SOS Gala - August 8th, 2014
We are deeply indebted to the Gala Committee and other volunteers in DC; it would not have been possible without their dedication and incredible ability to navigate through any situation. We are especially thankful to our Gala Chairs Shela Qamer and Tahira Chaudhry for their hard work.
The SOS Gala on August 8th marked several milestones for the DC Chapter. The ambience of the evening was set by a beautiful display of paintings featuring South Asian art - the gallery was sponsored by Eye for Art - attendees were welcome to purchase the art. We started the evening by honoring Rukhsana Rahman. Having served as the SOS Coordinator for the past 12 years, her vision and passion had guided the organization for the last decade. We presented her with a plaque to mark her service; she delivered an acceptance speech that deeply moved the audience and she signaled the transition of leadership from herself to Dr. Tazeen Hashmi. Additionally, we honored Safia Naz for her dedication for more than 25 years.
Ghazala Rehman emphasized the visionary work of SOS by providing dormitories in proximity to schools. The movement to construct these partial boarding schools, with children living with their families on the weekends, is to allow single mothers the flexibility to work during the week and provide for their families. We as an organization understand the challenges of providing schooling for children while working full-time, and this solution is based on a methodology to ensure that children receive the schooling and support that they need. With our support, we are expanding the SOS model to families that do have a single-parent, but require assistance to help their children in ways that they cannot alone. Ghazala also shared the progress of other projects with the attendees, allowing donators to see the impact of their continued support.
In addition to Ghazala's remarks, Rukhsana Rahman shared stories of children who recently graduated the programming at SOS. From students who are now working at engineering schools to other who are continuing their studies at the highest level at different universities, she created a window into the work of the organization. She provided stories for the audience that they had not heard before; it was refreshing to hear and see the impact of our work in a measurable way.
Dr. Tazeen Hashmi re-invigorated the audience with a compelling presentation of the annual report. The focus of the presentation served as the backbone for the rest of the evening; she highlighted and answered the key questions that we and other donors should be asking ourselves as an organization: how are we measuring our impact? How much money did we raise? Where did the money go? And what is our vision for the year? She led the audience through a financial graph demonstrating our overhead costs as a chapter; her goal was to be as transparent as possible. Additionally, she revealed the SOS Children's Villages Pakistan - DC website (http://www.sospakistandc.com/); this is the first time in the chapter's history that all information will be housed on a single online hub, serving as a way to build the community and make it even stronger. Updates from events, volunteer opportunities, and an online donation process are all available on the newly-minted site. She ended her presentation by introducing a "Young Professionals Program" to diversify the membership of the organization - she conveyed the sentiment that with younger members who are involved, we can learn from their expertise and create a coalition that will continue for years ahead. Dr. Hashmi recruited the current special representative to Muslim Communities at the U.S. Department of State to serve as a leader in the new Young Professionals Program.
Mushtaq Khan and Imran Akram rallied the audience when they solicited live-donations for academic scholarships at the Technical Training Institute, with the goal of raising $20,000. With a scholarship, providing a student's needs for the entire 6-month training program, a child can gain the skills necessary to apply to a technical job. With some banter, teasing, and a full-fledged competition between the east and west sides of the audience, they raised $50,000 in less than 10 minutes, obliterating their initial fundraising benchmark; 500 students will have the support to attend technical trainings this year. For the first time, we used a new PayPal system to collect donations instantly and directly.
The evening ended with entertainment from Raga Boyz and Noor, bringing the audience to its feet.
Overall, the event was a huge success with over 230 people in attendance. We raised about $150,000 to support projects that were outlined by the SOS National Office, and an additional $50,000 to support a youth hostel. We are thrilled with our progress so far and look forward to other initiatives this year.