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A Philosophy of Giving

After working for Central Asia Institute (CAI) for over three years, I have seen a lot of giving: I’ve watched wealthy families give thousands of dollars in one donation; I have watched a widow send in $5 a month out of her modest income for years; I have witnessed school children collect pennies by the thousands. No matter how our supporters give, it is always inspiring to see. But this year, one supporter stands out in my mind.

Somia, whose family is from Pakistan, grew up in the United Arab Emirates and now lives in Winnipeg, Canada with her husband. She reached out to CAI a few months ago to see if we could help with her “lifelong dream” of building a school is northern Pakistan. Even though we were not able to collaborate with her on that project, she decided that while she works to make this dream a reality, she wanted to donate towards girls’ education in the meantime.

When I asked Somia why she was so passionate about girls’ education she told me, “I am a strong believer in education and especially education for girls. The most effective way to transform conflict is to educate girls.”

Somia is the first woman in her family to go to university, and was raised by a father who was a huge supporter of her education. “It has influenced me so much,” Somia said. This is why she wants to give the gift of education to others.

SomiaFor Somia, it seems, giving is a philosophy – a principle she lives by. Not only does Somia give one-time year end donations, she also donates 3 percent of all big purchases she makes. If she needs a couch or a home appliance or wants to go on vacation, she doesn’t go through with the purchase unless she gives to charity as well.

“It keeps me in check,” she told me.  “If I have the privilege to be making this purchase, then it is a small price to pay to give back.” 

Somia and her husband married a few months ago, and included a giving component in their wedding celebration. Mehndi is a Pakistani tradition carried on by Somia’s family, where the wedding guests give a donation to a charity of the couple’s choosing. “You start off the wedding by making an offering to those who are less fortunate,” explains Somia. She and her husband collected gifts from their guest and then gave part of the proceeds to HER and CAI.

On top of being a wife, a champion for girls’ education, and a full-time environmental planner in Winnipeg, Somia still finds time to have her own photography business. And yes, there is a charitable aspect to that as well. Last year, Somia ramped up her photography business and donated a portion of her fees to our cause. Her fundraiser collected a few hundred dollars, enough to make a huge impact in the communities where we work.

Giving Tuesday

As we enter this year’s giving season, I am so inspired by Somia’s giving spirit. This Tuesday is what is known as Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a national day of giving that follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday. People from all around the world are joining together to give to charities that are most meaningful to them.

This Giving Tuesday, please consider giving to girls in Central Asia. There are plenty of ways to get involved – join the HER movement and find creative ways to fundraise (If you sign up to start a HER fundraiser or make a donation to HER you will receive a free HER journal); collect pennies and donate them to Pennies for Peace; become a monthly donor and help us ensure our mission continues; or make a one-time donation. Giving Tuesday is a great time to get involved.

As you start to think about what to give your family and friends this holiday season, consider giving a gift to children in need. You can make a donation in your friend or loved one’s name, or you can ask people to give to CAI instead of giving you a gift.

Thank you for your support. Together, we can provide hope through education, help communities in Central Asia rise to their full potential, and make Somia’s dream a reality.

Laura Brin & The HER Team