I-CERV Volunteers at 50th Partnership Walk

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  • Parents bring their kids to participate in a mini-game explaining the purpose of the walk, with the temptation of candy. Photo courtesy of I-CERV.

  • After volunteering, some members of I-CERV pose for a picture. Photo courtesy of I-CERV.

  • Volunteers plan the events for the rest of the day before the runners come, handing out scripts and papers to those who need it. Photo courtesy of I-CERV.

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Last Sunday, the Domain hosted the 50th Partnership Walk. This 5K marathon was created by the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in order to raise money for the poor. Throughout the years, this marathon has been completely organized, led, and advertised by members of the community. Many Westwood students are a part of I-CERV (Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering), who were the main volunteers at the event. Along with them, AKF recruited many other volunteers, both inside and outside of the community, to create one of the most successful runs to date.

The Ismaili community, a small branch of Islam, has a thriving population in Austin. I-CERV regularly volunteers in other local events, such as the Turkey Trot and Austin 5K Marathon, driven by the words of their religious leader, His Highness the Aga Khan.  His Highness the Aga Khan always motivates kids to get involved in the community in his religious speeches, and as a result, volunteering became something that was based on passion, not gaining hours to graduate.

“I like to help our community, but not just our community, [I want to help] other people too,” Ayaan Ali ’21 said. “When I heard about the run, I felt that it was the best place to come out and volunteer and represent our Ismaili community.”

At the events, students held different stations while the adults directed the runners and the donation efforts. Each station included important information about AKF included in games and posters that kids could participate in, because the whole purpose of the run is to gain support and attention of the many projects AKF has created. A lot about the organization isn’t known, for example, the fact that AKF reaches over 30 countries, and includes over 80,000 employees. These employees help in many different fields, like medicine, or education, to achieve the common goals of eliminating poverty.

“We help the community locally and globally,” organizing member Ahmed Moledina said. “On a local level, our volunteers help with various different non-profit events and activities. We help with natural disaster relief.  In addition we help elementary schools with some of their ECD (Early Childhood Development) projects and initiatives.  On a global level, we help communities with health, education, infrastructure, and socio-economic challenges.”

AKF’s approach to aid also depends on teamwork, which is why many Ismaili students volunteer through I-CERV. The teamwork, fostered through community events and meetups, also helps them face negative stereotypes.

“There’s always a negative outlook on Middle Eastern countries,” Ali said. “No one looks on the positive side, so if we spread the positive side, we can benefit the community is a positive way.”

Positive change is what AKF wants to gain by creating these marathons. By bringing in different people, from the runners, volunteers, or the artists that performed at the event, they create a community focused on the good of humanity, not on stereotypes.

“Each person plays a crucial part in the process,” Yasmin Ali ‘17 said. “In order to carry out these events, there has to be a lot of planning, and that planning comes on us. We just want to make sure that that all the nuts and bolts of this whole are complete.”