Monday, September 21, 2009

dreamfly: Crawl Before You Can Walk

DreamFly: Crawl Before You Can Walk

I know this is a late post - I actually bumped into it myself very recently. Gotta love technology! Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Alumnae talk about dreamfly - read it by following the link above.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sharing dreams: dreamfly dreamwall

This May we launched our first project of bridging boundaries between the dream-makers in the United States and the dreamfly children in Pakistan. We are ever grateful to over 40 Harvard Business School (HBS) students for making this project possible with their time and affection. Students from Class of 2009 Section J sent hand-written letters sharing their dreams (as children) and attached their personal or family pictures with them. The notes were decorated with thought, love and creativity and were a huge deal of joy and inspiration for the children at dreamfly campus in Akri.

Collecting the Thoughts

Umaimah from dreamfly team, from Class of 2009 HBS, began this project by collecting the notes on her last day of class.

“We do a ‘reflections session’ at the very end of HBS’s 2 years where we talk about what HBS has meant for us, how we have changed or not because of HBS, and what our group of people want to stand for in the future.” Taking this opportunity in front of her group, Umaimah then asked her co-students to share their thoughts on blank pieces of paper.

The class had been asked to bring their pictures beforehand. It was an inspiration to see the dream-makers spend their time with great care for the children of dreamfly campus. Some even wrote and re-wrote their notes while some wanted to know if what they wrote was culturally appropriate for the children. The dream-makers must have taken over an hour to complete all of this. What was even more uplifting was that those who were absent that day also wanted to participate and tried to contact Umaimah to share their notes for dreamfly kids!

Sharing the Love

In May, on our trip to Pakistan, dreamfly team spent a day with dreamfly kids at May making a dream wall out of the notes that were sent to them all the way from United States. The children loved the photographs and were curious about every one who had written to them. They wanted to know about the kids from Africa in Lauren’s photo, if Seema was an actress, asked why Max was holding a funny watering can, if Dan Moon was a real doctor, if Zuber was Pakistani? The children talked about each of the photographs as they put them up on the dream wall.

The most memorable moment was when the principal talked to the children about a quote from Martin Luther King in one of the notes. She explained his historical significance to the children and even said that it is probably because of him that Obama is the President today! She passed MLK’s message on to the children telling them the importance of giving equal rights to every human and treating each with love and respect. The kids were quieting down as she went on to tell children about MLK and it was obvious they were thinking deeply about his words. It was an emotional moment because the children knew that those behind the notes all came from different parts of the world.

"I have a dream..."

The idea behind the project was to bring our children closer to the rest of the world so that they could hear real people talk about their real dreams. The project succeeded in every level – it even brought the message of equality and tolerance to them. They could make a connection between MLK’s cause and the fact that all these people from across the world cared for them enough to send messages of love and inspiration.

If you too want to send a note to or share your dreams and pictures with the children of dreamfly campus in Pakistan, send it to us on twitter or facebook or you could email it to

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How I Found Afghanistan

<From Cambridge to Karachi". We are extremely grateful to Nadia Naviwala for allowing us to share her blogpost with you. This post has been taken from her blog "From Cambridge to Karachi." The post below accounts for a day from the recent trip we made to Afghanistan>>

In Jalalabad, we visited Save the Children. I wanted to know what programs were in place to deal with children traumatized from the effects of war.

In thinking about international security, I have never thought much about children. But that changed in January, when I spent time in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps. It was during Israel's operations in Gaza, and I watched as children in the camps struggled to cope with the graphic images and stories that were being constantly reported. Aggressive behavior was already a common problem. It did not take much guessing to figure out how at least some of the kids I met would end up, as they grew up into an atmosphere full of militant groups, weapons, and anger.

U.S. airstrikes take place around Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, the most famous of which was "the wedding incident."

TIME Magazine reports: "According to U.N. figures, 2,118 civilians were killed in conflict-related violence last year, a jump of nearly 40% compared to the year before. Of that figure, pro-government [coalition and Afghan] forces were responsible for 828 deaths."

Save the Children told me that the kids in a nearby village still wake up in the middle of the night crying, "American bombs are coming!" They also showed me pictures of child soldiers recruited by local commanders (anti-Taliban) in the area. But when I asked if there were any efforts to help these kids deal with the trauma, they were confused.

We are already seeing the effects of post-traumatic stress at home, in the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. But nothing seems to be in place to deal with the generations coming out of war in our overseas combat zones. If it only takes one person, or a few, to produce a suicide bomber, then the violence we are seeing today might only be a foreshadowing of the instability and global terrorism that is to come.

Similarly, among IDPs from Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas and SWAT, I worry about the effects of war trauma. But Afghanistan and Pakistan are struggling just to provide medical care to the victims of war. They are not equipped to provide specialized psychological care to children. The international community must lead the way, starting in urban IDP camps and training locals to provide long-term care.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sad Sight

"There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist"

---Mark Twain---

Monday, June 1, 2009

Our Second Day in Afghanistan

From email sent by Umaimah on May 24, 2009:

We drove to Jalalabad this morning – a 90 min drive that took us 4 hours b/c of accidents and road blockage, which it seems is very common on this road. We visited a government school where the kids were taking their exams under the tree b/c it was too hot in the classrooms. The school had 1800 children and just over 35 teachers. It was a boys school.

We then saw a private school – nursery to grade 2, which was co-ed, and full of energy and life. it was for the upper-middle class of Jalalabad. The school was established by a lawyer-turned-educationalist/entrepreneur from Pakistan. The school fees were over AFG 1000 per month.

We then visited WADAN’s community based schools, separate for girls and boys. The schools were run in a make-shift building that a local businessman had allowed WADAN to use for the time-being. The school was just a few throws away from Tora Bora.

On the way to Jalabad we saw coalition forces in sniper mode, pointing their guns to what seemed like a plain beautiful innocuous mountain. We were told that they might’ve gotten the news that there were Taliban in the mountains as this was known to be a troubled spot. After another 4+ hr drive back, with a new set of road blockages, we got back to our hotel in Kabul and then joined for a dinner hosted by WADAN at the WADAN office.

We met some great people there including Rachel Lehr, the founder of Rubia. WADAN’s MD Mr. Naseeb and Jean Kissell then introduced dreamfly to Afghanistan’s Minister of EDU who sat with the Minister for a very good conversation around the ministry’s priorities, most critical challenges, and areas that they need dreamfly’s support in. Mona made sure she asked some tough questions of the minister on behalf of dreamfly!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Our first day in Afghanistan

    Umaimah wrote this in email  dated May 23, 2009:

    Mona and I arrived in Afghanistan yesterday. We met with officials from WADAN, including the Managing Director of WADAN, Mohammed Naseeb, WADAN’s Program Director and lead for Education initiatives, Jean Kissell, and the Assistant Program Manager for WADAN, Inayatullah Niazi. WADAN officials briefed us on the education status in Afghanistan as well as the activities of the government, the local NGOs, the private sector, and the multilateral organizations in the country.

-          We had a meeting with the Senior Policy Advisor for the Ministry of Education & General Director of Teacher Education, Susan Wardak. Susan briefed us on what she believes is the most critical challenge in Education in Afghanistan, lack of qualified quality teachers. We shared with Susan our experiences from Pakistan, the learnings we could bring to Afghanistan, and potential areas for collaboration. Susan shared her belief that investment should be made in people development and human resource capacity building rather than infrastructure. She was very receptive and welcoming to dreamfly and interested in engaging in potential collaboration.

-          We then had a meeting with  the Head of Developing Education Curriculum and Compilation of Text Books, Abdul Zahir Gulistani, who briefed us on the recent initiatives in curriculum building led by the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan. We requested Abdul Zahir to provide us with the detailed curriculum as well as samples of books being taught in select grades in Aghanistan. We hope to receive these today.

-          We had a brief introduction with the Director for the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies (CRPS), which conducts action-oriented research cell in Afghanistan that aims to influence policy-makers around building local capacity, and safety and security.

We have a full day planned tomorrow – will provide more updates on our return.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What is dreamfly?

We're two friends, Umaimah and Mona, who've started dreamfly as an initiative to change the world by investing in the children of the world and providing them the opportunities they deserve to maximize their potential. We specifically want dreamfly to become a platform where people from all walks of life come together and work towards a common goal. In a world that seems fixated on our differences, we want to focus on our similarities - the fact that we all love our kids and want to pass on a better world to them. dreamfly is our hope of achieving that. Our plan is to work with local communities and reputable organizations all over the world on projects that focus on the health, education, well-being and practical skill development of children to make them strong contributors to their communities and be socially and economically empowered. We want to mobilize donors, volunteers and partners (regardless of geography) who share this vision.  

Umaimah's take: Akri is my home-village. It's where my father was born. It's where I first learned how to ride a tractor and install mosquito nets around hand-woven hammock-beds. It's where I raced my pony with my brother on the dirt roads and rode on motor-bikes and tongas to nearby (barren) fields and villages. As I grew older, the differences between me and Akri started to become stark. Acutely painfully stark. After being home-schooled in Badin, I made my way to Cornell University. Then Microsoft. And now Harvard Business School. While Akri stayed the same. With barren fields and dirt-roads that lead to nowhere. People who don't want to go anywhere. Or become anyone. Or even do anything. All people of Akri - men women alike - other than the little children. When I visited my home-village this year, I found children, only the little ones, somehow out of nowhere, talking to me about their crazy, imaginative dreams. Dreams of becoming someone. Dreams of flying to places unknown, of curing people, of ending wars, of saving the world! Children for whom the reality of Akri had not yet set in... I want to take each child of Akri and dare her to make her dream a reality. With the help of friends, people who care, people with beautiful hearts and some crazy journeys and dreams of their own, people like my good friend and partner Mona, my husband and best friend Adil, my life-time friends at Microsoft and new acquaintances at Harvard, we can take the children of Akri on a flight of dreams and a fight to make every purposeful desire and positive ambition a reality.

Mona's take: I'm fortunate - I have a great job with Microsoft and the freedom to live my life by my rules. It had very little to do with luck and a lot to do with the opportunities my mother made available for me by investing 100% in my education and encouraging independent thought. Now its my chance to provide similar opportunities to kids who are most eager to avail them. That's why when Umaimah mentioned The Citizens Foundation (TCF) to me over IM, I took the next flight out to Pakistan to meet with her and the TCF folk - we went to Akri and met with the kids we hope will attend our school. They were all beyond adorable - eager, grateful and excited at the prospect of a school. You must read our personal chats with some of the kids - they provide great insight that dreams don't know any bounds and hope can survive the harshest of circumstances. I've spoken with the kids over the phone since my trip to Akri - they cant wait to start school!