Tuesday, April 21, 2009

World Partnership Walk - Ismailis making a difference

A-Channel reporter Meribeth Burton embarked on a journey to East Africa to see how the funds raised in Canada through the World Partnership Walk are benefiting impoverished communities.

If you want to see all 7 videos as part of the series :


Zee's Notes: As the WPW celebrates it's 25th anniversary it's also time to reflect on our 30 plus years in Canada.

It's now been over 30 years since that fateful day in October, 1972 when then President for Life Idi Amin Dada dreamt of a homogeneous Uganda. That dream led to the greatest upheavel of Asians from a country they had called home only to be forced to leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Thirty years later, ex-Ugandan Ismailis are looked upon by Western countries as remarkable examples of fortitude and as hard working citizens who are solid contributors to their new homelands. I have first hand knowledge of this as my family, though from Tanzania, arrived in Vancouver, Canada on September 1972 just a month before the Ugandans started their journey. That period was special in that families pulled together to survive and make a new life in a strange country - imagine jumping into a land where there was so much opportunity.

Working menial jobs - the most popular at that time was the local parking lots run by Imperial Parking (see history here) - a company that took a chance on the new immigrants and at one time probably had literally hundreds of Ismailis employed in their various city lots. A side story is a gentleman who hired many of the Ismailis - Paul Clough started with the company in 1968 worked his way up to eventually becoming President and CEO. Today Imperial Parking, started with one lot by Arne Olsen, is Canada's largest and North America's fourth largest parking lot operator.

The same story probably applies in other Canadian cities as well in the UK. The Ismaili immigrants were the beneficiares of the efforts of MHI who through his friendship with then Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was able to secure a new life for the displaced Ugandan Ismailis. In the context of modern Ismaili History there will no greater inflection point for our community than this event or period albeit it may compare to the migration of the Ismailis into the US from the Indian Sub Continent. Every day I think of my parents I see 30 years of sacrifice and hard work and the singular goal of making it a better quality of life for their children.

I dwell on the above for the simple reason that there lies an incredible opportunity for those of us who live in the Western World to make a difference in the lives of millions in other parts of the world in uplifting their quality of life. I mentioned in my blog yesterday that during tough times Allah taps us on one shoulder to find ourself to see whether we use the unique skills each one of us have in order to make a difference - the reason we are all here. I have to mention as well Allah has his other hand on our other shoulder and successful people tell me he never takes that hand away.

So the message today is that even though times are tough and will be tough for a few more years do not, do not miss this opportunity which may only come once in a lifetime. This opportunity is to make a difference in the lives of people you may have not met or may never meet and whether you contribute your time or your means remember one thing and one thing only - what if Idi Amin had allowed the Asians to stay and then decided to take out his wrath while they carried on with their lives in Uganda - we would have never had this chance of a lifetime to give what is so precious at this time - aaaahhh Allah brings his gifts in many different ways !!!

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