“As a high school student privileged enough to have an almost unlimited number of educational resources at hand, but also extremely aware of the lack of these privileges for the vast majority of the world, I feel like it’s my duty to give back somehow. Writing and editing Biloongra and participating in the Phase II book writing gave me a sense of satisfaction. Even if these books only benefit a few children, I have somehow helped. I am a firm believer in education as a road out of poverty and as a channel to social change. Getting my friends, American high school children, involved is another important part of my work, as it exposes them to an almost unknown culture.”
About Alezeh: Alezeh is a high school junior at St. John’s, Houston, TX with plans to major in political science in college. She interns at Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s office and has been a part of the Biloongra-Books for Change effort since it’s inception. The exposure she gained from these experiences strengthens her belief that an education is essential to not only financial success, but to a greater and more stable society at large.
“Education is the only sustainable route to change, and children are the drivers of the world’s future. Thus, I believe that any worthy initiative for change should focus on children at the grass-roots levels. Providing good health care and health monitoring for children in their early years has a tremendous impact on their health in their teenage and early adult years. Being exposed to a good health care system can also create an expectation of a health care minimum within these children, and in tandem with public health education, can provide them with a model to emulate in other communities in need.”
About Mayank: Mayank is in his final year as an undergraduate student at the University of Texas- Austin. He is pursuing a degree in Public Health and a minor in Biochemistry. Outside of biomedical and public health research, and his job as a market analyst for a pharmaceutical firm, Mayank is an avid music enthusiast and currently directs an a cappella group at UT-Austin.
“Creative expression through various means such as computer graphics, photography and illustration, is my profession and passion. Child literacy and education can be markedly enhanced through internet-based visual media. My expertise as a website developer gave me the opportunity to put together the Biloongra website and blog. This 2-in-1 WordPress platform enabled our team to reach out to a broad readership and audience much beyond Houston, TX. My interest in photography and art has also been channelized in a photo-blogging effort that potentially goes beyond child literacy and education initiatives. This is the way we are connecting people far and wide.”
About Yong: Yong is the President and CEO of ykcreative an award-winning full service digital communications group providing web, graphic design, logo and branding, online marketing services. She is a graduate of the University of Houston Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design.
Advisors, Patrons & Well Wishers
Sonya Sloan, MD
“As the founder and Executive Director of ‘ME&WE Inc.’ (Motivating and Empowering Women to Excel), I have been closely involved in youth mentorship. Child education and literacy drives are of great interest to me. When I first heard about Biloongra – Books for Change I thought that this initiative might be a superb learning experience for my students. Through this effort two young girls, Madyson and Chelsey, were able to write creatively and imaginatively for less-privileged children in Pakistan. This small effort on our part can have potentially large impact on American children working on these projects and hopefully on the children in the 3rd world for whom the books are intended.”
About Sonya: Sonya is a native of Denison, Texas. In 1992, she gained national attention as the first African-American Homecoming Queen at Texas Tech. She then repeatedly made history as the first ever African-American female surgical resident as well as orthopedic surgical resident at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Sonya is also the First Lady of The Luke Church in Humble and is involved in the implementation of a Faith-Based Health Initiative for her church and community. She is an active community speaker for youth and women at area schools and churches. She is a recipient of the YMCA Outstanding Minority Achievers of Houston and recognized by the Harris County Empowerment Center for outstanding contributions to the community.
Gul Afshan Ahmed
“`I breathe books`….is a lesser description of how I would like to introduce myself for having worked in a publishing house for 25 years. The reason for joining the publishing house was my passion for books and remains so till today. I wanted books to be in the hands of everyone – my family, my daughters, my helpers in the house, their children, the children running on the streets, the wealthy, the underprivileged – in cities, towns, villages…in fact I wished to encompass all…and I was fortunate to do that to a good measure. I helped in developing books for children and adults for education and leisure – in Urdu and English. Biloongra came along when I attended a meeting at Asad Mian`s residence in Bellaire, TX, during the third quarter of 2011, and it has been with me since then. Biloongra`s commitment to child literacy and Asad Mian`s passion to take it to greater and more meaningful heights led me to be part of this very dedicated team.”
About Gul: Gul recently moved to Pearland, Texas, from Karachi, Pakistan. Mother of 3 daughters, Gul Afshan graduated from the University of Kanpur, India. She worked for 25 years in the Karachi office of Ferozsons (pvt) Ltd, Pakistan`s oldest publishing house established in 1896. She loves reading, writing and painting.
“One of the reasons I started a newspaper was to give people a forum to express their issues and concerns, and to get publicity for projects which are important to them. When I heard about the Biloongra project and Dr. Asad Mian, who has led the effort from its inception, I realized that this was an effort that would interest our readers. The manner in which the project has been advanced – by a dedicated core of volunteers, without major funding – has been interesting to learn about and might perhaps inspire others to replicate. The creative expression in prose, poetry and photography which is also part of Biloongra is noteworthy, and some of the posts on the Biloongra blog that are of general interest have been published by my newspaper.”
About Frances: Frances is the publisher of the Houston Inner Looper Newspaper which offers news, events, and feature articles for the greater inner loop area of Houston. She is a native Houstonian and graduated from the University of Houston with a B.A. degree in psychology. She also attended Texas Womens’s University in the Medical Center for post-graduate studies in Occupational Therapy. She was a social worker for the State of Texas and was later employed by the federal government as an importing specialist for the U.S. Customs Service.
“Is there anything better to be given to a child than a book? Perhaps, it is even silly to ask that question. There really is no other answer to that question than a crisp and confident “No, there isn’t!” How do I even begin to write a few lines on the importance of what reading means and does for the brain of a child or even an adult…it is equivalent to saying how do I summarize my life which has been shaped by the innumerable amount of texts I have read since the moment my first story book was handed to me. Books build imagination. Reading quality text moulds the raw mind of a young one and shapes him into who he will be twenty years down the lane. That is why I believe in Biloongra. With its initiative to raise the literacy rate of children around the world and encourage free thinkers, Biloongra will set the code of life for thousands of adults of tomorrow.”
About Anum: Anum, hailing from the heart of Karachi, Pakistan, is a doctor in transition. Brought up in a liberal Pakistani family with cultural and core values instilled into her, she attended St. Patrick’s High School for her A’ levels and later graduated from Ziauddin Medical College with an MBBS degree. Now an MD, she is a medical writer at a major university in the U.S. and is in the middle of her quest for a residency in Internal Medicine. Spending quality time with people whom she loves, chai, tennis and writing remain close to her heart. Anum is a firm believer in the benefits of natural herbs and in the power of books and writing as a major tool for developing the creative supremacy of a human mind.
“I believe education is the key factor in the success of any nation. A child’s mind is a clean slate, and it is our duty to help fill those minds with colors, awareness and proper education. Books tell stories – they carry messages that are unique in their own way. We as adults should make these books imaginative, colorful and meaningful in order to keep interest alive in young children. And THAT is what Biloongra is all about!”
About Fatima: Fatima was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. She has been in Houston, TX, for the past 11 years. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Finance. She is currently a risk manager in an oil and gas company. During her free time she volunteers for child advocacy groups in the greater Houston area. She’s a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister …. and a supporter of global child literacy.
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” This quote by Frederick Douglas left me thinking. What freedom is he referring to? I haven’t answered my question entirely but what I have figured out is that the ability to read is miraculous. The idea of helping children to read seems very generic but the innovative approach by the Biloongra platform to take on the challenges of improving children’s literacy is astonishing. The product, a bilingual book with colorful illustrations, is simple but seems very effective. A venture like this gives you some sense of altruism and I am glad to be a part of it.”
About Burhan: Burhan was born and raised in Pakistan. He is a computer scientist by profession. Although he has Biloongra figured out (for now), he is still trying to figure himself out.
“I first became involved with Biloongra because I wanted my kids and their peers to be connected to their roots in Pakistan. Always an advocate for education, this project seemed to be the perfect way to bring awareness to the opportunities my kids should take advantage of here in America.”
About Azra: Azra first came to America as a college student and has lived here ever since. She has two kids: a junior and a freshman in high school. She likes traveling, listening to music and watching foreign films, and works hard to give her kids the best education possible.
Editorial Comment: This is the 8th post in a series dedicated to child literacy and child education. You can read the other parts here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7.
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