My GiveLight Journey

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I am originally from Australia, but moved to the Bay Area in 2013. I studied psychology and human resources and have experience working as a recruiter, project manager and in a child protection agency where I looked at the effects of foster care on young children and the policies in place to protect them. I I have two beautiful daughters and it is my priority to raise them to be independent, responsible and compassionate muslims who contribute positively to the world.

I am passionate about social justice and spend time volunteering for various causes such as child advocacy, gender inequality, and civil rights. I strongly believe that the meaning of life is to serve Allah and one of the ways to serve Him is to serve His creations. I hope that when I leave this world, I will have made meaningful contributions. One of my other passions is travelling, with a goal to travel 35 countries before I am 35.

Growing up, every year my family and I would visit Pakistan during our summer holidays. There was a drastic contrast between the young children on the streets of Karachi and in Australia. One particular encounter changed me, a girl around my age was begging for food. Holding her baby brother in her arms, she was wearing dirty rags and her face was sunken with hunger and poverty. To me, the worst part was people walked past her as though she was invisible and many turned their heads when she approached them. I remember thinking if any one of these people stopped and helped her, what a great difference it would make in her life. Now, Alhumdulilah I am now in a position where I can help children like her. The Qur’an places the utmost emphasis on helping those in need and that has instilled a sense of duty in me to do my part. I am also constantly inspired by what GiveLight has achieved and continues to achieve and I want to see its impact grow and reach far so that no child ever feels deprived of the childhood that other children take for granted.

I felt a close afinity to GiveLight because of how and why it was started. When the 2006 tsunami hit Indonesia and all the devastation it caused, I led a campaign at my high school in which we raised funds for relief efforts for the victims. Yet it wasn’t until I met Dian and learnt in more detail of the work that GiveLight does that I wanted to be a larger part of it. Dian, who knew of my love of literature, contacted me in early 2019 to help lead a new initiative called the Books of Light project, in which we campaign, collect books, design and assemble libraries for children in foster homes in the Bay Area. I have enjoyed this project immensely and since then have been part of many GiveLight events and fundraising campaigns, one of which is the Paint Party.

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My good friend, Sheza and I wanted to host a fun and engaging event that allowed the attendees to get involved and take something beautiful away with them. As Ramadan was fast approaching, we thought that it would be the perfect time to create modern Islamic art that people could display in their homes in the blessed month. Bismillah, in the name of Allah, seemed like the perfect word, because this was our first paint party and we wanted to start it with Allah’s name and praise. Sheza’s comment captures our sentiments perfectly: “We started with Bismillah and ended with Alhamdulillah”. It has been an honor to have hosted this paint party with Sheza. We both share a love for bringing people together and serving a greater cause and this allowed us to do both.

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Our two goals were to raise awareness about GiveLight’s work and to raise funds for building homes for children around the world. We reached both our goals; we did a Facebook campain which inspired people around the world to donate. Dian not only joined the party, but she also did a Facebook Live to share her story about GiveLight. We aimed for $2000, Alhamdulillah, we raised $2904.

By pure coincidence, our event was held on the same day as International Women’s Day and I believe that the atmosphere reflected that. The whole afternoon was filled with positivity and creativity! Many of the ladies never met before, within minutes of the Paint Party starting, all the ladies became familiar and friendly. Although it was an individual painting session, it felt like we were part of a team as everyone was supportive and encouraging of each other’s work. The event ended with all of us taking a photo with our finished paintings; many noted how much fun they had and would love to participate again.

Although it may seem daunting at first, paint parties are actually very simple to organize. All you need are some paint supplies and a great teacher. A good teacher will lead the class in a captivating and informative manner so that participants at all levels of expertise can understand and follow. Our wonderful teacher, Shaz Bidiwala, was not only patient and encouraging, but also taught us great artistic techniques. She engaged all the painters which made the class fun. Everyone ended with a beautiful painting and we are very thankful to Shaz for her time and expertise. Sheza and I would like to make the GiveLight Paint Party an annual fundraiser and hopefully do it on a grander scale with more people and showcasing a variety of artists with different styles and backgrounds.

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GiveLight, to me, means sharing our light and giving hope and opportunity to many vulnerable and at- risk children around the world. It is ensuring that they are given an education and equal opportunity to live a dignified and fulfilling life and are not left behind solely due to their circumstances. Every child should grow in a nurturing, safe and loving environment and Givelight works hard to provide that. Being a part of GiveLight’s team is making an investment in these children’s lives, spiritual development and well-being. I am humbled and filled with gratitude to be a small part of this amazing cause.

We would like to thank everyone who was part of our campaign, from our friends who donated online to everyone who bought tickets and attended our event. We also want to thank The Port of Peri Peri, Mirchi Cafe, Burgerim and Dash cafe for so generously supporting us!

- Tooba Ahmed