Tag Archives: World Humanitarian Day

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.


World Humanitarian Day


World Humanitarian Day –  19 August 2009

In the Line of Duty: For your tomorrow, we gave our today….

Pakistan’s 62nd Independence day celebrations have passed only around the corner, 14 August being the day of annual jubilation. I am sure that most of us, if not all, must have thought about how they can contribute better to their country, their one home in the entire world, especially in the times of current crisis.  Now, imagine a person who thinks about the needs of the world as a whole, who cares for humanity without associating them with a particular country or region.  A citizen of the world, so to speak.  That my friend, is a humanitarian worker.  And that’s not just about anyone who works for a particular development agency.  I am a humanitarian worker, just as much as you are.  As long as we care about people in need, as long as we are there to support people in crisis:  natural or man-made….we are all one humanitarian community.

Last year, the UN General Assembly declared 19 August 2009 as the World Humanitarian Day (WHD), the day itself is for all involved or concerned about humanitarian affairs.  It is aimed at drawing attention to humanitarian needs worldwide; acknowledging the ongoing work of humanitarian staff around the globe; and honouring those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service.

 Pakistan is prone to natural disasters: this was perhaps reminded to us as we were all jolted by the October 2005 earthquake.  Pakistan is also in the midst of a severe active and post-conflict humanitarian crisis as the situation in Swat and the North West Frontier part of the country has worsened. A country that was served devotedly by the humanitarian community, also witnessed a rising threat to the humanitarian workers themselves.  There were sad incidents of kidnappings, and some unfortunate deaths apparently targeting the ‘international community’ which includes humanitarian workers who actually left their countries and were working here for years, some who came to Pakistan in a surge capacity, meaning to fill capacity gaps of our national staff to be able to immediately respond to a crisis.  They were normal people like you and me, they had family too, who actually waited for them to return after the ‘short assignment’ to a country far off.  And let us also not forget the unflinching support all the international staff received from their national counterparts, as most of them risked their own lives.  Driver Hashim who got hit by a bullet in Quetta when John Solecki was kidnapped (and later released) is a case in point.  There was a mission from my own unit that was to go to Peshawar a day after the Peshawar hotel bombing, and as I saw the video footages of most residents of the hotel obviously hailing from humanitarian agencies, I was shaken to realize that it could have been people I share office space with, heck it could have been me too.

As a humanitarian worker, I have been to the field on various occasions and it was always my travel to the distant field offices that made me respect the way we work.  I have travelled in terrains where even our four-wheel drives get stuck and I think about all the field staff who actually use the roads as a daily routine, to carry out the field work we all rely so heavily on.  For me, the field staff is the real face of any development agency in the country.  While I complain about being overworked in Islamabad, where I hardly notice the electricity going off because the generator would immediately pick up and my work continues smoothly, I now realize the agony field staff working with the government departments must have to face as the electricity goes away for hours at a stretch. While I complain about how ‘ugly’ my office building now looks with all the hesco (protection) walls, and all the security procedures we all have to go through, I now realize the real threat our field staff must feel in the given security environment, when they are expected to continue working with the government counterparts and still be seen as the ‘international agency’ and face the associated ‘threats’.  While I complain how difficult it is to be a working mother, I now think about how it must feel to be a woman in the field because as I have seen myself on many occasions, you are all alone in a room full of men, most of them refusing your position of authority because this is not what they are used to in the cultural context. It is actually my project staff in Bagh, Mansehra, Quetta, Peshawar and really all around the country who represent the core of our service to the Government of Pakistan.  They are the true warriors in the current crisis, who are delivering aid, despite all the associated risks. 

As we all observe the World Humanitarian Day, I hope all of us would take a minute to say a prayer for all those who have lost their lives, trying to save our lives.  They are as much my heroes and heroines as I hold any other close to my heart.  They gave their lives for a better Pakistan, for a safer Pakistan.  We owe it to them, to the lives they laid down, to do better, to do much more than we already are doing and to finally stand up and be counted in what seems to be a long walk towards meeting the current humanitarian challenge Pakistan is facing.  The challenge is perhaps not so much while working in the relief phase, as everyone is there on the field within the first 24 hours.  The challenge is more so working for early recovery, towards long term rehabilitation of any crisis, as media frenzy slows down the interest of donors and other strong players and that’s when international agencies and NGOs work silently to meet the huge resource gaps.  The least we can do today, as a nation, is to thank them for all the great work they are doing, for our country, our crisis and our challenges.


And when you go home, tell them of us and say

For your tomorrow, we gave our today