A social venture to educate and empower young women, First Letter International

My entrepreneurial journey as a SAF student

Since a young age, my parentsPhoto of Shan instilled in me and my siblings the importance of giving back to our communities to create a positive impact in whatever way possible. From a young age, I remember joining my brother and father in various random acts of kindness by offering food to the homeless in underprivileged neighbourhoods in Pakistan. These acts of kindness remained important to us as we all grew older and busier with our lives. My brother and I made sure we found time to continue to give back to our communities. When I entered high school, my focus shifted to providing tutoring to underprivileged young women. In Pakistan, many parents were reluctant to send their children to school, so to ensure that girls received some level of education, I would go to their homes to provide tutoring. More often than not, electricity was not reliable in many underprivileged neighbourhoods in Pakistan, so we would sit on the footpath under streetlights. The picture below is from 2014 when I was teaching one of my students in Pakistan.

Photo of Shan and colleague teaching a student in Pakistan

Growing up in Pakistan, I knew that there are many young women in countries like Pakistan, India, Uganda, Bangladesh and Africa who are sharp and smart enough to have the potential to change the world but lacked the funds and resources to be educated.

When my family moved to Canada, I volunteered for various charities to ensure that I was doing my part in making this world a better place. From volunteering at churches to working as a fund raiser for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), I was able to give back to my local community. These experiences, along with the leadership, people and communication skills that I developed as an AFM student at the University of Waterloo, contributed to building my confidence in starting my own social organization, First Letter International in 2019. This social venture empowers young women around the world by sponsoring their education, specifically in developing and underdeveloped countries.

Individuals interested in helping out can register as a volunteer on the First Letter International website. Volunteers can help us locate young women in rural areas throughout the world who can benefit from the educational support we provide. The organisation will make every reasonable effort to provide funding for their education. We look forward to accepting financial donations in the near future for First Letter International as an approved fundraising organisation.

I believe that every child should have access to education, but First Letter International focuses on the education of young women because in many underdeveloped or developing countries, young women are not given access to education. With First Letter International, we plan to change this mindset. It will take time and effort, but our goal will certainly become reality one day!

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