AKA Foundation awards
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
The University was presented with an Ambassador
Award Thursday from the Aga Khan Foundation USA, a non-governmental
organization that works to reduce poverty
and disease in underprivileged countries.
The award was presented at the foundation's
corporate leadership luncheon at the Galleria-area Omni Hotel. The luncheon
held in anticipation of the foundation's
Houston Partnership Walk, which will take place at UH on Oct. 14 at 10
UH Vice President for Elwyn C. Lee speaks
at the corporate luncheon of the Aga Khan Foundation USA after accepting
an Ambassador Award on the University's behalf from the international philanthropic
Iqbal Noor Ali, chief executive officer
of AKF USA, gave the audience a synopsis of the 100-year history of the
Khan Development Network and the philanthropic
work it does, primarily in Africa and Asia, but also in Eastern Europe
"My second task... is to join with all
of you, for all us together to celebrate volunteerism," he said. "That
is the ethos, the value that
drives the Aga Khan Development Network."
Ali said the network focuses on a few key
issues: health (particularly that of women and children), quality of education,
people living in poor rural areas gain
the means to become self-sufficient, and the enhancement of civil society
"The principles that we follow are of self-help,"
he said. "We believe that every person, man, woman or child, regardless
circumstances, wants to improve their
own standard of living. That they want to live in communities that also
share a high standard of
living. That in very many cases, these
people are not looking for a handout, they are looking (for), to use a
cliché, a hand up.
"But it is not a cliché in the way
our programs are organized, and in the experiences we've had. That helps
us preserve the dignity of
man, so to speak," he said. "Because people
that help themselves, and their families, and their neighbors, will feel
Ali said the network takes a "vigorous
business approach" to its programs. He said it works as a custodian of
the resources it
receives from donors, which in addition
to money include ideas, talent and intellect. It also draws upon the resources
of the people it
helps, including their involvement, work
and knowledge of the places in which they live.
Ali said that the "great tradition of volunteerism
is really an American tradition, but also a world tradition."
He said Americans, per capita, volunteer
the highest number of hours of any nation in the world. A 1999 survey found
million Americans contribute 20 billion
man-hours per year to volunteer efforts.
He said the highest level of growth of
volunteers is in the 18-to-24 age group. "The youth in this country are
volunteering much more
than ever before."
But, he said, volunteerism is an international
phenomenon as well, including in poorer nations such as India, Pakistan
Ali invoked a famous quote: "Service to
humanity is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on this earth."
Imitiaz Ladak, vice chairman for AKF USA's
national committee, presented the Ambassador Awards. In addition to UH,
were Sharon S. Bush (wife of President
George W. Bush's brother Neil), and Houston television station KTRK Channel
Ward, the station's lead news anchor,
served as master of ceremonies at the event.
UH was honored for hosting each of the
foundation's Houston Partnership Walks since they began three years ago.
"Its a partnership, obviously, that we
value," Ladak said. "(Members of the UH community) have opened not just
their campus to us
and to our cause, but they've opened their
hearts and their minds. And I know that this year, especially, (UH) has
mountains, to be able to accommodate us
and our walk this year."
UH Vice President for Student Affairs Elwyn
C. Lee accepted the award on the University's behalf.
"I want to congratulate the Aga Khan Foundation,
both nationally and locally, for its mission," Lee said. "That mission,
as has been
so ably stated, is to help find solutions
to the problems of poor health, inadequate education and low income around
the world. That
mission is really a laudable goal, and
is very complementary to a goal of the University of Houston, in fact,"
Lee said that when he was appointed in
1991 by then-UH President Marguerite Ross Barnett, she told him there were
principles that ought to characterize
UH: excellence, humaneness and partnership.
"And as I think of that, I think the Aga
Khan Foundation could very well exemplify those same principles."
He said that UH President Arthur K. Smith
was recently one of the founders of Texas Compact, an organization of state
among whose goals is increasing student
For more information on the foundation,
visit its Web site, www.partnershipwalk.com.