Mushtaq Chhapra is the chairman and co-founder of The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF) in Pakistan. With over 266,000 students in over 1,652 schools in over 61 districts of Pakistan, TCF is one of the largest non-profit organizations in Pakistan in the field of education.
In this episode, hosts Kim Langen and Nathan Langen interview Mushtaq Chhapra. In 2010 in Qatar, Chhapra and TCF were one of the six recipients of the WISE Awards — international plaudits that recognised him as a champion of peace and a symbol of hope. For his work with TCF, he was also awarded the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2013, and is a recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Canada Pakistan Business Council (CPBC). Chhapra is also a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur.
Hey welcome back to another episode of releasing the genius podcast where we interview extraordinary people we find out how did they get there so today’s guest is one of the citizens foundations cofounders Mr. Mushtaq Chhapra and he has played a key role in nurturing a number of prominent nonprofit organizations. He serves on the boards of patients aid foundation and the kidney center as well.
He is a Skoll winner and a Sitara-e-Imtiaz holder of Pakistan. He is a well known personality in the country’s business circles. While he was manufacturing, In Pakistan he is a philanthropist. I’m sorry today. I’m just catching my tongue and is involved with many charities in the areas of health food security and art.
He also serves as the honorary consulate general for the Nepalese embassy in Karachi. His project the citizens foundation was selected as one of the six WISE awards winners in 2010. TCF is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Pakistan in the field of education.
TCF is also the largest female employer outside the public sector having 12,000 plus female teachers employed since it was founded in 1995 from five schools now it has run a professionally managed network about 1,652.
Having 266,000 most needy children, TCF schools mission is to promote mass scale quality education at the primary and secondary levels in an environment that encourages intellectual moral and spiritual growth. Wow. This is quite an honor to have you here today and thank you so much.
I’m sure that many people will be thrilled to hear what you have to say. So thank you for being here today. We believe that into release a genius in this world, you must start with releasing the genius and individuals. And when, The genius is released in individuals and they can release it and communities.
And when communities the genius of a community is released well then at the genius of a country in the world can be realized. And you are an individual who is not only released their own genius but released its. The the what we feel is so important is that you have been able to not only create I’m going to talk about.
Teens first because you’ve done so many things. This TCF is incredible because so many people start with an idea to a social idea to help out in their community. And and the majority of these initiatives social initiatives either just stay very small or they die very quickly and this is all over the world this happens yet you have been able to help this grow and sustain it, can you please talk a little bit about the sustainability and how you were able to make a grow and then keep it at this level that it is?
Thank you very much for inviting me Kim I would like to start here by admitting that this is not and I’m sitting here in front of you as a genius maybe but the story of this year starts about 25 years ago when five five friends decided that they wanted to do something on a large scale change life of a few hundred thousand families at.
At best and but like you very correctly said that a lot of good intentions good ideas, they remain either small or they they do not take off that’s sort of thing, however what we did was that we? We said that we would do something on national scale which means that it won’t be restricted to some urban center or a town or a village but it would be spread to the length and breadth of Pakistan and this would be a system which could be changing the lives of people and we said that it was an audacious target when he said that we would go into a education when we decided that at I would like to also say why education you see in part of?
In the third world and the part of world where I live education is a very it’s it’s almost luxury, you know, every child does not have the have the access to quality education and and hence they are deprived at that basic right we said that education is the root cause of any ill in a society pick out anything intolerance because family planning pick out health 50% of health problems come from IG, so, We pick the element in a society which can change a lot of social skills of our.
So that was the turning point in our lives we said that we’re going to do something and the audacious target was that we would be building initially a thousand. In in every every village every slum of Pakistan. And we would pick up the children from the street those kids who are selling new papers flowers, you’ve seen them all over in Latin America in Africa in South Asia and pick them up and put them into food because there is that is where they should.
And that idea was so successful then starting in those five schools in Karachi Karachi being the most busy part of Pakistan in the commerce and the industrial town of Pakistan from the five slums of garage and like you just said that now it has developed beyond the 1000 and 25 years so my my advice.
My friends all over the world is nothing is impossible, you have to start off with a clear intent. Everything through. Do not leave, you know, even the smallest problem should be addressed in the beginning and that’s what we did that it should be an organization would be it should have transparency should be an organization which should have professionally the managed organization it should be an organization between the teachers every small detail was both down so the intent has to be clear but every, Situation every point has to be addressed and the success lies within that whole network within the work you.
I hope I’ve managed to sort of encompass answer what you wanted me to. I think what what I what I got from you then is that belief first which is really important right and and all five of you was a five or six people who started five people yes five of you you all had the same vision and you all put your time into this too and you were able to connect people and get people to work with you, how did you do that?
When people ask me what is our biggest challenge money has not been the biggest challenge the government has not been the jelly, you know, these are these are very important elements of anything, you know, in our part of the world the governments are more of a hurdle more of a problem than and you know help but the biggest challenge is.
People. Because this has become an organization which is working for the people and it’s by the people and we need to have the most intelligent young ladies because as we know we are working with a lot of women, you know, the teachers are women the trainers of women, so there is a whole spectrum of intelligent young and middle-aged girls who are working for us who are teaching these children we have got the best possible and why do we get these people because, Said inherent desire to do that change, you know, the the vision of the founders is carried over by the the people who work for the organization there is a buying from those people and it’s an incredible, you know, they come at very moderate salaries with a passion with a burning desire to do something good you change the scenario of a country like so this is now I forgot one point which is the sustainability part you see.
The. The. Foundations of the works citizen foundation is doing isn’t a very noble because when you pick up children from the streets it’s never easy to you know, nurture them each them train them into being good citizens good moral and spiritual growth upbringing because in their homes they have nothing their parents are away earning a livelihood, which is you know, right from it and these children are neglected they are roaming around on the streets of the slums without any.
Attention, so there is an extraordinary effort which has to go in by the teachers and the principal and the other staff so financially it is not a sustaining model I am and I want to be very clear with that because we are charging a very small percentage of our fees because these people cannot afford like I said, it’s a luxury so we get hardly 10% as fees from these households the 90% in all being a collected through donations from Pakistanis within.
Parts and overseas partying all over the world in the USA in the UK. Canada Australia and UK Dubai in all over about 10 to 15 chapters all over the world which are which are propagating which are creating awareness and collecting. Money for the cause that’s that’s catchy now. I I just wanted to paint paint a little bit of a picture here too for people who haven’t been to Pakistan and or who have never been to a country and seen what the children what’s happening the children.
I’ve worked with the Islamabad I don’t know if you’re aware of that are familiar with them in in Lahore and working with the education and helping out there and these the children normally if they don’t have the education they’re actually out. On the streets like you say. And they need to help their families they need to and they’re they’re picking up the garbage for recycling and so on but when you work with these kids and when you’re sitting down with their them and you’re interacting with them boy, they’re quick and they they can learn quickly many people sort of have this idea that only maybe they’re not as smart actually, they’re extremely smart and there’s a lot that can be done with them, so I I think yes there is a real need there, they are thirsty for it, they want to learn so given an opportunity.
For them allows them to to understand they’ve got this opportunity and a possibility. So you’ve given them also hope. And I think that the the mothers and and all the women there, I want to pick up on this a little bit because I’ve also been working a little bit with someone who works in Bangladesh and what they found was that by working with mothers.
Unity and it’s. I I just wonder if you want.
More. Mothers get involved in there was need to mention all these women. Were working within this. How what would I guess there’s? Bird as well in terms of just the families getting used. The fact that fact that the mother may not be a home all the time that they they will be out and maybe working in the schools and working period.
Could you just talk a little bit about this and how you’re able to overcome?
Okay. I think this is a very important point in any any any third world country. First time I’d like to you know, I’m very happy that you had a had the opportunity of going to the whole and Islamabad and you’ve seen for yourself. What is the situation that needs kids and you are really pinpointed?
These children are very smart. There’s they only come. In here that they have never deprived of being given an opportunity. The moment they they’re that thirst what you said about that first point you gave it is so great that it’s unimaginable. You know? US that we give them a flexi like.
A situation that we don’t like you very currently said that they have to bring something on the table there to bring some money from there a meter wages which they collect from whatever they are doing how tall supplement the household income. However, what we do is that since we have got a beautiful structure.
I wish I could have shown you some photographs the building is like any public school anywhere in the world. So we’ve got a flexi situation where the children can either come in the morning or Depending on them work better. So that they can.
Test your product. Yeah, even better morning. S where children have got their options. So this is one one very important aspect of our education and that’s why we are told the third book and when we go there, we become we’ve become a like a community a life. It’s a right house within the community.
Provide them not education, but guidance counseling and many other things. Welcome back to it. So now coming back to the Madness of the.
Sort of track that you teach a mother and she’s going to change going to change the mindset not only of the family but that nation. And this is exactly what we have seen in our in our approach in our initiative with the mothers of they are so supportive and I’m nothing taking away.
I’m a man myself but the fathers and being the most recurring factor in our inner either they have left the woman with so many. Kids in that house so or or they are busy and are doing whatever they are doing and not not the least interested in the future of those kids, but the mothers the mums of those small villages are the angels are the leaders.
I I salute to them literally. Now the beauty is that they make so much interest.
You know, they have to go out to earn a livelihood. When they come to parent teachers meetings and they even they are not educated or literate but they want to ask the principal how my child is doing. Now to talk everything all I can tell you something very interesting.
What citizen foundation has done has they’ve started adult literacy. For the women of the slums and the village and today more than eighty thousand. Of the mothers of these children who are studying these. Have gone to this three month ninety day program where we are giving them a basic advanced literacy.
Now what happens? After this literacy of. Women can read the headlines in the newspaper.
For hypothesis, supervising.
And how much money should you get? But most of all the, Risk in the household. After this advanced frequency program code.
We have for the women of our community.
And also a bursary program that we had with spirit of math to bring in the children from the very poorest communities and sit beside the children from some very wealthiest communities in the same classroom. And just to see them mainly for them to learn the math. For them to be able to realize that I’m at your equal and oftentimes that’s the huge deterrent is that there is something in their mind that is telling them that they are not this as equal whether it’s capability or whatever it is and to see the shift in the kids phenomenal because at the very beginning it’s.
Sensors and I would say well tell them you got a different answer and they wouldn’t want to say anything to begin with and then after a couple of months I saw them going well, you know what you’re wrong. I think I’ve got the right answer and then you see the kids, you know doing this and I remember coming back after a year of this one child coming through very shy when he started and he stood up in front of that class and he was doing a demonstration and he was saying and you answer and you answer this please.
Just that transformation you talk about that the confidence. And and for the mothers to have that confidence and for the kids to see the mothers have that confidence and now all the sudden the world has changed for them. They understand how to live in this world very differently and that’s what I think is critical what you are talking about is phenomenal.
Yes. So I I want to just very quickly talk a little bit about your past and who you were as a young boy growing up because kids like to hear this and and and. Teach you what were you like were you shy were you? Where did you demand things yourself and you were young?
What were you like when you were a child? Yes, I would say I as a school board. I was extremely shy. I would extremely scare. I could not take part in many school activities. I used to dream of the state. I remember gently many years time and young eloquention that I was participating in an inefficient contest and I was photo and stage and I just know I could say anything and I love it myself that now you know, this has become a second sort of a habit of mind that I speak.
People say that you talking and I I all the time, you know, I am to make these a presentations and I have to make this and I’m surprised at my, You know naturally but as a boy I was.
Shy. Who are not confident there is a lot of schools. I don’t put yourself. Whoever great you. Know was there thing I have to say I had a I had a good very good schooling. I went to a machine learning school in Karachi I was born in Karachi and I lived here this city in my city and recently I would like to mention your cameras that why and how.
The my character was molded people a lot of time people ask me that there must be somebody who’s been your role model, you know, you pick up somebody you read about somebody and you impressed by the work that somebody has done and I keep telling everybody and this is the honest man that I, Need that my role model is my father because I see I have seen him because he’s is a dead now but I’ve seen him in my early days helping people.
I just seen him, you know, we have the family sitting over a dinner table and somebody comes some sort of a problem we solved and he would leave his food and go with that lady get that problem solved so that has creating. A such a strong sort of situation in my mind in my heart that took here, this is there is more in life than yourself your family your business your profession.
That yeah just what you need to do by yourself there is more in life you have to do something for others a lot for me and that has what has been in me. I think all through all my life I’ve seen that and I’ve following that pattern of my father and that I find so gratifying so helpful that I do not I do not disturb in going out in you know, there has been a lot of times in particular private here that this time when, A lot of security issues have been the people don’t pick up their telephone they.
‘ve become unknown. S try to hear people out and many times you know that you. Put me in danger. I said that is part of my life my finally danger what fund everything and I’m creating because it is needed, you know in this country there’s so much of problems that so many issues.
So I would say that I am very happy. I am a businessman yes. I got a very comfortable but I donate the boat 95 percent of my time to what I like doing and that is education in any any sort of business. I can if I have the power to.
So. If I even sent am is really quite profound to you you’ve really said that you started as a very shy boy and through life you.
Know. I’ve seen sets the transformation from thinking of yourself and worrying about yourself doing it. Has really you probably would like that all the time but as you grow older, of course we. Moved that that I would say is a huge part and the character and you brought and it was what you learned from your father was the character.
I I have one last question because I know that we’ve taken a lot of your time and the end time you need to get going soon time goes by quickly but but I’m just wondering with that in mind could you just say something to the audience here and thinking in particular about youth and children about what one thing which you say to them will help them release their genius.
Themselves. Sorry give I didn’t get the last what yeah one thing that would help youth and children release the genius in themselves, what can they focus on to release their own genius?
The biggest biggest genius in every individual is. To believe in oneself. Like like initially when I when I mentioned in my first answer to my phone the first question is to believe with the clear intent you see when I believe that what I am doing is for the benefit of the society of the benefit of the humanity, then everything else is a second.
I am not doing this to gain fame. I’m not doing this to a propagate a family. Because I think this is life. I think that I’m doing this to change. Today. I just give you way smaller, it’s very important today. I may. Be. More just the best business. The setup.
Well, thank you your passion is an infectious and and and it’s your belief in humans is so incredible, thank you so much. Nathan did you want to I was trying to get as well as a child and I remember.
The stage I would actually black out and I would give my speech and then I would wake up essentially at the end and then see everyone started and so that that was how I got through it. Later on believe it or not, even though I’m not talking. Well, I actually yeah myself.
I talked too much sometimes. I think what I’ve received. Money.
Is a beautiful it’s a hospital please, you know, of course the negativities are all over the world. Huh majority of the people.
That humans the people like me who are here are not but but generally the people are very nice.
So I would just like to pass this message let me want to invite as many people to. The good work and there are many DCF there are many things happening in Pakistan which which now you know, you can be proud of so with this. I thank you for inviting me.
Audience and I hope that it went off well it’s wonderful yeah thank you very much much and I went I would repeat what you said. Pakistan is an incredible country incredible people we’ve been there at least 10 times and I encourage other people to get out and you’ve just got an example of an incredible person and and and there’s so much more to that country and the focus of the people is about people.
And that’s what’s really incredible so thank you everybody for yeah and thank you everybody for this for listening today and what we’ll do is we’ll put the links in our bio as well to TCF so they know how they can get involved from around the world we have a large Pakistani community in Canada, but also a non-pakistanis can get involved just like, I think because we know that education is very important and this is something as well that we believe in that education is the way.
Foundation, you have to solve a lot of problems around the world yes, so thank you very much thank. You for all your work, okay, thank you very much, thank you, thank you. God bless you.