I had it all. As a child growing up in Karachi, Pakistan in a well to do family, whatever I wanted, I had but to hint. Of course, I had no idea then that growing up in a family of Entrepreneurs would be the catalyst for what was to become a global movement for the education of children everywhere.
The Ali family had a maid and a cook. The maid's daughter was the same age as myself. Even though we were children and were in the same house every day, they were worlds apart. The maid's daughter, whose name is Hemaa, followed her mother everywhere, helping her with the chores and duties of a maid.
Years later, as young men do, I left his home in Pakistan's most populated city Karachi to try to make my way in London. I found living in a foreign land completely different from what he expected, making it difficult to make ends meet or live in the manner to which he had been accustomed. Looking back now, I might say that fate caused me to struggle during those years, as I may have not come home when I did had it been easier.
In 2004, I returned to Karachi to recoup and formulate a new strategy. Upon my return to my home childhood in Pakistan, I was surprised to find Hemaa still lived there. She was walking in her mother's footsteps, taking over the job for her aging mother. Even more surprising were the two little angels that clung to their mother as she had when she was a child. When I saw those two beautiful children after his family had eaten, taking their evening meal on the cold kitchen floor as Hemaa and mother used to do so many years before broke my heart. I knew that that moment that something had to be done in order to break the cycle and give these intelligent little girls a chance at a good life.
I knew that if he did not do something, Hemaa's grandchildren would be doing his families cleaning and their children after them. I was also surprised to discover that Hemaa's wages were little more than her mother's at £5 per week. This was hardly enough to live on, much less send her children to school in hopes for a better life. I spoke to my mother about my plan and she was in complete, enthusiastic agreement. With her support, they enrolled the girls into a private school since the Pakistani state educational system was in decline offering poor conditions with understaffed teachers.
The cost of private school, including books and uniforms came to less than £10 per month per child. There was no way that Hemaa could have overcome this obstacle on her own. Even if she had been able to send them to public school, the conditions were poor at best and at times, even dangerous, especially for two little girls with little in the way of support. I, with my mother's help, ensured that these two girls lacked for nothing in the way of the best education possible. The girls did their part by doing extremely well in school, making us feel a kind of pride in them the likes of which we had never felt before.
It is now 2013 and Hemaa's little girls are not so little anymore. They are bright young women who read and write fluent English. Their whole lives are in front of them and they no longer face the prospect of cleaning other people's homes or eating leftovers off the clod kitchen floor. It is an amazing feeling knowing that you can be a part of someone's life and can affect such a lasting impact with so little time and expense. It is such a tremendous feeling that my wife Madiha and I want to share it with the world. With so many children in such dire need of the one thing that can break the cycle of poverty, an education, that they had to find a way to make it happen for as many children in the world that need it.
My wife and I now support the educational efforts of 40 children from their own, personal funds. Seeing the success of Hemaa's two little girls made us realize that with a little support, poor children all over the world can have a chance at the education that will break the bonds of poverty. But what if something should happen to us? What would happen if those funds were suddenly not available? What about the welfare of all those children that are still in need of an education and support? We knew that they must do something that would have a longer lasting impact.
At first, we thought to build schools or have mobile schools travel from town to town. I realized that this would not work. They would face the same obstacles that public schools face with poor conditions with very little staffing. Being forced to go to schools that only poor children can attend would only send a constant, detrimental reminder of the poverty, and often squalor in which they have to endure through no fault of their own.
This is why we created Hemaa.org. This innovative program may well revolutionize the educational system for the poor yet deserving children in this world of ours. Imagine a system built on crowd funding platform.
We invite you to come and see for yourself how Hemaa works. We challenge you to sponsor your first child and track their progress. We want you to experience the joy of knowing that thanks to you, a child is no longer condemned to live from the meager generosity of a system that does not have the means with which to be generous. To know the pride that can be felt by watching a child that you sponsor grow, thrive, and become a productive and caring member of a society that gives back.
Shahzad Ali & Madiha Adil