Work in the times of Corona


I speak from a position of privilege when I say that I am working from home. I am not worried about keeping the home fires burning because my office is already making sure that I can continue to work with peace of mind. This is truly a privilege at a time when many people around the world are losing their jobs, are worried about paying for medical treatment, or are just struggling to make ends meet.

This global pandemic has highlighted the need to help the poor and vulnerable in Asia and the Pacific and around the world, and so much has already been written about COVID-19. So, today I would like to focus on those who like me have the privilege of working from home.

Here are my top four takeaways from this experience. I hope some resonate with you too and help you go about your day.

Be kind to one another
A good mantra for life in general, but especially in these times. We do not have the luxury of walking into each other’s room and sort out a seemingly trivial query. Give each other space, maybe a few extra hours especially to those working in different time zones. Avoid speculation that your colleagues are still sleeping or taking an extra snack break. Chances are, they are struggling with some other deadlines or dealing with another client. Everyone is adjusting and struggling with work, health concerns, and life in general, some fare better than others. Be kind to one another.

Be kind to yourself
Working from home over an extended period of time is unchartered territory for most of us. We certainly dreamt of it, but most of us never came face to face with the reality of it. Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to work from home straight out of bed. Wearing PJs is acceptable but you do need to change into a state of mind with a dedicated physical space so that you can focus on your work.

In my case, it is the outdoor lanai table in the evening and our dining room in the morning. My husband occupies the library, while my boys stay in their respective rooms as their school offers online learning. We all respect each other’s space and time. Frankly, we now enjoy the newfound privilege of being able to have breakfast and lunch together, something which was not possible before as all of us worked and studied on different schedules.

Give yourself time to adjust to your new reality, have empathy for those who have smaller children or older parents in the house to attend to, and remember that part of being productive in this new situation is to also remember to be kind to yourself. Look after yourself well and stick to a schedule from home too.

When less is good
Have you all been receiving an email avalanche? In our team, we have set some basic ground rules to avoid clogging each other’s inboxes. No need to copy everyone when you want to say thank you, keep emails to the point and try not to send too many emails in general. Use Skype, Teams, or WhatsApp with colleagues to sort out minor queries, so that when you write, you focus only on the critical aspects that need attention. When in doubt, ask yourself: does everybody need to know this? Have I checked other sources before asking an obvious question? Information overdose especially via emails is never good.

The giving hand
Last but not the least, be the giving hand when so many out there need your support and help. If you are reading this post, you are in a position of privilege, so return the favor to the world out there and reach out to local/national/international charities. Now is the time to help others. You will find many that resonate with you. Here, a special shoutout also goes to all the healthcare workers, including all the staff who are keeping the lights on in the HQ building, who are taking COVID-19 by the horns and fighting this pandemic to protect us all.

This is not yet the end of times. It is however a time for pause and reset. The next time you get anxious, remember that the humanity has had to face far more difficult times with far less resources. For those of us in the development and humanitarian sector, we know that there are good reasons to be optimistic that this too shall pass. Take care, stay safe, and remember to be kind! We got this!

What Philanthropy Taught us About Crowd Sourcing Financial Aid in One Month


How a Fundraiser brought together an Islamic scholar and a development practitioner, who share five key lessons in crowd sourcing financial aid for a humanitarian cause.

By Shaista Hussain and Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshawani

Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshawani is an Islamic scholar and a global goodwill Ambassador of the Zahra Trust, a UK based charity which is in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.  Shaista Hussain is a development practitioner working for a multilateral development bank, based in the Philippines. A fundraiser brought us together, and we wanted to share our thoughts which may be applied to any humanitarian cause.

This year Sayed Ammar raised a funds appeal, both offline and online, to support orphans and families in need around the world particularly in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, India, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Tanzania. The campaign focused on providing the families with not just food aid but also giving them an opportunity to enjoy what we often take for granted – a quality meal in a nice restaurant, a football match for the children with matching kits of their favorite teams and other activities planned in giving aid with respect.  In addition, the funds were also collected for an Orphans village in Iraq with decent housing facilities and a school, among other initiatives. With the generous donations we received, this project is nearing completion.

With the successful completion of raising required funds in onemonth, here are five lessons that we wanted to share with you.

1. Those who inspire trust must walk the talk. We cannot thank people enough for their unbelievable generosity and their trust, especially the way everyone responded to our appeal. Watching Sayed Ammar campaigning for the appeal from the ground, starting from the worn-torn Iraq, helped inspire the interest of donors from all walks of life. It all comes down to one basic principle – the people in leadership positions who are blessed to have a dedicated following, must lead by example and must lead from the front.

2. Appreciate those who serve, appreciate even more the ones being servedWorld Humanitarian Day on 19th of August every year is a reminder to value the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises. This is a day to honor the men and women who give their lives to humanitarian causes. While it is important to appreciate those who serve others, it is also very important to appreciate the ones being served. The Holy Quran reminds us to help the orphans and those in need, and to be kind to others regardless of their religious or ethnic associations. We should be grateful to people who have given us an opportunity to serve them. This itself is a huge blessing when you realize that we are indeed the lucky ones who are getting an opportunity to help others, not the other way around.

3. Charity has a global appealWhen the cause is genuine, people respond. Always. When the appeal was launched in the holy month of Ramadan, we expected Muslims to make more donations – which they certainly did – but we were touched by the response of the Non-Muslims from all over the world.  Charity has a global appeal and it was no surprise that the people responding to the appeal came from different religious backgrounds and countries. The cause hit home with all, charity is indeed universal in its essence.

4. It is challenging to communicate the scale of the problem. In this visual age capturing moments is only one smart phoneclick away. However, given the scale of the problems everywhere, it is often very difficult to narrate the exact gravity of the situation. Not everyone appreciates or is able to see things as you are able to see them first hand yourself.  When we are with the beneficiaries of our projects in the field whether it is leading a humanitarian cause or a development project, we are so moved by the plight we witness firsthand. While visuals such as videos help, at the end of the day, we think it really is the trust in the person or institution calling attention to the problem that really changes people’s minds. Social media also served as an enabler to amplify the message of our campaign, with most funding coming through after Sayed Ammar’s Facebook live sessions.

5. Crowdfunding is a great way to raise funds. By using the JustGiving platform, we were able to raise almost $200k online and experienced first-hand how crowdfunding helps bring everyone together. With the power of technology, giving and receiving donations has never been so easy – and that really helped speed up the process. We saw the power in numbers, and the strength in people rallying behind a common cause.

Behind any humanitarian effort is true empathy and sincerity that keeps it going. A project may start from a piece of paper, but it is the dedicated workforce that truly yields results. This Humanitarian Day – make a commitment to support the needy not just with your financial contribution but also your time, and energy. It is really (or only) when you give of yourself that you truly give.


Shaista Hussain is a development practitioner from Pakistan, based in the Philippines. Her interests include working on regional cooperation, project design and quality assurance of development projects as well as working with refugees and humanitarian response.

Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshawani is an Islamic scholar, author and an articulate historian. He is listed every year as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims since 2014. Dr. Nakshawani uses his influence to promote women’s rights, social development, human rights, religious tolerance and inter-faith harmony.


Appeal for Orphans and Child Welfare in Iraq


Today, I would like to urge my blog readers to please visit my personal fundraiser – set up for the children of Iraq, supported by one of my favorite charities.

In the month of Ramadan, with so many charities available, it is often times a tough task to choose which ones to support.  I chose this because I have seen The Zahra Trust at work when I visited Iraq in December 2017.  A non-profit in its true spirit, I am inspired by their relentless support to serve the orphans and the needy.

Humanitarian crisis affects children the worst and leave them exposed and vulnerable. These children need our compassion and love;  your small contribution goes a long way and can build a secure life for a child.  Please help this campaign which will contribute directly to The Zahra Trust’s call for orphans support and child welfare in Iraq. I am also a team member with Sayed Ammar Nakshwani who is a goodwill ambassador for The Zahra Trust and has launched an Appeal for the same cause.

You can learn more about The Zahra Trust’s ongoing projects and what they did last year on this link:

If you would like to support any cause this year – let this one be your choice!

Thank you! Your reward is with Allah.

Karbala is Love


Earlier this week, a dear sister asked me how I felt when I went to Karbala. I thought long and hard. I have not had a chance to pen my thoughts since I returned from Karbala this January with a fantastic group of people, organized by Spiritual Journeys. More on the group later in another blog post. They definitely deserve a dedicated applause.

Back to the question. It is really hard to state the exact feelings because only when one actually goes there – is when one can truly appreciate the magnitude of this love and devotion. To put it simply, and for lack of a better analogy, it is like going to visit a loved one after many many years. You plan to ask so many questions, even complain for lack of contact but when you finally meet your loved one, time stops and you forget all your pain. All you remember is just how much you really love them and how much you have missed not being with them! Thats how I felt, when we walked by foot and entered the city of Karbala. As i stood in front of the majestic Roza of Imam Hussain, Labbaik Ya Hussain it was. I forgot all my petty worldly needs and tasks. All i wanted to do was to stand there, respectfully and with all my heart tell Imam Hussain how much I love him. And I could only hope he would believe me. Imam Hussain’s roza is kindness personified. Karbala is love. Najaf was grand and I was in awe most of the time as I had always wanted to go to Najaf. I never knew that it would be Karbala that would shake me to the core.

Gratitude is all I have, for Allah to make it so easy for me to visit the blessed land. I cannot wait to go back again! Labbaik Ya Hussain!

RIP Dina


What’s yours will find you, said Imam Ali. Sad that meeting Dina was never meant to be – despite a few attempts I made to reach out to her. Today I learn Dina passed away, at 98.

RIP Dina, daughter of your beloved Grey wolf. May you rest in eternal peace.

One day, I hope I collect all my thoughts and write about you and your mother. You two are sadly the neglected part of our history. Rest In Peace.


What If


What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Tao of Forty


On April 22 this year, I turn forty – a milestone I have been looking forward to since last year! I always thought of forty as just a number, well a far off number when you are just in your twenties. As you come face-to-face with the famous Forty, turns out, it is pretty much a school of thought and a state of being!

Being forty is so liberating. Forty is solemn about the days ahead, yet grateful for all life has thrown their way – lessons, challenges and success all inclusive!

Forty has answered many questions for me and as my favorite saying goes, it has given me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

However as I once read somewhere, being forty is also like being a Panini sandwich– you may be the juiciest, richest part but you are still stuck between generations! Your children are growing up fast (Mommy of a 15 and a 9 year old thank you very much) and you see your parents aging too. You are definitely in the thick of all of life’s happenings not to mention your career too. Best of luck is all I can say! You will be needing it, rest assured.

A Forty’s playlist may range from Air Supply and swings onto Ed Sheeran. Forty will rock a Sufi qawwali any day. Forty will never understand how in the world Chance the rapper earned the Grammy for his songs, but will be sporty enough to bear the songs for the sake of their teenagers. Patience is a virtue you finally rock at forty.

Forty is about cherishing friendships, and cutting out the riff-raff from one’s life. Forty says things in your face, and has no qualms in accepting the truth! Forty will remember fond details with perfect accuracy from childhood, but will struggle locating their cell phone which they actually put in their handbag two minutes ago.

Forty knows that as they tab browse their way through this ever-fast paced life – they must remember to juggle their balls and that it is okay to drop a few of them. As long as they keep juggling the glass balls, never mind a few rubber balls they miss.

The more I think about the Tao of Forty, the more I begin to love it. I am ready to embrace my Forties and already look forward to what is next. Forty is cool. Be like Forty!

Finding that ‘Extra’ in the Ordinary


I often think about why is it that the beginning of the year is always much more pleasant and relaxing than the rest of the year.  Most of us start the new year with a lot of work, planning the year ahead requires creativity and dedication. But why is it that the beginning is always far better, people you meet are happier; some even have that extra skip in their walk.  Come November, it is such a ‘Thursday’ of the year, with all of us barely surviving and looking forward to the year’s end already.

A well-rested mind my friends is what makes us happy.  A happy heart is what makes us be ambitious about how we will work throughout the rest of the year.  Rest is not just in terms of returning from a long home leave.  Rest is being at peace with one’s own self.

This year, whatever is left of it anyways – can we all try and not greet each other with ‘So how are you – busy?’ I often find this statement very amusing – the person asking the question always assumes that on your behalf already, with the risk that if you dare say you are not busy actually, might be held against you.  So let’s try this again today, ‘How are you?’ *insert pause* let’s allow the other person to come up with their own update.  Great social experiment I tell you, and no, you are not allowed to answer with ‘busy’.  Let’s dig out other nice adjectives!

As part of the ADB cohort taking this Breakthrough leadership course this year, if there is one take away for me it is this: Find that ‘Extra’ in the Ordinary around us.  As we push the mundane life of going about our business – let us all stay positive.  Let us be a kind mentor to those working in our teams, and a supportive aide to those leading us. It is not always possible to find one’s ideal and interests in our work or personal life but let us all try and make the best of what we are given.   Instead of complaining about the bureaucracy within the institution, or the complexities of managing relationships – let’s reflect on how we can be a better version of our own selves.  Let us all be more people-oriented, be courteous at the minimum to each other, and if we can manage to keep a smile on our face despite the workload, then to me, we stand as a winner in this year’s run!

Words that I write … 


Just read these beautiful lines from W.B. Yeats, January 1892.

All the words that I gather,

And all the words that I write,

Must spread out their wings untiring,

And never rest in their flight,

Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,

And sing to you in the night,

Beyond where the waters are moving,

Storm darkened or starry bright.