Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
It takes a village to address the problems of poverty in Africa and Asia. More specifically on Sep. 8 it took 4500 walkers at the Irving Convention Center to raise $790,000 for the Aga Khan Foundation USA, up from $600,000 the year before.
“You do so much to contribute to the community, and to be family,” Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne told the crowd. “As a mayor and as a citizen, we appreciate everything you do.”
“The AKF USA operates out of Washington, DC but has chapters across the United States to help raise funds locally,” said Nick Jivani, chairman of the North Texas Volunteer Team. “We support programs to raise both awareness and funds, to reduce poverty, hunger, illiteracy and poor health in Africa and Asia.
“In previous years we held walks at City Hall in Dallas or the Shops at Legacy. The main reason we chose to hold it at Irving this year was the location with the new Convention Center and the surrounding improvements. Also, the proximity to the Orange Line made it very convenient for our volunteers and people who wanted to attend throughout the area.”
Much of the support comes from the SE Asian community, with a particular emphasis this year on engaging young people.
“Most of our supporters are from SE Asia where they felt the benefits of the programs we had there,” Jivani explained. “A great many of them now live in North Texas.
“We recently started an Ambassador program for both youth and adults, where we encouraged them to come up with a project in their own community that applies what they‘ve learned about our programs.
“That led students in the Colleyville schools to start an art competition. They were challenged to come up with their own understandings of what we are doing, and reflect that in an art form.”
Activities at the Partnership Walk included a 5K competitive run, a 1K youth fun run and a 3K family walk. A particularly appealing feature was the ‘Village in Action’ where volunteers and Ambassadors demonstrated the various projects funded by AKF USA.
“We hope it will help others understand our programs,” Jivani explained, “since most of our work takes place so far away.
“We encourage people to ask questions and learn more about our interventions and solutions as they walk through the Village.”
Walks took place on adjacent streets which had been secured by Irving police, but the Village could be found on the Convention Center floor where young people had worked through the night preparing the displays. Visitors could learn about the traveling mini-libraries that serve nomadic populations in Asia, for example, and could see the winning artworks by Colleyville students.
Shaina Hirany, a volunteer in charge of the Village, explained that this was the first year that actually incorporated a local aspect of the group’s mission.
“We had a group working with Barron Elementary School in Plano, where about 70 percent of the school children are at risk of not passing to high school,” Hirany said. “The principal was very supportive of our project because she wanted the children to see how we are all alike.
“So our youth went into the library and painted an entire mural to show Texas wildlife and animals. The oak tree at the center represents hope. We plan to expand this in a meaningful way, and whatever program we set up, we’ll involve the parents and make it yearlong and sustainable.
“There is a book fair set up here in the Village as well. And don’t overlook our environment piece,” she added, pointing to a row of potted plants with cheerful young people in attendance. “One side demonstrates recycling, with purses made out of transformed grocery bags On the other side we’ll actually work with children who wish to plant a tree. This is part of the worldwide campaign against deforestation.
“This all shows that we are alleviating poverty both here and abroad,” she said.
AKF USA is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 and 100% of funds raised at the Partnership Walk go directly to projects supported by the Foundation.
Some information provided by AKF-USA, www.akdn.org.