The evening of the GiveLight dinner in Claremont, California was bustling with excitement as the Southern California GiveLight Team eagerly awaited their guests. The team had been preparing for this September 30th dinner since the end of spring, and now the time had come to introduce GiveLight to an entirely new group of interested individuals.
As the 100 guests made their way through the courtyard, they were greeted with smiles—their journey had begun. Founder Dian Alyan was keen to meet these kind souls and made sure to take the time to be present at the event. It was such an exceptional opportunity for the guests and the Southern California GiveLight Team to have Dian in attendance that evening.
Organizer Roohe Ahmed elaborated on why it was important to introduce GiveLight to new people and the concept behind the “Culinary Journey”: “GiveLight is such a beautiful organization where kids are loved and honored to grow to reach their full potential. Our team wanted to raise awareness across our city about it, and started with small local events. However, we had been doing the same type of programs- intimate tea parties that targeted women. We tried to branch out when we hosted the Jeremy McLellan comedy event in January. But we wanted to do a unique event showcasing the amazing culinary talents we have here, and tell the story of GiveLight through unique, exquisite cuisine.”
As the guests conversed with Dian and the team, delicious fruit juices were served. The mango drink was fashioned after a similar beverage in Indonesia, the Hibiscus Spritzer was indicative of the Tropics and the Strawberry Sangria Mocktail was showcased using Wabry Syrup, whose creator, Nadia Khan, donates 30 percent of her profits to GiveLight.
The chef for this event, Fiona Motala, drew inspiration for her seven-course fine dining experience from the many countries across the world that have been touched by GiveLight. She and her team of excellently-prepared sous-chefs, worked tirelessly for several days to prepare the feast that was about to be served before the guests.Fiona had curated a mouth-watering gastronomically-inspired menu consisting of hors d’oeuvres of chicken satay and gado-gado salad from Indonesia, a first and second course of fattoush-inspired salad infused with date vinaigrette from the Middle East, and prawns with saffron rice from South Africa, an “amuse-bouche” of Mishti Doi from Bangladesh, the main course of filet mignon with Hasselback potatoes and harissa lemon chicken with couscous from Morocco, ending with a passionfruit coconut cheesecake from France and Turkish tea with Turkish Delight and traditional chai from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
As the courses graced the table, Fiona’s daughter, college student Faatima Zahra explained each dish with precision and its inspiration. When asked about taking on such a huge task for this “Culinary Journey,” Fiona said, “Getting involved in a GiveLight event is always a wonderful experience. From the minute I was asked to take on the task of being the “head chef,” my creative juices began to flow. This event was a challenge for me because some items on the menu we curated specifically for the event to suit the theme and also the fact that I had to plate certain courses for 100 seated people.
We prepared and plated and served, and Alhamdulillah the feedback was amazing. In spite of all the work involved I would do it again in a heartbeat. I absolutely loved being a part of this amazing event, working with such an inspiring group of ladies and all for a good cause. I came home content, Alhamdulillah.”
The guests were escorted outdoors to enjoy this culinary adventure under a blanket of lights twinkling in the night sky.After host Mariah Jamal welcomed all on behalf of the GiveLight Southern California Team, she invited Mustafa Khan, a Sophomore high school student at IOK, to recite Sura Duha (The Morning Light) along with the translation. His beautiful recitation echoed amongst the guests and lingered throughout the evening. Dian was then asked to speak, and without missing a beat, she spoke from her heart about GiveLight’s core mission of making the orphans feel an integral part of society by educating them and giving them the love and dignity they deserve. Dian’s speeches always inspire the soul and that night was no exception. A sophomore from Vivian Webb School, Cheyaan Jamal, told the audience how she became inspired by Dian to do something for the orphans Cheyaan explained how she tutors some of the children in Indonesia via Skype. Cheyaan said, “The opportunity to connect with kids around the world has humbled me and has shown me how important education is in the world we all live in, and how each of us can make a difference.”
After Dian answered many questions about GiveLight, the guests left with a greater understanding of what the foundation stands for. The concept of this culinary journey brought individuals from varying backgrounds and occupations together in order to help those most in need. Guest Razina Tar said, “When I received the invite from GiveLight I knew I would be attending for three reasons. The first reason is the cause. To help even one orphan is a blessing, but to help orphaned children in different countries, in times of distress, in their comfort zone, is truly an inspiration. The second reason is the founder herself, Dian, the inspirer. To be in her presence is humbling. Petite and so simple, sincere and so humble, she represents hope to me that anything can be achieved if you put your heart in it and faith in the Almighty. The third reason is Chef Fiona Motala who has dedicated herself to GiveLight. Fiona’s effortless approach to her task of catering an international cuisine was admirable. She and her remarkable team of friends did an amazing job of prepping and presenting a delectable selection of foods representing all the countries that Dian has founded orphanages in. I’d like to say I was bowled over by the sincerity and joy of the volunteers. Their enthusiasm was so contagious.”
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