing them taking a well deserved  break from daily routines in a fun and productive way, made me realize how thoughtful this event turned out to be! I couldn’t wait to offer my new home to host the ladies game night again when I moved. Gaining new friends and generating funds, alhamdolillah by Allah SWT’s blessings we ended up with $1600 in a short time, again without any pressure on anyone. All sisters maasha Allah, so willingly looking to contribute.

GiveLight is uniting our community by keeping us all engaged in fun gatherings/fund raising events, bringing us closer for a good cause, all without any pressure. Everyone really looks forward to next creative gig/get together and like to be part of Giving Light, which is the kind of light that could bring us closer to our beloved Prophet Mohammad (peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him), as he was an orphan himself and he guaranteed a place closer to him in Jannat ul Firdos for someone who feeds/looks after an orphan.

Giving light to one tiny little life, truly illuminates the entire valley, just like nurturing a seedling, providing the right environment, you get rewarded with a large tree for generations to enjoy the fruit, and seek shelter when needed, all with just a little bit of patience, care, and love♥!

 

SoCal GiveLight Chapter - Game night

Game night at Microsoft store - January 13, 2012

Throughout our lives we look for an opportunity that brings meaning to our lives. We have that opportunity come our way from time to time in the form of good deeds. We should just grab this opportunity when it comes our way. Support GiveLight and help the orphans.

Inspiration. Fun. GiveLight. GAME ON!

 

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A night in Morocco

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful.

A night in Morocco stage

What a spectacular and overwhelming response for GiveLight from the Chicago community. Our very first event was sold out and it was amazing to see a community come together for a cause they had never heard of before. Firasat Ali, a dear friend of mine attended our fundraiser “ A Thousand Rays of Light” in 2010 in the San Francisco Bay Area was very inspired by the business model and mission of our work and that was the beginning of an amazing journey to introduce Give light to the Chicago community where he grew up.

GiveLight Chicago team, getting ready for the event.

He presented the idea to a group of friends and before long we had a core planning team of 12 excited individuals. They started planning the event early last fall with such dedication and drive and set very high goals for themselves which I found very invigorating and inspiring. Since this was going to be our very first event in Chicago, I set a more realistic expectation of having 400 people. It turned out that our event attracted over 700 people; which I was told was almost unheard of for a first time fundraising event, and created an amazing buzz throughout Chicagoland, which even NBC News couldn’t resist and sent their crew to cover the event.

Kids ready to present at the event

The evening included a bit of everything from messages by Hollywood actors, to comedy, children’s performances and dessert both local and others being flown in from different states to keep the program entertaining, informative, and the audience on their toes. Given that the core of our mission centers around children, the team focused the event around that theme. After a beautiful Quran recitation by a young child we had a group of young girls called “Muslim Gems” who sang “My mother was amazing”. It was a such beautiful and uplifting song which from the get go inspired all present. We then had a fashion show by the kids representing countries where Givelight has a presence – be it a home that we have built or just sponsoring orphans (for e.g. Haiti). It was very heartwarming and fun to see small kids excited to show off clothes from all these different countries to upbeat music. Everyone in the audience was mesmerized by their amazing performance.

GiveLight Chicago team, relaxed after a successful event

I was nervous about the logistics of the event but after the kids’ show we all were relaxed and enjoyed the evening. I tried to prepare for my speech days before the event but I kept rewriting it. I want every word to be carefully chosen and I want to articulate my feelings and emotion in ways that resonate with the audience and mashallah it totally did. We also did a short Question & Answer session because the audience was very moved and inspired and wanted to learn more about Givelight’s philosophy and long term goals.

Dian Alyan, speaking at the event

Our guest speaker for that day was Imam Suhaib Webb. Unfortunately he had to cancel his trip last minute because of  the Boston Marathon tragedy.  We were saddened on so many levels but understood his presence was much needed there in those hard times. Luckily he was able to connect with us through Skype and shared his wisdom.  I was most touched when he said, “please support Givelight and sister Dian whom I love for the sake of Allah”.  It’s an amazing feeling to know that your teacher and someone you admire support your dream for the world.

 

Crowd enjoying the silent auction display

I was very moved and happy to see the warm reception and hear kind words from the audience. I was also overwhelmed by the generosity from so many individuals and business supporters. From the kind donor who sponsored the whole décor to those who donated beautiful pieces for our silent auction, to those who hand crafted stunning and delicious cakes that looked like an art work worthy of display in a museum for our dessert reception.  But most of all I was extremely touched by our amazing team of volunteers who dove into this project after hearing about it from a friend. These dedicated individuals proved to me that the orphans are loved by all even though they may not be physically present in their lives; they are working hard to preserve love, harmony and normalcy in their everyday lives.

Enthusiastic guests at the event

Overall, the event was a huge success measured the enthusiasm from our guests.  We ended the night by raising double than our target.  Chicago showed us genuine love for orphans through their kind responses and delivering $163,000 in funds. May God the be source of all light that illuminates the heart of everyone who came that night and bless them all with the best reward.

In order to gain more insights into what drove the Chicago team to deliver above and beyond expectations, I posed three questions below to our core team.  Below are their unedited, straight from the hearts responses.

GiveLight Chicago core team

Firasat Ali

1. Why did you decide to join GL?

I was really moved by their amazing work for the orphans. I saw Dian’s compassion and all the heart and soul she puts into these kids as if they were her own. What sets Givelight apart is the systematic approach and layers of positive child development methodology that is embedded into the orphanages. GiveLight doesn’t look at the orphanage as simple a place to house kids – they work hard to ensure that the kids receive much more than necessities and develop into successful contributing members of society. For example, they help build character by teaching them how to save, be humble, be thankful and much more.

2. How would describe Sat’ s event in a few sentences?

It was a blessing to have such amazing buzz both before and during the event. Although the cause is amazing, we were not sure how a charity that is unfamiliar to Chicago would be received. With Allah swt’s blessing, Chicago event was sold out with outpouring response for the community and more people wanting to come to the event even after we were sold out. Some bought tickets for the event even though they knew they could not make it simply to make a statement that we are there with you in spirit and support the cause – wow – amazing. We had small donors and big donors – a child 6 years old brought us $27 dollars that she collected doing chores around the house. It was an emotional and moving event with the community bonding and coming together as brothers and sisters to support the cause. From what I gather, everyone left with a good feeling that they were able to do their part to make a difference.

3. Whats your dream for GL’s future?

The feeling of loneliness, and sense of no one cares for me is the worst feeling a child can have – As they grow, GiveLight should continue that level of love and care that they currently do for each child and make them feel special, feel the love, and always feel we are a family. GL is currently doing an excellent job at it and my dream is to have that continued.

Another dream is to connect the donors to the orphans so they can see and feel the impact they have made in their lives. Just spending a little time learning about the cause and seeing or talking to one of the orphans can put things in perspective – I hope some of our donors have this blessed opportunity to also get involved and would like GL to put forth some programs for donor participation.

Subul Baig

1. I went to a few fundraising dinners my sister managed, she invited my husband and I to support the cause.

I saw Givelight on a friend’s page asking for Volunteers on Facebook. When I saw and heard the stories of actual people just like us, but who struggle everyday from one hardship to another, I became more aware of what I have and how much more Allah has given me, than others. To see a young female without the bare necessities, like a shirt to cover her, is just heartbreaking. I love people and I love caring for people; It’s written in the Quran by Allah, that we are to help those who need it, and who needs it more than an orphan? I love the feeling of giving, it cures my heart… so after giving monetary funds, I thought what else can I do than just write a check….and so it begins… my volunteer experiences…xxx

2. Saturday was more than “kahkashan” meaning the highest place, or a galaxy of stars high above ( i LOVE stars).

It was breathtaking from the moment I walked into the banquet center. All volunteers working diligently to ensure the hall was exquisite. It was decked out in beautiful table umbrellas, lanterns and vases. The ambiance, the stage, the décor, all sublime. The mood was set colorful and it was glorious. Seats were jam-packed, additional tables were set up for guests who arrived late and lost their tables due to the overwhelming response of this first event in Chicago! MashAllah, what a glorious, blessed night. The Cultural children’s fashion show was spectacular, singing, and instrumental joy. The mood and the excitement could not have been arranged any better. Dinner was served at the tables’family-style, and an endless table of a variety of desserts, sponsored in part by Ghirardelli Chocolates. The babysitting services were better than a carnival; face painting, manicures and designs, toys galore and Wreck-It- Ralph Movie?! And then the pizza… oh my… my 6-year old couldn’t stop raving with 5-star reviews, speaking of how much fun she had, AND she made 17 friends! I could’ve spent the night there…it was like Cinderella’s ball….just like a dream that comes true.

3. My dream for GL’s future is to become a constant volunteer, raise awareness, raise monetary funds and invite others to join in this high cause of taking care of these little beings Allah has created, and now are helpless without parents and the basic shelter parents provide.

Zainab Kazmi

1. Why did you decide to join GL?

My aunt in India who is also my role model was orphaned at birth. She was orphaned for the 2nd time at the age 7. Lived in various homes and was married to someone twice her age, and abusive at a very young age. Growing up and to this day I share a very strong bond with her. She has experienced more adversity than any person I can think of yet I have never seen her feel bad for herself. Three years ago I was with her, when at the age of 40 she received a call from India and she was told her husband passed away leaving behind 5 kids, the youngest was 5 years old. Even in that moment she handled herself with more grace and dignity than anyone I can think of. I love her more than words can express, she was not born into my family, but I love her like she is blood. She was my driving force throughout this entire process.

2. How would describe Sat’ s event in a few sentences?

I believe that Chicago was a great choice for this event, and the proof is in the pudding. We had a great turnout, my phone was blowing up the night before with texts and calls from people wanting to purchase tickets. GiveLight should came back next year again!

3. Whats your dream for GL’s future?

My dream for GL is that in the coming years the Chicago market will commit to our fundraiser annually. Every year we need to raise the bar, set ourselves apart from the other fundraisers and make it the event EVERYONE will look forward to attend!

Shailah Khan

I decide to join Givelight as the cause simply “touched my heart”. I have a special love and soft corner for orphans and always have had compassion towards these little children. GiveLight gave me the opportunity to express my love for them by dedicating a little bit of my time and energy. I knew by joining GiveLight it would bring me a sense of belonging and peace.

Saturdays event in Chicago on April 20th to me was truly above my expectations! I felt there was so much barakath in the room. It was an inspiring evening. It was beautiful, fun, touching and well organized. Dian Alyan the founder of GiveLight bought many tears and opened up many hearts in the room to these little children who are in need of help, love and support.

My dream for GiveLights future would be to see GiveLights cause spread like fire!!!!!

I would like to see GiveLight in other parts of the world. My hometown Hyderabad for one is in need of a well organized facility that helps orphans succeed and not just fed and clothed. Educating and providing activities to me are very important aspects that need to be looked into in other orphanages that are already existing! Many orphanages around the world only focus on food and clothes. Seeing how GiveLight operate and cares for these young children makes me want to go and make things better in my own hometown of Hyderabad India! This is what my personal dream for givelights future is… to see it keep growing in different parts of the world…..

Thank you GiveLight.. Thank you Dian Alyan and Firasat Ali for allowing myself and our team in Chicago to help out in our own special way… Until next time….

Sara Sonia Davoodi

1. Why did you decide to join GL?

My passion and dream has always been to better the lives of impoverished children and to build safe houses and orphanages, when I read Dian’s story and the work Give Light has done for orphaned children I immediately was touched and knew I wanted to get involved.

2. How would describe Sat’ s event in a few sentences.

Wow! the turnout, the beautiful decor and the food were all incredible and raising money for this event and knowing the direct impact it will have was truly rewarding.

3. Whats your dream for GL’s future? My dream is to be a strong supporter with this organization and to build and sustain many, many more orphanages around the world – I would love to physically help build the homes and meet the orphans and provide, not only shelter, but education and set them up with the tools they need to have a promising future – With Give Light, that dream can become a reality.

Nabla Ali

1. In America its difficult having a direct impact on the lives of underprivileged children. I feel GiveLight gives me the opportunity to help out orphans directly without being there and that is a very fulfilling feeling.

2. Saturday’s event is difficult for me to describe. It was a success on many levels. People left with a positive attitude towards GiveLight. The event was overall well executed and the vast majority of people found it to be an informative and entertaining evening.

3. I wish GL could find a way for these children to be placed into loving homes. If not, I would love for GL to expand within each country to become not just a home but a premiere learning institution producing children who excel in education, iA.

Mehereen Mazhar

1. Why did you decide to join GL?

My decision to join GL Chicago didn’t require anything specific but I felt compelled because I’ve been sponsoring orphans there for over 7 years. I first decided to get involved with GiveLight in California because I loved the positive impact one woman making in the world. I felt that it was absolutely my duty to help someone working so hard and with such passion to achieve her vision.

2. How would describe Sat’ s event in a few sentences.

The GL Chicago inaugural fundraiser was a unforgettable evening and an overall smashing success!! Chicago is a large community of very generous and kind-hearted people. This was evidenced by the fact that 700 people showed up to support a cause that very few had ever heard of and together we raised over $160,000.

3. Whats your dream for GL’s future?

My dream for the future is that we show people over the next year what was achieved by their generosity in 2013. Then we can use that success to launch and annual event with specific goals so people understand where their money is going. To achieve this, I think we also need to do smaller events throughout the year, especially by involving children in the community and helping them develop relationships with orphans and showing them that no matter how small their contribution there was someone out there that benefited.

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Takengon, Indonesia May 2013 Khan Family Visit

Assalamu Alaikum Wa RahamatuAllah Hey Wa Bara Katu Hoo! This is how all the children greet people in Takengon. It doesn’t matter the age of the child. They are honored and happy that people come to visit them. Sometimes they wonder and ask why someone would make the long journey from America to see them. However, they are constantly saying thank you for coming.

A little over a year ago, my daughters, Amina, Rabia, and Leena, became involved with the Give Light Foundation, with Leena holding lemonade stands to donate the proceeds and the older two organizing a women’s retreat (this was a group effort with their cousins). As they were getting more and more information about what is done for orphans through the Give Light Foundation, all three of my girls could not stop talking about what more they could do. In the meantime, my son, Tamim, and my girls were having discussions with me to do something for myself for once. What have I always wanted to do or where have I always wanted to go to that I never got a chance to do when I was younger? It all started to come together as my children got to meet and spend some time with some orphans from the Bay Area. We all thought we should spend some time volunteering to a good cause and go somewhere new to do this. What I personally love about Give Light is that 100% of donations go to the children. Now was going to be an opportunity to see those dollars in action.

The village and town of Takengon.

My girls asked Dian, the head of Give Light Foundation, where we should go and she suggested Takengon in Indonesia. We were able to take three weeks this past May to travel and meet the children of Yahyahsen Noordeen Orphanage in Takengon. It was a three-day journey to the orphanage. We were met by Rose at the airport in Banda Aceh, and she took us to her home. She was kind enough to let us freshen up, do our salat, and then took us out and showed us the city of Banda Aceh. There were still reminders of the tsunami everywhere. It has been about eight years since that disaster and things are still not completely back to normal. We saw little children walking to read Qu’ran at the Masjids, the beautiful beach area, the museum with information about the tsunami, and a cargo ship in the middle of the city that the tsunami had carried in.

Elementary children arriving to school in the early morning.

The next morning a van arrived for the eight-hour journey to the city of Takengon. It was a beautiful but hot drive.

View of the beautiful scenery in Takengon, Indonesia.

The exotic forest was green and full of so many plants we had never seen before. Pineapple farms, banana trees, date trees, and rice farms. Some we did recognize, house plants with beautiful blooms. I never knew that our “house” plants could grow so tall and have such beautiful blossoms. I did not sleep the whole eight hours of our curvy journey through the mountains, as I was so engrossed in the beauty of the areas we passed through.

Our van arrived in Takengon around Maghrib (7:00 pm) time. There were some children who awaited us in the front courtyard area of the Noordeen Orphanage. Waiting along with the children were Dian’s uncle, his daughter Beti, and the secretary of the orphanage, Adadzar. My girls and I were happy to be getting out of the van and meeting our new friends. That night we got to meet all fifty children! The youngest was eight years old. They were all just as excited and curious to meet us, as we were them. Immediately, the person all the children were most curious about was my daughter Leena.

Leena is seven years old. She didn’t need any transition time to get used to the place, food, language, or start playing with the children. While my other two girls and I were trying to figure things out, Leena already knew the layout of the place and was walking hand-in-hand with many of the girls. We had taken little gift bags for all the children and one of the items in the bag was a balloon. The children immediately blew up their balloons and displayed them on the walls next to their beds. We prayed Isha salat together and went to bed.

The beautiful masjid in the center of Nordeen.

The next morning at Fajar salat, Leena was the first child in the masjid. As the other children entered , they stayed still and quiet until salat. This was very different than what happens in the masjids I’ve seen in the U.S.A. Usually, the children are running around making lots of noise. I was impressed that these children knew exactly what to do (without being told). I also noticed that after salat, many children stayed in their places. As I watched to see what was happening, the full time Imam of Noordeen came and sat with the children silently. He wrote down their names and then looked at each child and the children said something in Indonesian. He then took out some money and handed different amounts to each child who spoke. The money was for whatever the child needed (school, personal etc.).

This was the first of many systems that I was impressed with at Noordeen. The children all have their own bank accounts and they are regularly given money. They are required to use a certain amount of the money towards their education , but the rest is theirs to do with as they choose. Some children have saved their money over the years and bought a motorcycle for transportation. Others have bought chips, clothes, etc. This gives the children more of a family atmosphere at the orphanage. Their every move could be controlled but instead they are allowed many freedoms as well as behaviors that are expected of them.

The kids at Nordeen pose with their art projects.

They are expected to keep their areas clean, do their best in school, do their share at the orphanage, but they still have free time during the day. The children attend public schools. When they arrive back at Noordeen, they have the opportunity to attend English classes, Qu’ran classes, or take that time for themselves. My daughter Amina taught a few art and English classes during our stay. Leena taught an art class (water color stationary), and Rabia taught a yoga class. On our arrival I had asked some of the older children what they wanted to learn and they responded with history and English. For the two weeks we were there, I taught history lessons and English. The students chose to come or not to come. The classes that were the most popular were the art classes. The children had so much fun with the classes at Noordeen, they asked me to teach some classes at their public schools. I am a teacher, so it was not difficult for me to just walk in and start teaching whatever they wanted me to. I think it made the Noordeen children feel special when I went and taught in their public school classes. I know they were very popular for the day.

Uncle and the children were kind enough to escort us around the lake, to stunning views such as this one!

Our friends at Noordeen were very concerned with how happy we were during our stay. Uncle made sure he took us sightseeing around Takengon. The power of the sightseeing was that all the children that could fit in the van, got to go with us. Many of the children wait for visitors like us, so that they can go to places too. We went around the lake, the water park, hot springs, tallest peak in the area, and into town. I think that was the children’s favorite. They got to go to an arcade and I was able to take them out to eat.

The roads, houses, bathrooms, and driving were not a problem or really that new for me as I have been to countries with similar accommodations. For my two older girls, however, the conditions were a shock. Food was a challenge for both of them. It was very different from what they were used to. Amina finally said one day, “We usually eat, just to eat. Here people eat to fill their stomachs.” She also remarked, “Our entire childhood we always heard was that some children would love to have the food on our plates that we didn’t want. Now, they are not some children, they have names, faces, and stories.” We washed our clothes by hand, learned to use the toilets, and warm up our water before showers. However, we saw all the children doing all of this for themselves. One of the most heartbwarming things for me was when the rain came every day, the children would run out and grab our clothes off the line before they got theirs!

The children's toys underneath the staircase.

This experience certainly was a wake-up call on so many different levels. Amazing how the children cherished their balloons and displayed them on the walls. The smiles when they made their watercolor stationaries and wrote their names in glitter. One afternoon I found the little girls under the staircase in front of their personal items, displayed, just staring at the items they owned. Two cards lost out of a deck of cards, a sticker, items that we would throw away.

The night before we left, some of the little children had some gifts for Leena. I was overwhelmed when I saw the first gift she opened, a personal item that one of children had taken out of their collection. The next gift was the most precious item that one of the children had, a stuffed animal. When I insisted we could not keep it, the little girl started crying and said, “That’s all I have and I want to give it to Leena.” Yes, Amina , Rabia, and I had to fight back our tears and our hearts just melted!

The old cardboard box that the stuffed animal was in, Leena threw away. The next afternoon I saw several younger girls cutting it up and creating a doll house. They didn’t have any dolls but they had caught a grasshopper to use as a doll. As they released it in their new doll house, Leena jumped. When she saw that no one else reacted to her, she started to play too. Amazing, amazing how these children solve problems!

One of the most memorable moments was attending a wedding of a former Noordeen girl. She worked at a bank in Takengon. All of Noordeen was excited about the wedding. Many of the children went to the wedding with us. I could see how much this wedding meant to the girls of Noordeen. They practiced some songs and let Amina and Rabia know that they would be joining them during their karaoke moment. This was the first time my girls had ever done such a thing and they had a blast with the encouragement from their new friends. It was amazing to see the confidence of the Noordeen children.

Naurin helps Sajada learn about the equator and prime meridian.

Mashallah, in many ways, the children and people of Takengon taught my girls so many things about confidence, problem solving, patience, and being thankful. The children stayed busy for hours just playing with Leena’s balloon. On another occasion, sitting bored under the shade tree watching people on the street go by, the children started reciting surahs from the Qu’ran and my children joined in. Yes, this was without an adult giving the suggestion. Moments I will cherish forever.

We went into Takengon calling the children orphans but they are truly are our children and friends. I know all three of my girls have made life-long friendships and will never be the same. We were able to make more connections with the girls than the boys and I certainly felt my son’s and husband’s absence. They would have been able to build a relationship with the older boys.

The kindness that was shown to us by Rose, Beti, Uncle (and Auntie), Adadzar, and others in Indonesia, was amazing. Everyone was concerned about us and wanted us to be comfortable. We felt like we were treated like royalty during the trip. Our friends in Indonesia did far more for us then we did for them. They are in our prayers and Inshallah we will continue to support them.

My children and I have decided to visit orphanages instead of taking vacations. One of my lessons in this is that Dian cannot do everything on her own. It is going to take all of us to support the orphanages and help be her eyes and ears as to what is happening at the sites. As well, the children love visitors. I thank GiveLight and Dian, for the opportunity to visit Takengon and for making all the arrangements to get us to Takengon from Banda Aceh. It’s amazing, how Dian’s entire family is involved in this organization. Her father called us several times from Jakarta to make sure all was well with us. What a priceless experience, Alhamdulillah!!!

Naurin Beig

Assalamu Alaykum!

Boys in Takengon, Indonesia, stop their soccer game to say hello to the passing "Amricans"!

My first day at the orphanage began at 5:00 A.M. when the Adan was called for Fajar prayer. After making wudu, I walked into the small masjid that is built in the middle of the orphanage. As I approached the Masjid, I realized that the children were already there – reading Qur’an quietly and waiting for prayer to begin. Some of these children were as little as 8 years old. I was amazed by how self-disciplined and well behaved the children were.

During my time in Indonesia at the orphanage, I quickly realized how nurturing the environment the children were living in actually was. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this situation, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see bright flowers blooming around the orphanage, children playing, and smiles all around me. The children are so grateful for everything they have. In addition to going to school and working hard academically on a daily basis, I observed these children attending Qur’an classes whenever they had free time. There pronunciation of the children’s Qur’an was so amazing that it sounded like I was listening to a fixed tape. The orphanage that is built in Aceh is the necessary foundation and platform these children need to become successful individuals both academically and Islamically.

Suraya, Rita, Leena, and Qori playing with a grasshopper in their "dollhouse"!

The children are absolutely amazing and I can see them having great success in their future, Inshallah. In addition to everyone being sooooo kind in Aceh, it is unbelievably beautiful and I feel so grateful that Allah presented my family with this trip – it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My little sister Leena, who is 7 years old, had the absolute time of her life! She made so many friends and the little children welcomed all of us into their home with open arms – it was amazing to see and made me feel so good inside that these children have so much love to give. My family and I made lifelong friends who I will never forget. I am awestruck by how kind, intelligent, and talented the children at Noordeen are, Mashallah. This trip has motivated me to be a better person and be even more involved in the Give Light foundation. I am filled with immense gratitude towards everyone at Noordeen and everyone who has contributed to Give Light in any way. It is my hope that Give Light continues to expand and help children reach their full potential globally, Inshallah.

Amina Khan

Assalamu Alaykum,

About a year ago, my family became involved with the Give Light Foundation. We have always been indirectly related to the cause, as my aunts and grandparents have been familiar with Dian and her organization over the years. However, it was not until one of my aunts hosted a Give Light party at her house, and asked my cousins and I to help with planning, that we realized the beautiful cause that it truly is. We had so much fun with decorating and organizing, yet the true calling for all of us, was looking into the depth that Give Light has to offer. They have orphanages all over the world, and all the money collected goes directly to them.

Students work together to complete their world map in English class

In spite of our expectations beforehand, nothing could have prepared us for the experience to come. After 23 hours of flying, many layovers and an 8-hour bus ride, we finally arrived in Takengon around sunset. The adults who run Noordeen, Dian’s aunt and uncle, as well as Adizar, the director, greeted us with a quick tour, while showing us to our rooms. The children were praying Maghrib at a beautiful mosque located in the courtyard at this time, but as soon as we stepped into our rooms, we heard a knock at our door. The footsteps and giggles behind the door belonged to a few girls who had finished prayer, and called us to the classroom. All 47 of them, as well as the adults at Noordeen, had gathered to introduce themselves and welcome us to their home.

The girls ready to attend (and sing!) at a local wedding.

Over the next two weeks, everyone truly became an extended addition to my family. We held English class everyday, and every single one of the students were dedicated, passionate and patient with the material we gave them. Qur’an classes were held after Maghrib, and the athan was called every morning by one of the older boys before Fajr. We had yoga lessons, swam in a local hot springs, attended weddings and visited the children’s schools. Amina and I taught the kids to play hide and go seek, and they taught us how to ride a motorcycle! Everyone took care of one another, and the structure being instituted helped balance academics, social time and all the Islamic aspects in the lives of the children.
Beyond all of this, the most remarkable thing about Noordeen was the character of the individuals there. They displayed such creativity; always singing, making up dances and playing with one another. The older ones share rooms with the younger kids, so they can help with homework, and aid with Qur’an. Gratitude is instilled in all the children; they are unbelievably kind and eager to learn.

Zul is hard at work, studying Geography and History is English class!

It was a pleasure teaching all of them. Similar to the children, the adults are incredibly gracious, and take the children to the mountains, lake, and into town whenever they desire to go. The atmosphere there was nurturing, and although many of the children at the orphanage did not have parents to return to, they had established a family at Noordeen. At the end of our trip, I felt so unworthy of all the love and compassion bestowed upon us; they gave us much more than we could ever return.

Rabia Khan

 

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Share the Dream. Share the Light.

Glowing rays of the morning sun breaking through the darkness of night to set the sky ablaze, rhythmic sounds of the natives singing together to usher in a new day, lions shaking their manes to brush off the solace of sleep, zebra stampeding through the fields – for most of us, this is our dream of Africa, crafted from memories of childhood stories. On May 4th, 2013, Give Light asked us to dream another dream, a better dream, a more meaningful dream – the dream of a better future for helpless orphans confined to the bleakness of the present.

Dreams of Africa, a Give Light fundraising event, asked us to think beyond ourselves and recognize the plight of young orphans around the world, to participate in their future by supporting Give Light’s most recent venture in Morocco.

Tragedy-turned-charity, this project came about through the generous donation of land in Casablanca by the parents of Sophia Farid, a response to the devastation of their daughter’s untimely death.

“I think to myself that her death could be for the benefit of others, to benefit orphans so we can take care of them until they’re able to take care of themselves,” her mother said with tears in her eyes.

To make her vision a reality, long-time Give Light volunteers such as Nicole Aeschleman, Ayesha Rania and Sadia Tayab hosted “Road to Morocco” events, creating awareness of Give Light, its efforts around the world and its most recent expansion into Africa — revealing the desperate need for light in orphans’ lives.

Meanwhile, plans were drawn up to make the orphanage “Maison de Lumiere” – “House of Light” – a reality. Designed through the pro bono work of a generous architect, Wafaa S., the orphanage was created to be a home — not just a house or a shelter but  a sanctuary — with all the comforts that offers misplaced orphans who for so long had nothing to call their own.

The day finally came when everything came to life. The efforts of hardworking volunteers finally came to fruition. Colorful curtains were hung from the high-vaulted ceilings, lanterns lit up the atmosphere. Aromatic cuisine scented the air, decorations sparkled on stage. Arabian tents attracted excited guests while elegant tables invited them to feast. We were surrounded by Morocco. All came together to mark this night a success, to make this dream a reality.

Imam Tahir Anwar (above), Mayor Jamie Matthews (below-left) and Laura Ava-Tesimale (below-right)

Celebrities and well-known personalities from all walks of life, inspired by the efforts of Give Light, announced their support for this noble endeavor. Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews expressed the deep link he shares with Give Light’s mission, having adopted an orphan from Africa himself many years ago. “Founder [Dian] Alyan has helped hundreds of orphans in 8 countries and is now expanding her love and compassion to Africa. As many of you know, Jules and I adopted our wonderful son Kanu over 19 [years] ago from West Africa and so this effort is very near and dear to our hearts. Bless you for bringing light and hope to the orphan children,” he later posted on Facebook. Imam Tahir Anwar recognized the work of Dian Alyan, the founder of Give Light, and applauded the good that it did and the good that it created in others. Laura Ava-Tesimale, the CEO of AVA Consulting and a global philanthropist in her own right who has adopted two daughters herself spoke of how this cause is close to her heart. Even those who could not attend sent their support in the form of a video message. From Tariq Ramadan, an Oxford scholar, to Faran Tahir, an actor of Star Trek and Iron Man fame, all recounted the impact this would have on children’s lives and on the world as a whole.

The excited audience also celebrated the contributions of a long-time donor, a gentlemen by the name of Abdul Hamid Beig. Mr. Beig was presented a “Light A Life” award by Dian Alyan to honor him and his family for their outstanding generosity. Three generations from the Beig family have been supporting Give Light from Mr. Beig himself to his six-year-old granddaughter.

Hand-painted Arabic calligraphy by Taher Mojadedi. Painting on left sold for $1200 in silent auction at the Dreams of Africa event.

With over 600 attendees, the Bay Area community championed Give Light’s mission. Representing different countries around the world such as Somalia, Indonesia, Sudan and Singapore and different organizations around the state such as Google, Cisco, PayPal and local government, patrons responded to the call of Give Light. While some gave what they could, others contributed their talents and belongings through the silent auction — painting masterpieces, etching calligraphy, sharing ethnic treasures and donating their business services — in sum, raising over $200,000.

“I was blown away by the generosity and the overall sense of community shown by all the supporters of Give Light. It was exciting to see the beautiful decorations and taste the cuisine from Morocco in spirit of the new orphanage. I am truly grateful to be a part of this dream.” said Tariq Nagpurwala, an avid Give Light supporter who recently won an internal award for writing creative Facebook ads for Give Light.

Bay Area children channeled the spirit of this event in their own way. In the Dreams of Africa: Children’s Workshop, children came together to create Sadaqa/Giving Jars, to carry the message of charity home and instill it in their everyday lives. Others performed at the event itself, dressed in cultural garb, showcasing the different countries that are affected by Give Light’s generosity.

All understood the profundity of the cause – to change lives.

Dian Alyan (middle) and Laura Ava-Tesimale (left) with Bay Area children at Dreams of Africa event

It bears mentioning that dreams of Africa were not just shared with the Bay Area. Chicago also believed in them, raising double the target amount at over $163,000 at “A Night in Morocco,” a sold-out Give Light event last month. This Bay Area event raised that total to $425,000, only $75,000 away from the $500,000 needed to make this dream a reality.

From volunteers to celebrities, from young children to companies, from strangers to loved ones, all have contributed. What is the dream they share?

Nur Samawi, wedding

Dian Alyan, in her speech, related the story of a young girl who came to Give Light as a destitute orphan. The first graduate of the Give Light program, she earned a degree in Economics while maintaining a high GPA and recently got married. She spoke to Dian of her challenges before Give Light, her triumphs through Give Light and her plans afterward. On her graduation day, she wrote to Dian saying “I’m the happiest person in the world”. Hers is the dream we share.

Join us! Share the Dream. Share the Light. Give Light.

 

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“Thanks Dian for including us in your beautiful vision to help orphans around the world. What a fantastic event!! What amazing food and not to forget a great emcee!” – Nahid Aliniazee

“Mashallah what a blessing this evening was alhamdulillah. Thank you to everyone who attended, helped put this on and thank you Allah SWT for opportunities to help such an amazing cause and for those behind the efforts and hardships. May they be rewarded.” – Carl Swanson

“Alhumdullilah for such a beautiful and successful event. Inshallah the ‘Dream of Africa’ will soon be an amazing reality.” – Sarah M. Rai

“Great event and great people who opened their hearts for the wonderful cause. Dian may Allah give you more strength and ease your path to further success in this great cause(Amin).” – Seema Shamim
“Beautiful evening with a beautiful purpose, may Allah SWT accept all volunteers efforts and grant barakah in goodness, aameen. I am glad I could make it alhamdolilaah ♥!” – Zeba Siddiqui
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Nur’s Inspiring Journey

Acquire knowledge, it enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lights the way to heaven. It is our friend in the desert, our company in solitude and companion when friendless. It guides us to happiness, it sustains us in misery, and it is an ornament amongst friends and armor against enemies.

She was an orphan, she was a young girl in a developing Islamic country, she was alone and had to rely on others for almost every need. The odds were stacked against Nur Samawi almost from the very beginning. However, through faith and perseverance, by focusing on her goals and not on the many obstacles in her way, she became a successful young professional, and found love as well.

Nur was born in Angkup, a small city in the mountains of Indonesia. Angkup enjoys rich natural resources, beautiful landscapes and a mild, cool climate. Nur lived here in a small house with her family, the perfect, peaceful life we can all imagine.  Life changed abruptly for her however, when she was just three years old. Her father died, leaving her mother a young widow and Nur and her younger brother orphans.

The small family moved in with Nur’s grandmother. It was a farming town and the school was far away. Although they faced many struggles, the most painful memories Nur has are of emptiness and loss.  She missed her father with all her heart. “I used to get jealous whenever my friends’ fathers were around. Sometimes at night I would cry myself to sleep because I wished he was still holding me very tightly,” she explains. “The pain was always very sharp in my heart.”

When Nur was six years old she went to live in a government orphanage run by a man named Samsuddin. He was kind and Nur considered him like her father. She called him “Ayah Samsuddin” or “Father Samsuddin.”(He also happened to be Dian Alyan’s Uncle). However, the orphanage was struggling to support 100 children and sometimes there were more than eight children per room.  Nur remembers it being very noisy.

As a child she used failures to strengthen her determination to succeed. “I remember when I was in grade school, my teacher asked me to do a mathematics problem.  I could not do it. I was sad and embarrassed.” Nur made a promise to herself. “I learned from this. I promised myself that I would study even harder and always be able to answer a teacher’s questions.” Nur studied with a passion and decided that one day she would be able to support herself. However, she knew she needed some kind of support and an environment that would help her flourish. She yearned for privacy and a quiet place to study and read. “I was sad,” she says. “I longed for peace and a safe place to study. Also, there were no facilities and no help or support.”

Ayah Samsuddin, a wonderful father figure and beloved by all our children

 

Unfortunately, when Ayah Samsuddin reached retirement age, the government did not want him to continue running the orphanage and he was forced to retire. He moved to his home in Dedalu. Here, he donated his land to GiveLight. He let his home be bulldozed so Give Light could build an orphanage there. Nur was in high school when this happened. When she heard the news that Ayah Samsuddin would be running the new orphanage, she knew she wanted to be part of Give Light.  She wrote letters begging to be allowed to move to the Give Light orphanage.

Nur had friends who were living at the Give Light orphanage. “The orphanage was wonderful, with facilities I could use for studying and learning,” Nur explains. Nur yearned for the support and opportunities offered at Give Light. “Give Light had discipline and love,” Nur says. She eventually met Dian Alyan. She finally summoned up the courage and asked Dian if she could please stay at her orphanage. Ayah Samsuddin said, “Nur is a smart, pious, diligent girl, so we should definitely welcome her.”

Givelight home where Nur felt loved and nurtured

 

Her journey with Give Light did not end when she graduated from high school. Nur got a full scholarship to the University of STEI SEBI (Shariah Economic Banking Institute) and majored in Management Shariah Banking. “I rented a house with 13 girls but then eventually moved to the dormitory. Alhamdulillah, Give Light paid for my living costs,” Nur says. “I knew Give Light believed in me and was there to support me. This was so important for my spirit. I was able to focus on my studies without having to worry about food or rent or having a home.”  One of the most important things Give Light gave Nur was the feeling of not being alone. Nur received her bachelor’s degree and finished college early, in three and a half years.

Nur at her graduation party attended by Dian’s own parents and sisters who are now Nur’s family.

 

In 2011, something happened that would change Nur’s life again. Nur went to Bogor University to take the TOEFL. The size of the university was overwhelming and she asked a gentleman for directions. He walked her to the classroom. He happened to be a lecturer at the university—a lecturer on Islamic Banking, which was Nur’s major. He happened to be there for a meeting. He happened to know one of Nur’s friends at her college. When Nur finished her test, he was waiting outside the classroom for her. His name was Muhammad Isman Almaududi.  Nur and Muhammad were soon married. The celebration was held at the Give Light home in Aceh. “There were tears of joy in everyone’s eyes to see one of our girls getting married,” Dian says.

 

 

 

 

Nur at her graduation party attended by Dian’s own parents and sisters who are now Nur’s family.

 

Nur currently works in the Overseas Relationships and Marketing Division of CNA (Cabang Niaga Abadi), an NGO, which help needy people overseas. She is Give Light’s first orphan to graduate college.

Nur Samawi’s faith, perseverance and determination helped her beat the odds. She was a young woman, had limited resources, and almost no family support. She was alone and an orphan. Nur however, gives full credit to Give Light for bringing her where she is.  According to Nur, Give Light doesn’t just support orphans; it nurtures them and helps their dreams come true. The sustenance and encouragement provided by Give Light helped her focus on her dreams, not her obstacles and losses. “If I could say one thing to everyone about Give Light,” Nur says, “ I would say please, please support the foundation. They changed my life and there are so many children whose dreams they can help come true.”

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Tea Party for a Good Cause

I  have always wondered how the fireflies can sparkle the whole world at night? Those tiny creatures can bring so much life into darkness. What if we can make it possible to touch other’s lives by sharing our blessings with less fortunate to make this world a beautiful place for all.

This desire has always been burning in my heart until I discovered a true light, GiveLight organization. I was totally intrigued by the idea of supporting and owning the orphanage around the globe without any borders. Being a mother and a professional dealing with children’s communication needs every single day, this cause was a true match to my soul.

Sister Dian’s selfless love and passion to the orphanage around the globe has drawn me to be a part of this wonderful cause. The sole to soul campaign led to an idea of “Tea Party for a Good Cause (04/06/2012)”I was overwhelmed with the kind and gracious response of my friends and community for this event that affirmed my belief that people want to give back to their community and this is incredible feeling once you experience it wholeheartedly.

I am excited and humbled to be a part of Give Light Foundation and looking forward to many exciting and rewarding series of joyful events that not only bring the joy of sisterhood but to make a difference in thousands of young lives who will hold the reigns of our future soon.

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Sweet Tooth Social Event

Something Sweet for the GiveLight Orphans!

The GiveLight Chicago Team recently hosted a sweet tooth social event. The event was a HUGE success, with over 400 attendees and $4,600 raised in just one evening.

The event was designed to raise awareness about GiveLight in Chicago prior to our big event in April. What started out as an idea turned into a community project where people turned out from nowhere wanting to help out and participate. The entire premise was to bring people into a common space where people could socialize, enjoy activities with their kids, have tea, enjoy goodies and learn about GiveLight! The organizers of the event, Nabila Ali and Firasat Ali, were filled with joy to see how well the event was received. The event consisted of many exciting programs for kids including: building giving/sadaqa jar, face painting, photo session with ELMO the cookie monster. Guests lingered until the end and every item was sold out.

Nabila Ali, organizer of the event and member of the Chicago Team, explained how GiveLight was received by attendees. “GiveLight was very well received. Most people were very inspired by the Grass Roots effort of our community and how we banded together to put together this event. They had a wonderful time and it was an afternoon well spent with their children and friends. We ourselves could not believe how well and smoothly everything went that afternoon, that was a true testament that God had blessed this event,” revealed Ali.

Those who attended the event also had the chance to show off their baking prowess and participate in a contest for the best looking cookie and cupcake! Participants were instructed to bring their goods to the event by 1pm.

All praise is due to the ONE who blesses all good intention and work.

We are especially proud and blessed to receive the help from members of the Chicago Team. Special thanks to Firasat Ali, Nabila Ali, Fariyal Ahmed, Reema SK, Talha Azeem, Mirza Abdul-Wase Baig, Asra Zaheeruddin Cororan, and Shailah. We would also like to give thanks to the 60 volunteers and the 400 people that attended the event. This event would not have been possible without the help of each and every one of you!

Ali expressed that her motivation and inspiration for staying involved with this project and GiveLight in general is the sincere desire to elicit a positive change in the world.

“Everyone just has to do a little bit and the change will naturally come. Living in America, we are so alienated from this cause. We want to be part of a movement to change things, to better the circumstances of those children who have little or nothing. GiveLight and Dian’s work inspires everyone to want to make a positive contribution to society. We are living for ourselves, but what better action than to devote your life to the little people and to teach our children to grow up and be the same way. Also, seeing people come together and approach us about GiveLight is incredibly inspiring. I have met some amazing people in the past few weeks who have devoted themselves to the cause and who have come forward willing and desperate to help. It is inspiring and humbling,” divulged Ali.

Save the date for our big Chicago area event!
April 20th @ 6:00pm in CDT

GiveLight will be hosting its very first fundraising dinner in Chicago! For event details, tickets & sponsorships please visit the event page. To be updated with the latest buzz about the upcoming event join the Facebook page!

Since the time that the GiveLight Foundation was established in 2005, the amount of success that we have reached is more than we could have ever dreamed of. However, we will not stop here. The word love, which is at the heart of everything that we do, will continue to fuel us to move forward in helping the orphaned children of the world.

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