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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