Changing the World, One Family at a Time

April 2013 3,065 views No Comment


For most students, a trip to South Africa is a life changer. But when Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi (Ph.D ’12) visited the Capetown township of Langa last year as part of her International Psychology field experience at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, the lives that were changed most were those of a family she will
never meet.

Nausheen Pasha Zaidi

Nausheen Pasha Zaidi

Pasha-Zaidi, born in the coastal city of Karachi, Pakistan, was on what started as a typical group tour of a typical South African neighborhood. However, she saw something that day that stayed with her long after the 10-day trip had ended—inspiring her to lead an international fundraising campaign that harnessed her TCSPP friends and worldwide social network.

While on the tour of Langa, Pasha-Zaidi says she noticed the embers of what remained of a home destroyed by fire. This desolate skeleton of a house was in a connected row of homes filled with warmth and love, with families trying their hardest to better their lives and their children’s future. It didn’t make sense.

“The house immediately struck me as misplaced. It wasn’t part of the shanty homes or temporary shelters that we saw in other townships. This was a developed home,” explains Pasha-Zaidi. “It didn’t seem right that there was a burnt façade in the middle of this neighborhood.”

She learned that the former residents—a multigenerational family of eight cared for by a female matriarch—had lost their home and had since been scattered and displaced to a meager one-room “bachelor’s quarters” elsewhere in the village.

Pasha-Zaidi asked her tour guide, Eric Dilma, what it cost to build a home in Langa and was shocked to learn that for just a few thousand dollars, little more than what a typical U.S. family might spend to renovate a kitchen, this home could be rebuilt, and a family torn apart by disaster could be reunited.

When Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi visited South Africa last year as part of her International Psychology field experience, this house had been burned and abandoned. Thanks to her efforts, it has been rebuilt and the family has returned to their neighborhood.

When Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi visited South Africa last year as part of her International Psychology field experience, this house had been burned and abandoned. Thanks to her efforts, it has been rebuilt and the family has returned to their neighborhood.

“It didn’t seem quite fair in life. It just stayed in the back of my mind,” explains Pasha-Zaidi. Once she returned from her travels, she was motivated to make a difference.

Pasha-Zaidi reached out to her instructor Emily B. Karem to see if there was anything that could be done to help rebuild this home. Karem, associate vice president of international services, referred her to TCSPP’s international partner in Langa—Anthony Galloway, from the LEAP Science & Math Schools. LEAP’s vision is to transform South African communities by teaching disadvantage youth and members of the community to understand their potential to be positive agents of change. If Pasha-Zaidi could raise enough money to finance the construction, LEAP and Dilma would oversee the project, ensuring it would be completed through their community ties in Langa.

Pasha-Zaidi’s initial fundraising campaign focused on asking her family, friends, and TCSPP colleagues for support. “I received huge contributions from some of my fellow doctoral students,” she says. “One student donated $1,000. Like me, she had been inspired by her own global excursion experience in South Africa. Her
generosity almost made me cry.”

To cast a wider net of donors and reach her end goal, Pasha-Zaidi relied on the power of Facebook as a tool to engage with others across the world for help. By documenting the progress of the home construction via photo posts and status updates, Pasha-Zaidi was able to encourage others to contribute to the worthy cause. “It was heartwarming that people can come together to make a change in a part of the world where they have no direct ties to.”

In the span of seven months, Pasha-Zaidi raised $4,000 to rebuild the Langa home. With that money, Pasha-Zaidi’s South African contacts hired a construction crew
indigenous to the area—creating additional jobs in the township. “I view humanitarianism not as making small changes in a community from the outside and then leaving, but helping people local to their land revitalize their own community,” adds Pasha-Zaidi. “That’s how you create sustainability by helping people gain momentum to do things on their own.”

Now an assistant professor at the Petroleum Institute in Abu-Dhabi, U.A.E. and adjunct faculty for TCSPP’s International Psychology program, Pasha-Zaidi focuses her research efforts on ethnicity and perceptions of stereotypes. However, she says she will continue to look for opportunities to help rebuild communities whenever possible.

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