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From The HEART (DIL)
Ras H. Siddiqui Fremont, USA

There are some events that are just a pleasure to report on. One such effort called Developments In Literacy (DIL, the Urdu word for heart) fit this category completely, as it embarked on raising funds in the San Francisco Bay Area for the promotion of literacy in Pakistan. On Friday, November 9, 2001 the Flamingo Palace in the City of Fremont became the gathering place for over 100 people from the who’s who of the Bay Area Pakistani community. The end result was one winning blow against illiteracy in Pakistan.
Five very determined and articulate ladies hosted this dinner and informational program, one of the most successful of this nature witnessed in this area. Sara Abbasi, Asma Sheikh, Lubna Sheikh, Saira Siddiqi and Zar Aslam that currently represent the DIL San Francisco Chapter spearheaded this fundraising effort with an ambitious target of raising $40,000. That they actually ended up raising $68,000 goes to their credit and to all from our local community who hold the cause of education of children of the poor in Pakistan close to their hearts.  
The program started off with an introduction by Asma Sheikh. “When I learned that the objectives of DIL are to promote literacy in the rural, undeveloped areas of Pakistan, where the majority of our population still lives, I felt a certain positive energy. Yes we can make a difference”, she said. “There is an organization finally that is committed to a cause with the tremendous potential to brighten the future of Pakistani children, she said. She added that though it might take decades to achieve some of the desired goals of DIL, “but we have to begin somewhere.”  She gave the example of Muslim reformer Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and how he himself never got a chance to enjoy the fruits of his efforts while he helped to spread much needed Western education amongst South Asian Muslims. Without his work “many of us would have gone to Madrassas (religious schools) instead of colleges”, she said. Asma ended her short presentation by introducing and welcoming event Chairperson Sara Abbasi, the current President of the DIL San Francisco chapter.
Sara next proceeded to add her thoughts. “Assalamualaikum. It is my privilege to welcome you to this very special event. This event is a new beginning, yet in many ways it is much more. With any new beginning, there are doubts. But eventually we will succeed and make a difference. Tonight, let me launch the first fundraiser for DIL San Francisco. We do so knowing that DIL has already made a difference in the lives of thousands of young children. Through your generous support, you will make a difference in the lives of thousands more”, she said. She added that since its formation in 1997, DIL had changed the lives of over 8000 children in Pakistan’s Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP provinces. “Pakistan’s literacy rate is among the lowest in the world”, she said. “Six  out of every seven girls in villages cannot read or write.”
  It is in this environment that DIL has started to build Primary Schools, to construct and operate schools that can be self-sustainable within 5 years. “Just as importantly, DIL is working to break the ingrained social taboos that discourage female literacy. This indeed is the noblest of causes. In the words of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), “the mother’s lap is the first school”. Only through such efforts will the next generation of Pakistanis improve, not just their own lives but the entire community around them”, said Mrs. Abbasi. She then proceeded to show a video on the impact that DIL is having on the lives of young children in Pakistan. Most touching was not just the poverty displayed, but the determination of girls and young women to improve their lives using the education that DIL has been able to provide to them. 
The fundraising effort and a buffet dinner serving Pakistani-Afghani food followed the video. Earlier plans for after-dinner entertainment were cancelled due to the tragic events of September 11th here in America. The Developments In Literacy (DIL) organization is currently operating four chapters overseas in Los Angeles, New York, Singapore and now in San Francisco, besides the main effort in Pakistan. It has succeeded in setting up over 185 non-formal schools in the towns of Mianwali (Punjab), Khairpur (Sindh) and Dir (NWFP), some of the more backward areas of Pakistan. For more information on the kind of work that DIL is doing, please visit its website at And please offer your help. Locally in Northern California, this organization can be reached by mail at 1189 Glenn Avenue San Jose CA 95125. All donations are tax deductible (Tax ID #33-0843213).
     In closing, this had to be one of the more tastefully done events that I have attended recently. There was a great deal of attention paid to the details, from the décor, to the food, even down to the presentation of Supari (its packaging displayed the colorful handicraft of Pakistan’s Baluch culture). And since this program was planned and executed by these serious women, the level of detail did not come as a surprise. It reflected their sense of caring. Similarly this effort called DIL appears to originate from the caring mind but appeals to every patriotic heart.
 (DIL San Francisco chapter would like to thank Rana Nadim Ahmed for his support during this program).

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