Part of the experience (and joy) of philanthropy is the journey of discovery. It’s about considering your (and often your family’s) core values, then determining how and where to give back. For Sabih Uddin, a retired pharmacist who built his career in the Greater Toronto Area, that process involved several years of reflection and research as he considered the many charitable giving opportunities at his disposal. It eventually culminated in the launch of the Hope Charitable Foundation, his platform to create a meaningful philanthropic legacy.
As a long-time Rotary Club member, Uddin—who emigrated to Canada from Pakistan as a young man—was well versed in community work and had long held a passion for promoting childhood literacy. Providing effective, targeted and measurable support to underprivileged children in poorer regions of Pakistan would eventually become his primary philanthropic goal. “I came here to live and paid taxes all of my life to the government of Canada,” he explains, “… but I also owed something to the old country. They educated me, so I should educate them.”
Uddin opened a Foundation account with Canada Gives in 2018. Rather than simply making donations to fund a raft of different projects, he endeavoured to become a true foundation funder and quantify the impact of his giving. His passion for philanthropy was matched only by a commitment to stretch the impact of every charitable dollar granted from his Foundation account.
Taking a strategic approach
Yet even with a general philanthropic direction in mind, it took time for Uddin to narrow his focus and determine the most effective strategy to maximize his Foundation’s reach.
Throughout that period, he leveraged the Canada Gives client service support team to help set a course for Hope Charitable Foundation. For nearly two years, he received grant applications requesting funding from various charities, which our team helped to review and assess. But Uddin never wavered in his pursuit of a charity partner in Pakistan that could help him achieve his goal of furthering child literacy across the region.
He was then able to develop a grant-making strategy to help attract that charity partner, while Canada Gives provided content support for the Hope Charitable Foundation website. Working together, we highlighted several charitable organizations involved in children’s education in Pakistan, eventually narrowing the search to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a registered Canadian charity that maintains long-term aid and development initiatives in the developing world. The ICNA applied for a grant from Hope Charitable Foundation to support Read Foundation, a non-profit educational network based in Pakistan’s northern regions. The ICNA regularly partners with Read Foundation and oversees the latter’s work on development projects in the country. Uddin carefully researched the ICNA and Read Foundation, their mission and administration fees—which were less than 10 per cent, a rate that he found to be reasonable.
“In the past we would give money to different agencies, but we had no control over the vetting process,” he recalls. “I’ve researched other charities in the past that applied for grants, but their fees were very high. I didn’t want money to be filtered here and there; it should be used for the purpose for which it’s being given. Whoever is doing the charity work should do it as a charity, not as an income.”
Engagement on the ground
ICNA would go on to help Hope Charitable Foundation deliver direct support to underprivileged children in the region (many of whom are orphans) through Read Foundation. Uddin had only one request. The engaged philanthropist wanted to know the students his Foundation was helping, and to track their success. Read Foundation was more than happy to oblige, sending him photos, bios and annual reports with the students’ grades and details of what they were studying. Uddin now has a stack of binders with the photos and progress updates.
Then, prior to the coronavirus pandemic in 2019, Uddin had the opportunity to visit Pakistan and meet some of the very kids whose education Hope Charitable Foundation was supporting. The introductions only underscored the importance of the Foundation’s charitable giving. “I was so impressed to see how dedicated they were,” he recalls.
During the trip he travelled through a rural village that had a rundown school. The roof leaked in the rainy season to the point that classes were often cancelled. Uddin knew that Read Foundation had a team of local engineers and contractors on the ground in the area, so he asked their representatives what it would cost to replace the dilapidated building. After back-and-forth logistical and cost discussions, a grant was made to ICNA by Hope Charitable Foundation to help fund its construction. Three years later, the new three-storey school is nearly complete. It will educate about 500 students at a time, ranging from kindergarten to grade 8, and will house an advanced computer lab.
Canada Gives continues to support Hope Charitable Foundation’s giving goals and activities, including all of the administration and reporting requirements.
“Canada Gives has been an important partner,” he says. “I’m quite satisfied in the performance and how they’ve been able to help. They give us quarterly reports on performance, so we know where the money is going. They’re always very detailed with their statements.
“I couldn’t have done it myself.”
And his work is only just beginning. Hope Charitable Foundation will continue to help fund the education of successive generations of students, ensuring that as many children as possible in Northern Pakistan have a meaningful education.
“Many girls are enrolled in the program and are benefitting from our support,” Uddin points out. “When I went there, I asked a female student in grade 8 what she wanted to be, and she said: ‘A pilot.’ They all have an aspiration to outperform in their lives.”
It’s fair to say that the philanthropic journey has been life-changing for Uddin, as well.
“Being able to support other people makes me feel like my life has added value,” he says. “It’s a real pleasure to see these children grow and thrive.”
The Canada Gives team