January 26, 2018

As the Chair of the American Pakistan Foundation, I am delighted to share this recap of our board retreat.  We had passionate and dedicated professionals, entrepreneurs, academics, students, community leaders, and parents from across the country and abroad come together with the common purpose of wanting to help the Pakistani American community thrive and to assist in scalable progress and access to opportunity in Pakistan.

APF Board Chair, Riaz Siddiqi with Honoree Dr. Rafat Ansari

On Saturday night, we had the opportunity to connect with one another and honor an extraordinary couple, Drs. Rafat and Zoreen Ansari who crossed religious lines as Muslims to give $15 million to Notre Dame, a Catholic institution for religious studies.  Dr. Rafat Ansari came to the dinner from Granger, Indiana where he spoke about their philanthropic journey.  When their daughter, Sonya was diagnosed with Autism, they traveled around the country for treatment.  Inspired to help other families in their community, they served as benefactors for what is now known as the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism in South Bend, Indiana.  Seeing the commonalities across different religions and the need for them to be treated with equal respect, the Ansaris gave to Notre Dame to found the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement With Religion.  The Ansari family including their children recognized the importance of legacy over making their children's lives more comfortable considering they already had opportunities to get an education and start their own careers.  The Ansaris are an inspiration to all of us to think about the lasting legacy we want to leave.


On Sunday, after introductions by our facilitator, Aakif Ahmad, I introduced the APF business model, current and planned programs, our six year vision, and welcomed your feedback.

APF Team Members, Abu Baker, Jocelyne Jeannot,
Abiha Jafri, Noor Sheikh, and Professor Ameena M. Zia

Our next focus was on communications and volunteerism.  The American Pakistan Foundation is supported by the devotion of board and team members who dedicate their personal time to building and growing our platform.  They are from a range of ages, starting at 13 and lead very different lives.  Their common focus is on helping to build the Pakistani American community, supporting solutions to pressing issues in Pakistan such as healthcare, education, and economic development, and sharing positive news on Pakistani Americans and organizations that are making a positive impact in the US and Pakistan.

APF has grown its platform across email and social media to nearly 100,000 connections where positive news is continuously shared by the APF Team, including Hassan Saeed who was selected as one of the top honorees by the NYC Mayor's Office for more than 1,600 hours of service, by contributing to APF every single day of the week.  A total of 41 team and board were honored in 2017 for their service to APF.  We have used our platform to serve as a publicity partner for 80+ organizations and highlighted the positive contributions of Pakistani Americans to society.

One of the Pakistani Americans we have highlighted, Rashid Chotani, MD, MPH, DTM received the NATO Scientific Achievement Award for his work on biological counterterrorism.  He spoke at the retreat on his current work as the Executive Director of the Muslim Community Center (MCC) based in Silver Spring, Maryland, which has grown to have 19,000 patient interactions in one year, up from 16,000 in just one year.  With a focus on inclusion and community outreach, approximately 65% of their patients are now non-Muslim.  To learn more about Dr. Chotani's career and work at the MCC, please read our full feature  by clicking here .

Osman Khan, a management consultant at Ernst & Young in New York presented alongside APF founding Board Member, Kashif Zafar, the Co-Head of Global Sales and Co-Head of Macro Products at Barclays Investment Bank on the APF Fellows Program.  The program allowed 6 fellows to work at NRSP - National Rural Support Programme, which works with more than 3.2 million poor households in Pakistan.  They were placed at the Punjab Education Foundation, WISE - Water, Immunization, Sanitation, and Education, Karobari Sarmaya Microfinance, South Punjab Poverty Alleviation, and with NRSP to assist with their social media efforts.  They also had the opportunity to experience the local culture, meet and interact with program recipients, tour NUST - National University of Science and Technology, meet with Tariq Bajwa, the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, and more.  Father and son, Imran and Zohair Husain edited a video to help bring the perspective of Fellows, Noor Sheikh and Naveen Shoaib who are currently studying abroad to the retreat with clips of their interview.  We are looking forward to launching the program again this year and expanding it.

We were honored to have the Singapore based, Mahboob Mahmood, the Founder and CEO of Knowledge Platform present on their transformative educational initiative.  As a Pakistani wanting to give back, Mahmood has personally invested in helping to develop educational opportunities in Pakistan, which is facing an enormous challenges as the country with the second largest out of school population in the world.  Since the program's inception in 2014, the American Pakistan Foundation has served as a network partner for Knowledge Platform's Learn Smart Pakistan digital learning platform for 9-12 grade students who complete online for prizes and teachers who receive training.  The program has grown dramatically to serve more than 15,000 students and teachers across the country.

Knowledge Platform is currently testing a blended learning model in Pakistan that uses an interactive digital content and data driven based system to help enhance the quality of learning in schools.  The system uses a projector and screen system to share the dynamic content and clickers for the students to interact and track their progress.  The teachers are also being supported with training, as it is an area that needs enhancement in Pakistan.  He plans to scale this model in Pakistan via expansion in the private school system to help enhance the quality of education and increase access.

Shafiq Khan also presented his unique education focused initiative, the Teach the World Foundation, one that he founded and now serves as the President of, after giving up a successful corporate career, most recently as a senior executive at Marriott to dedicate himself to transforming and helping to provide educational opportunities around the world with the use of technology.  The Teach the World Foundation uses a revolutionary tablet based system to deliver a quality education with the use of gamification.  Learn more by watching this video:  https://vimeo.com/184956452 

Professor Ameena M. Zia from Oklahoma City presented on the APF@UN initiative she founded alongside APF team members in 2015.  It is a first of its kind unified social development representation platform for Pakistan civil society NGOs at the international development level.  The initiative has partnered with numerous Pakistani organizations to help bring their experience on the ground to the UN level while providing youth engagement opportunities.

APF Board Member, Senior Advisor to the Dean at Johns Hopkins SAIS, and our host for the day, Shamila Chaudhary presented on a partnership with APF to create The Pakistan Forum at Johns Hopkins SAIS to build on the university's substantial expertise on Pakistan and establish an ongoing forum for policy-relevant dialogue, education, and cultural understanding of Pakistan.

APF Team Member, Yasmin Sultan presented on a service initiative to to help facilitate the smooth settlement and integration of new arrivals and Pakistanis not yet in the mainstream of American life.  APF hosted a pilot seminar with sessions on access to healthcare and healthy living, basics of American society, resources at libraries, and the importance of credit and home ownership. Our thanks to Yasmin for her dedication to this cause.

APF's Serve America campaign centered around the strong focus on service in the Pakistani American community.  It was inspired by DC based, APF Team Member, Silveth Khawaja who is the Principal at Safia.  The project brought Pakistani Americans and beyond together to serve at the Food Bank for New York City, Central Union Mission Kitchen in DC with YAPP - Young American Pakistani Professionals, and NYC Parks as part of the Welcoming America Campaign with PAYS - Pakistani American Youth Society, an organization that serves the community in Little Pakistan, Brooklyn, NY.  APF plans to work further with PAYS on initiatives to serve and work with the community.

Raza Rumi, Professor Ameena M. Zia, Dr. Rashid Chotani, Dr. Nasar Qureshi, Kanwal Bokhary

APF's newest Board Member, Dr. Nasar Qureshi, the Founder, CEO and Medical Director of QDx Pathology Services, and Professor Ameena M. Zia presented the new Youth Network (YN) initiative by APF.  The YN is aimed at creating a platform for youth, emerging leaders and young professionals who are committed to personal growth, career advancement, leadership development, and civic engagement. The objective is to develop future leaders by providing ambitious young professionals with the opportunity to build relationships, serve the community, and engage with political, civic, and business leaders. The YN aims to connect the young American Pakistani diaspora through public service, professional and entrepreneurial engagements with counterparts in Pakistan.

Raza Rumi presented on Naya Daur, a digital portal with a focus on multimedia content.  They are producing videos on pertinent and challenging topics facing Pakistan.  You can follow their work here: facebook.com/nayadaurpk

Kanwal Bokhary, the Deputy Director in the Innovation and Partnerships Unit at the Office of the Mission Director of USAID/PAKISTAN presented on their new report on the potential of the US Pakistani Diaspora's potential for impact investing in Pakistan.  She also emphasized the potential of Pakistan's sizable youth population.

The retreat would not have been possible without devoted team members from across the country who dedicate their personal time to APF's work.  In addition to many of the folks I've already mentioned, in DC, APF Board and Executive Team Member, Masood Malik and George Mason Global Politic Fellow at APF, Abu Baker helped to make many of the arrangements while also working on materials, and providing event support.  Aakif Ahmad, APF's Consultant served as our facilitator who worked with board and team members to draft an agenda that allowed for a balance of presentations to learn more and interactivity.  APF Board Members, Wahid Hamid, Managing Partner at the Abraaj Group, and Kashif Zafar, Co-Head of Global Sales and Co-Head of Macro Products at Barclays Investment Bank contributed presentation materials and provided feedback.  Zahid Rahman, a team member from Houston, and a Senior Manager at Blinds.com assisted with producing and formatting presentation materials.  Two APF Correspondents, Noor Shaikh, a Budget Analyst with the City of Aurora in Colorado and Abiha Jafri, a student at the University of Connecticut (UConn) and the President of the Pakistani Community at UConn provided event support and shared their experiences with APF.  Shamila Jafri also assisted the day of the event.  The amount of effort the board and team members contributed is not to be understated.  We are also thankful to the rest of the APF board and team for their contributions throughout the year.

I want to make special mention of our Director of Community Engagement, the one and only, Jocelyne Jeannot, whose dedicated service to APF shone brightly in the retreat as it does in every APF initiative.

Please support APF's work in helping to provide development opportunities for Pakistani American youth, share positive news across a growing network of tens of thousands, support US based diaspora and development organizations in Pakistan, and more by contributing here: http://americanpakistan.org/donate/

Please join us on social media for updates on APF and positive news:


Riaz Siddiqi
Chair, American Pakistan Foundation

View the rest of the retreat photos here: