By: Sarah Khan | Director of Growth & Expansion | Thaakat Foundation
Disclaimer: In light of my first anniversary of Thaakat, I have taken it upon myself to tell you the story of how it all started. Be warned, I talk a lot and include tons of pointless details and am easily distracted. Enjoy!
It was a random December night and I was making plans to see my friend Baneen. Since I had had an exhausting week at work, I wanted to do something low-key like a dinner and just catch up. Baneen, on the other hand, wanted to go to a fashion show being put on by the Rutgers New Brunswick chapter of Thaakat Foundation. Although I didn’t feel up to it, I agreed to stop by so I could spend time with Baneen. I had heard about Thaakat from another friend Farhan who was extremely passionate about it, and I figured it would be worth a chance. Never in a million years did I think it would change life as I knew it.
First of all, the show was so much fun! It was very interactive, the DJ was great, the performers were very entertaining, and of course, the comedian hosting it was hilarious. There were many high-end designers present like Pakistan’s Alina & Amor with beautiful outfits I can’t even come close to being able to afford. (This of course did not stop me from liking their Facebook page later that evening so I could drool over their trendy yet pricey outfits). Our friends from Profound Aesthetics were also there, showing off their most recent collection of shirts and hats. (Everyone who knows me knows that me going to a fashion show is like a kid going to a candy store. I get mesmerized by everything and it’s near impossible to get me out of there!)
At the end of the fashion show and talent segments, RU Thaakat’s President Nabiha showed a video of who the proceeds of this event would be benefiting. This particular event was going to benefit a village in Pakistan that Thaakat was helping clean up while teaching them how to recycle. This not only allowed the people to have a cleaner living environment but also taught them to use their resources to earn a living. That video (like all Thaakat videos that I have seen since) melted my heart like a Hershey’s kiss on a hot summer day.
And then it happened.
Nabiha asked Uzma Bawany, the founder and executive director of Thaakat Foundation, to come onstage. I expected to see some auntie or older lady, but to my surprise, a beautiful petite girl who was in early 20s strode onto stage in this cute skirt! As she spoke about Thaakat, I couldn’t help but be a little shocked. Wow, I thought, someone so young can make such a big difference! Words cannot describe the incredible amount of respect I gained for Uzma at that time. (Also, I had a hard time getting over how tiny and pretty she is! But that’s beside the point!)
Before leaving that night I ran into my friend Farhan. I asked him how I could help, and he responded by saying that I already was. “How’s that?” I asked. He told me that the ten-dollar entrance fee for the RU Thaakat fashion show was going directly to charity so I was already making a difference.
With those words, Thaakat had amazed me once again – why? Because the team really appreciates everyone and every single contribution. In big and small ways, everyone can help and the members of Thaakat made sure to get that point across. I went home that night knowing that I had spent ten dollars (less than a movie ticket these days!) to watch an awesome fashion show and spend time with good friends, all while making a difference in someone’s life. The satisfaction that came from knowing that was amazing.
After that, I messaged Thaakat’s Facebook account to see how else I could help. Work was becoming boring and I wanted to do something more fulfilling than being a financial analyst for a pharmaceutical company. Working ten-plus hours a day wasn’t exactly my idea of living life to the fullest. To my surprise (I know, so many surprises. I love surprises!), Uzma not only responded, but we exchanged phone numbers and set up a time to meet. I was thrilled to have a chance to be working with the team, but at the meeting I told her I wasn’t sure if I’d be of much help. I asked if I could be an assistant for the national board and take it from there. She agreed.
Apparently Uzma had more faith in me than I gave myself credit for – I had spent just a couple months as a board assistant when Uzma promoted me to the position of Director of Growth and Development. From there, we worked with the board to expand Thaakat’s college chapters. We went from having three to having fifteen (some official, some unofficial). Uzma has since trusted me to take on the role of adviser for Thaakat’s national chapters for which I am so grateful.
I also can’t thank Uzma enough for trusting me to take on the overwhelming responsibility of being a board member for Thaakat. Thaakat, as a group and as a team, has changed my life as I know it. As a group, it has helped me grow as a person by working to help others in need as well as giving me leadership skills that I can translate into real life. The team members of Thaakat – from the national board I am a member of to the school chapters to the individual volunteers and supporters – have become my second family.
Some of these people I have only met once in my life, most I have never had the pleasure of meeting. Still, these people are far from strangers to me, some of them have become my closest friends. Everyone I have interacted with on the team, directly or indirectly, has inspired me in many ways. They have all helped me grow as a person and learn more about my surroundings and my own self. I am so grateful to have worked with a team who will not only cheer me on when I’m right, but who will also tell me when I’m wrong and help me correct my mistakes.
The work each and every person on our team does is incredible. These people are changing lives every day while still keeping up with their busy work and personal lives. The people I’ve have been fortunate to meet through Thaakat have become an important part of my life. I never thought in a million years that after coming back from an almost twelve-hour work day, I’d willingly hold conference calls with student chapters. I have no idea how life before them, how life before Thaakat used to be, but I’m not complaining because the changes have all been for the better.
The point of this long story (sorry I know I talk a lot, but I did warn you!) is that you should never underestimate the impact of the things life throws at you. Every decision you make can ultimately change your life, in big and small ways and for better or for worse. Sometimes you just have to let it take its course so it can lead you to great things – even if sometimes it means listening to your friends and doing something you may not be up for. You never know what great things maybe waiting for you around the corner. Thank you Baneen for taking me to that show – and thank you Thaakat for an amazing (little over a) year!