Today we are in conversation with Maheen Malik, she is an Investment banker, and the only woman working in the team who is also the only Pakistani-Muslim which is an honor. She is one of the boards of directors for a welfare organization called Friends of Aabroo.Maheen sponsored her first student when she was 15 Since then they have always been a family that loves to get involved in local and broader community.she spoke to Pakistan journal about her journey with activism
I’m a recent BBA graduate from Baruch College in NYC and an analyst for a top-ranked healthcare investment bank full-time. I’m also on the board of directors of a welfare organization called Friends of Aabroo. Investment banking is probably the most challenging career I could’ve chosen for myself but also the most rewarding. Aabroo is a welfare organization started by Roobina Shakeel in Pakistan. She started funding the school by collecting recyclables from people’s home and using the cash to educate a small group. Over ten years later, we have an entire educational infrastructure to educate over 4,000 students (a majority of which are young girls). Close to 40-50% of our funding still comes from recycling what is left as trash on the streets of Lahore. A large number of our students are now ranking in the top positions in Pakistan’s exams. It’s an amazing organization and an honor to be a part of.
Tell us about yourself & what do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
If there’s anything I want viewers to take away its less about me and more about taking chances in what they do. Part of being great and living your best life comes with taking responsibility for the community around you. I believe everyone has some sort of ability to achieve greatness, and once you find that in yourself – it makes the most sense to put some of that back into the people who need it most. I hope some of my work can inspire others to do the same.
Five facts about you
1) I was born in California but was raised in New York City
2) I never learned Spanish in school but I am fluent in reading and writing in Russian…which obviously comes in handy all the time
3) I cannot help but always take the most challenging path available to me – it’s a curse and a blessing
4) One of the greatest blessings in my life has to be the group of friends and family that I am surrounded by. None of my projects would have been successful without them
5) I’ve just turned 24, If I’m not the president of Earth by the time I’m 30 I’d be surprised
How long have you been involved in activism?
My brothers and I are very blessed that our parents taught us different forms of charity from a young age – whether that be sharing a smile or donating our time and money to services in need. With Aabroo specifically, my extended family has always sponsored students but when I first started working when I was 15 my mom encouraged me to sponsor a student at Aabroo. Since then we’ve always been a family that loves to get involved in our local and broader community.
On what type of social problems do you work? Why do you think they are important?
I’d say most obviously I work on education the most. Pakistan generally stands around a 60% literacy rate which unfortunately may have even dropped in this past year so, in a nation where the government has failed its people, I think it’s extremely important for educated Pakistanis to find space for growth and change on our own. Aabroo currently provides education, housing, and food to now over 4,000 students. Pakistan has a lot of social issues to tackle, however, if we take the most underprivileged children who have no shot at an education, remove them from child labor and begging and put them in a classroom – there’s a better chance than none that this child might learn how to read. Once this child knows how to read they can continue to be educated and trained in our technical programs and eventually get jobs that pay them fair wages. A strong education is extremely important for the youth in Pakistan to make better-formulated decisions.
Do you think your work addresses the cause of the problem? If so, how?
Absolutely. I think Aabroo is one of the very rare organizations that doesn’t take out the overhead cost. 100% of your donation goes to the cause listed. The remainder of the Board and myself work pro bono of course and I personally have always wanted to put my money where I knew it was going. The great thing about Aabroo is they ask for $10 a month to educate a child because it really costs only $10 a month to educate them. Our team in Lahore literally goes out into the juggis and requests parents to let us take their children and educate and feed them for free. I believe the work Aabroo does is amazing as it directly attacks the problem from the ground up.
What are some of the problems you face in your work?
Sometimes I come across issues with credibility. I know some people will always ask where the money is going and how much of it I may be keeping which ends up being rather astonishing but I know it happens. I try to be extremely transparent with our kids at Aabroo and I think the MM23 birthday charity to fund 6 children has been a great start at building more credibility for others to have faith in my work. It’s been a little over a year since we admitted 6 kids into Aabroo, and I have just received all of their report cards. Unfortunately, two of our male students stopped attending which can be expected for the population we work with, but two other girls have taken their place under our sponsorship. I’ll be sharing the story of past and current students on my site which will be released via social media.
What are ways that young people can take effective action for change in the community?
It’s really just about going out there and getting involved. I think the smallest things can make a difference. The beautiful thing about MM23 is that it’s made up of my friends and community who donated anywhere from $5 to $100+ and of course huge denominations in $23, but the point was that a small amount of cash invested in January of 2017, is now back one year later to show the difference you made. And that same small or large amount you put in that month from 2017, is going to carry forward for the next ten years. That one-time investment will always be with these six children and I’ll always be here to remind them that of that yearly. The point is all it takes is a desire to make a difference in any way you can. Something so small can make the biggest difference, it just really relies on taking the first step. I highly encourage all our youth to take action in any way – and maybe that really just starts with being more helpful at home – but Islam is a beautiful religion that considers even the smallest act a charitable one. Once our youth realizes how small you can start, their potential is of course limitless.
How would you like to be remembered as?
I would like to be remembered for the differences I might be able to make in this world or in someone’s life. It doesn’t necessarily matter if someone knows or not that I am specifically part of a change but it does matter that whatever I do somehow leaves a lasting impact.
What do you want more people to be discussing nowadays?
You know, the reality is that we may never regress from this “social media Instagram” age, so if I’m being realistic I can hope that people take whatever skills they’ve adapted from this era and use it to start more meaningful conversations. Be aware of what’s real and what’s not, what truly matters and what doesn’t, and especially what is fleeting and what’s permanent.
What are you most looking forward to the year 2018?
For me personally, I’m really excited about a lot of self-growth. I’ve recently spent a lot of time working on bettering myself and believing in myself and I’m excited for that to reflect in my upcoming projects
Your message to the world?
Anyone who knows me already knows this but – “Live your BEST life.” This one statement simplifies everything else – being the best version of you, being the best you can be to others, following your heart, it all comes down to living your best life.
Tell me about your proudest achievement?
Signing my first offer. It’s a long story which I haven’t considered sharing yet but the turnaround of events at that point in my life that brought me to a desk in a sky rise signing an offer was in my mind the most eye-opening combination of hard-work, dedication, and of course God’s will.
Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?
I would say my father is one of the most inspiring people I’ve met. I think similar to many Pakistani American children, my parents immigrated here for us and then worked day in and day out to make a better life for us. Sometimes I think that maybe their life in Pakistan would have been better, but here’s a man who left because he was sure his daughter’s life in America would definitely be better. Whenever someone asks me how I cope with the hours I work or what I do when I just don’t know the answer, I’ve realized I just picture my dad’s face. Seeing my dad’s face in my mind has somehow always been the way I get it done. Of course, we all face failure, but everything I have succeeded in and overcome that I thought was impossible all started with being inspired by my dad.
You can talk about the year anniversary of your project or anything else you want.
I’m really excited to announce the upcoming launch of my personal site, where I will continually update you all with our Aabroo students and other projects I’m working to launch in the first half of 2018.
To find me directly on social media and hear about the first launch of my site view: @maheenmalik
Photography and Direction by http://www.darknyte.com/ / @darknyte