Published in Gulf News
Dubai: Star graduates from charity schools helped established by UAE donors in Pakistan paid emotional tributes to donors at a community event held in Dubai on Sunday. Two former students flew into the country to express their gratitude and garner additional support for The Citizens Foundation (TCF), which that runs over 900 schools in Pakistan’s rural areas and city slums and has an enrolment of some 126,000 students from poor backgrounds. It is funded by donors in Pakistan, the UAE and other countries. Around than half of Pakistan’s 183 million citizens are not literate, with a shocking 92 million adults aged 15 years and above unable to read or write, according to the TCF. The event, the TCF-UAE Chapter Supporters Conference, was held at the Al Murooj Rotana Hotel where Anum Fatimah and Nadeem Hussain, two former students recalled how the TCF changed their lives for the better. Anum recalled how she went from being a school dropout to studying at the prestigious Harvard University in the United States. Her father was forced to pull her out of school as he could no longer afford the fees but luck was on Anum’s side as she was introduced to a TCF school that did not demand advance fees for her to continue with her studies. She excelled at school and eventually won a scholarship to a Harvard summer programme “It was the happiest day of my life, that day changed my life forever,” Anum said. Anum encouraged donors to keep on changing lives, saying: “There are thousands of children who want to change their life but they need TCF and TCF needs your support.” Hussain also recounted his journey from a life of struggle to one of success, working his way out of the slum to working for leading institutions in both Karachi and the United States. “At least [Anum] had attended school before, I had never seen the inside of a classroom until I was 10 or 11 years old — even though my mom was a school teacher,” Hussain said. “It was the love and vision of TCF founders and supporters for the cause of education that made this possible.” Once given the opportunity, Hussain grabbed it with both arms, studied hard “and never looked back”. Today, he is also the product of Harvard and other leading US universities. According to Hussain, there was a time he had to attend classes after working 12 hours in a textile workshop — where he made a paltry Dh4.50. Now, he makes about twice that in just one hour as a research assistant. TCF founder and chairman Mushtaq Chapra lauded the audience, saying: “The most important thing tonight is that you [donors] all believed in what you’ve been able to make us do.” In October 2013, donors from the UAE raised Dh1 million to establish a TCF school in Pakistan as part of efforts to raise literacy levels. However, a TCF representative declined to reveal what proportion of their funding comes from the UAE.
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