Chair LOC Sani Panhwar
Hilton, Long Beach, Ca
June 30 – July 3, 2017
As the new EC took over in January this year, one of the major tasks it had at its hand was the selection of the venue and making arrangements for our 33rd annual convention. The EC after considering various options, decided to hold our annual convention in Los Angeles, CA. It was a welcome decision, as it had been quite a long time since last SANA convention in the city of the angels!
SANA EC recognized the leadership quality of Sani Panhwar, an ex-president of our organization, and asked him to head the local organizing committee and help select the hotel for the convention and make other necessary arrangements. I would say that the local organizing committee and SANA EC did a marvelous job and made it possible for all the participants to enjoy the convention and their visit to Los Angeles/Long Beach, CA.
SANA conventions are usually the most popular events of our organizations and most members await eagerly to attend them. It gives the membership an opportunity to meet their friends living at distant places in USA and Canada. They also get to see some of their friends even from Sindh or other places who travel long distances just to attend this premier event of Sindhi Diaspora.
Over the years, SANA has established itself as a credible organization of Sindhis living in North America. The organization has provided a platform to Sindhis in North America to get together, to network with each other and to connect themselves as well as their children to their roots in Sindh and to the rich culture of the Indus Valley Civilization.
As the date of the convention neared, one could see the enthusiasm of SANA members. The hotel rooms secured at reduced rate for the convention were booked early on. As the demand for rooms continued, the local organizing committee made arrangements with the hotel to get more rooms for the convention participants. The hotel agreed to set aside some more rooms at a little higher than the previous special rate. It was still lower than their regular rate.
This convention had some distinctions as our president Mohammad Ali Mahar has indicated in one of his post-convention messages. They included, as he put it:
‘* As promised at the time of the election, SANA EC presented a brand-new website at the convention, backed up by a robust financial database, complete with reporting and self-service registration/account/renewal capabilities. Please visit www.sanaonline.org to see the magic yourself. You have to be a registered member to fully realize the potential of the application. The website and its corresponding database are developed by SANA treasurer Hasnain Shaikh on the base of the website created by Ms Darakhshan Memon. Registered members have the privileges to perform self-service activities and access financial and other reports online. If you are not registered at the website but are a paid member of SANA, you can register yourself and update your information using the website’s self-service functionality.
‘* For the first time, instead of a politician or a bureaucrat, an educator from the underprivileged area of Thar, Aasoo Bai Kolhi was flown in from Sindh as the main guest of SANA. SANA recognized Aasoo Bai as well as four other women for their contribution in the field of girl education in the backward and financially challenged areas of Sindh
‘* This convention saw the first ever, almost a whole day youth-specific event of Career Counseling, skillfully managed by Mansoor Qureshi and helped by Asif Soomro, Imran Soomro, Muhammad Khizr, and Komal Bhutto. The event was designed to educate the youth on resume building, interview techniques, job search, etc. Mansoor Qureshi came prepared to interview and hire successful candidates on the spot for his company.
‘* For the first time, two universities of Sindh, Sindh Madrassatul Islam, Karachi, and Institute of Business Administration, Sukkur, officially participated in a SANA convention to discuss major projects and enlighten the members about the huge progress these universities have made in the field of higher education in a short time of their existence.
‘* This was the first time ever that responsibility of arranging some of the sessions at the convention was outsourced to a professional company. SoCal Event Planners, a company owned by Shumaila Panhwar, a young member from Los Angeles, and daughter of Sani Panhwar, was tasked with arranging the convention events, especially the Family Picnic, the most successful of all events (one of the regulars at SANA conventions was heard as saying “this is the best convention so far”). Shumaila Panhwar wrote off all the company fees and expenses. Members enjoyed the event without the burden of a single penny on SANA.
‘* For the first time, convention participants were provided two formal dinners (banquet included), as well as two lunches and boxed breakfast, all covered in their registration fee.
‘* At the banquet night, an unprecedented amount of more than 100,000 dollars was pledged within half an hour of donation request, which is almost double the average amount pledged at last best occasions. … People were asked to volunteer their pledges and the money started pouring in, a major chunk of which was promised to be earmarked for girls’ education. Some of the participants, who were absent during pledges, voluntarily contacted SANA leadership via email and Whatsapp and pledged their donations. The list of pledges is available to registered member s on the website www.sanaonline.org.’
Credit for all that goes to our new EC, the local organizing committee and all the volunteers who put in their time and efforts to make this convention a memorable event for the participants. The cooperation by all the participants must also be recognized as without it nothing would have worked well, as it did.
The other thing responsible for the success of the convention, I would like to point out was the ‘event management’ skills of our friend, Dr Abdul Rahman Soomro. Although he makes some speakers mad when he reminds them to limit their presentations within the time allocated to them, it is necessary to make it possible to hold the sessions on time.
The convention hotel was in Long Beach, CA, which is at quite some distance from LAX, the Los Angeles International Airport. It was good that Sani Panhwar, through messages on Sanalist and through convention flier posted on SANA website had advised the membership about means of transport available at LAX airport to travel to the hotel.
As I arrived at the hotel on Friday morning (June, 30), I saw so many familiar faces and some friends in the hotel lobby. The hotel check in process was not bad. No lines or delays. I had arrived earlier than normal check-in time but I got my room without any delay. So did a friend of mine who had traveled with me from the airport. I met some friends in the lobby before proceeding to my room. All were joyous and already in the ‘convention mood’!
After some rest, I came to the second floor where all the convention sessions were to be held and a registration desk was set up. I got my welcome package that included the convention badge, tickets for the dinner arranged by LOC and the main banquet and other information along with a breakfast box. The welcome package also included a beautiful convention souvenir.
SANA EC-LOC meeting was scheduled that evening.
Theme for the convention this year was “Educate a Girl, Empower a Nation” (نياڻي پڙهايو، قوم سنواريو). The first event of the convention started around 8:00 p.m. when president SANA, Mohammad Ali Mahar officially declared the convention open with recitation of the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.
Second event of the convention was the ‘Literary Session’, (adabi sangat). A guest from Sindh, Maheen (Heesbani) Altaf, a TV anchor, along with Fareed Bhutto conducted the session. I knew Maheen from 2005 when she had conducted a session at our first ever SANA Sindh Convention in Karachi in December of that year.
Dr. Yasmin Ruhge, daughter of a distinguished educationist, late Madam Amena Khamisani, Agha Pir Muhammad and Dr. Mithal Vakassi spoke in the session dedicated to our Poet Laureate, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.
Dr Yasmin made a presentation about the translation of Shah Jo Risalo into English by her mother, Madam Amena Khamisani. She also talked about the area in Sindh where her family came from, brief history and some other work and contribution by her distinguished and well respected mother madam Khamisani. She donated 50 copies of the book to SANA. Sale proceeds of the book were to go to SANA fund.
It was followed by an interactive session – ‘Knowledge, Technology and emancipation of Sindhi Women’. It was participated by some guests from Sindh through video-link between SZABIST Karachi and the conference hall at the convention. The program was brainchild of Dr Mithal Waqasi. He had arranged a similar session during the last convention in Detroit too.
Dr. Mithal Vakassi, Mohammad Ali Mahar, head of IBA Sukkur Mr. Nisar Siddiqui, Dr Aijaz Turk, SANA VP (Youth) Komal Bhutto and SANA FAME Fund committee member Darakhshan Memon spoke from the convention floor while Dr. Ghazala Rahman, Ms. Mahtab Rashdi, Ms. Waheeda Mahesar, Dr. Suleman Shaikh and others spoke from the SZABIST hall.
Simultaneously ‘Duhri Night’, women’s program was held in the adjoining hall. Mrs. Surraya Panhwar and Mrs. Zeb Agha conducted that program. It was well attended by a number of women participants. Music and other fun activities were part of the program.
SANA members associated with medical profession offered free blood tests/screening in the morning of the second day of the convention on Saturday, July 1.
First session of the day was the ‘Medical Seminar’. Unfortunately, I missed that program. I was told that Dr. Hafeez Abbasi conducted the program. Dr. Sattar Shaikh, Dr. Rafat Ansari, Dr. Sabena Panhwar and Dr. Fawad Zafar made very informative presentations and answered questions from the participants. This session always gets much attention from the participants.
Another session, ‘Career Counseling’ was held concurrently in the adjoining hall. Mansoor Qureshi conducted the session. Besides him, Asif Soomro, Imran Soomro and Muhammad Khizr made valuable presentations.
After that some organizations doing excellent work in education and social sectors in Sindh gave presentations. Main speakers were Hanif Sangi and Zahid Shaikh who gave presentation on the work of Saharo Foundation and Farooq Aziz who gave presentation on Akhuwat Foundation.
Agha Zafar, head of SANA scholarships program FAME Fund committee gave power point presentation on this much appreciated SANA program. He appealed for more cooperation from the membership so that the program could be expanded.
Ali Hasan Bhutto and Dr. Amanullah Panhwar made presentation about another SANA program in Sindh under the name of SSDP (Sindh Skills Development program).
Later, a session on the ‘State of Girls’ Education in Sindh’ was held. SANA Information Secretary, Zakir Bullo conducted the session. Aasoo Bai Kolhi, Sadiqa Salahuddin (keynote speaker) and Shabnam Baloch, all from Sindh made their presentations. All sessions were followed by questions and answers. The session was very informative and presented much needed input on the status of education in Sindh with special reference to girls’ education and women empowerment.
SANA’s General Body session was held the same afternoon. SANA General Secretary, Khalid Memon conducted the session. SANA president briefly spoke at the session. All other time was devoted to a presentation by SANA Treasurer, Hasnain Shaikh, mainly on new SANA website. The new website offered many options and was much appreciated. This scribe presented SANA resolutions. It was followed by questions and answers.
Local Organizing Committee (LOC) offered lunch boxes and a delicious dinner in the evening. Youth program was held in the evening conducted by VP (Youth) Miss Komal Bhutto. Interesting skits were presented.
Adnan Hussain, a young animation professional with Hollywood experience made a presentation on an animation film he is making on the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. He said he would be using authentic music from Sindh and will get help from professional puppeteers from Rajasthan. He has already recorded the music in Sindh and seeks help for making travel arrangements for some puppeteers from Rajasthan to Los Angeles, CA, USA to finish the film. The short promo shown on the occasion and his efforts were largely appreciated.
It was followed by music by local artists and some convention participants. Maheen Altaf and SANA VP Ghulam Mohiuddin conducted the program.
Media Session: On the morning of Sunday, July 2, the first session was titled ‘Role of Media viz a vis Girls’ Education and Women Empowerment’. Information Secretary, Zakir Bullo conducted the session. Agha Pir Muhammad, Qasim Rajpar, Zulfiqar Qadri, Ashfaq Azar and Mansoor Qureshi spoke during the session.
Next event of the day was ‘SANA Forum’. New arrival in USA from Sindh, Mushtaq Rajpar conducted the session. Speakers included VC Sindh Madrassatul Islam, Karachi, Dr. Muhammad Ali Shaikh, head of the Institute of Business Administration, Sukkur, Mr. Nisar Siddiqui, Sadiqa Salahuddin, Shabnam Baloch and Ghulam Nabi Morai. The session was followed by questions and answers.
As the session concluded the buses were ready at the gate of the hotel to take the convention participants to El Dorado Park for picnic. The LOC and the event organizers had managed the whole affair very well. Much thanks to Sani Panhwar, Shumaila Panhwar, her husband Yousuf and the team of dedicated volunteers. All the participants thoroughly enjoyed the picnic. The weather was perfect and there was plenty of food, fruit, ice cream and beverages. Inflatable bouncing house was set up for the kids. Fun games between genders were played, which were of course won by the ladies. Many convention participants were seen in groups deep in kachahries. Lots of photos were taken.
I think each convention should include a day out and picnic. It provides great opportunity to unwind, relax, network, meet friends, spend some time with them and get the feel of the city wherever the convention is held. It is of great interest to youth and children. They will love to have it at every convention.
After getting back from the picnic, participants had a little time to themselves, to freshen up and get ready for the main banquet. The dinner was good with plenty of delicious food and dessert.
The dinner was followed by music program. It was conducted by Maheen Altaf and Ghulam Mohiuddin. The singers were famous artist Humaira Channa and Arshad Mahmood. They rendered some popular items enjoyed and applauded by participants. There were quite a few songs that enticed several participants to come to the dance floor and show their moves! Well, it’s not necessary that you really know how to dance. Everyone can at least move a little but it helps if you are good at it.
Taking a break during the music program, donations were solicited. Several participants pledged donations for SANA FAME Fund Scholarships program, education for girls, SSDP, and for the general SANA Fund. It was a moving moment when a guest from Sindh, Zulfiqar Qadri came to the stage and gave a hundred dollars for the fund for girls’ education. He said he is a man of meager resources. His wife had given that money to him to bring toys for their daughter but he said raising funds for girls’ education was more important cause. He had earlier donated 50 dollars for SANA Fund too. He had also brought a hundred or so Sindhi caps and ajraks that he presented to the members of SANA EC and local organizing committee and singers, musicians and some other guests.
During the break, SANA presented awards to some distinguished individuals who have made great contributions in education, health, social and other sectors. Guest from Sindh, Aasoo Bai Kolhi was presented special SANA Award for her efforts in education of girls in poverty stricken Thar area. Four other women educators from Sindh, Sadiqa Salahuddin, Humaira Bachal, Sughra Solangi and Haseena Marri were also recognized for their extra-ordinary work in the field of girls’ education in the down-trodden communities in Sindh. Dr Rafat Ansari and his wife Mrs. Zarin Ansari were given an Award for their generous donation of 15 million dollars to an American university and also for their financial and other contributions to SANA over the years. During the program, efforts and services of SANA EC, local organizing committee, that included Sani Panhwar, Irshad Kazi, Jaffer Shah, Saleem Langah, Malik Dino Shaikh and others and event managers Shumaila and her husband Yousuf were also recognized.
Pakistani Consul General in Los Angeles, CA, Mr. Abdul Jabar Memon also participated in the banquet and briefly spoke on the occasion. He emphasized improvement in education in Sindh.
SANA president made the announcement that the next convention will be held in Washington, D.C. area.
Morning of Monday, July 3 was the awakening from a beautiful dream. The time to say good-byes and make promises to meet again during the next convention.
I think the highlight of the convention was the participation of Aasoo Bai Kolhi who is running a school for girls’ education in Thar. She is making a tremendous contribution towards the education of poor girls in the most backward area in Sindh. She truly is an inspiration.
Some other things that need a mention include:
– participation of newsmen Raja Zahid Akhtar from Dallas, TX. He gave good coverage to SANA event in his newspaper Jago Times and Pakistani media including GEO, ARY, Dunya, Jang and other channels.
– participation of journalists from Sindh, Qasim Rajpar, Iqbal Mallah, Ashfaq Azar, Tanveer Nawaz and others.
– as mentioned by president SANA, the ‘gaadi nasheen’ of Bhitt Shah, Mr. Waqar Shah was to speak on Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai at the convention but he met an accident in Houston, TX and could not attend the convention.
– journalist Wusaatullah Khan could not continue his flight from Dubai onward due to some reasons and missed the convention.
– there were stalls for dresses and jewelry in the hallways for interested convention participants.
– plenty of water, tea and coffee available outside the conference rooms.
– the convention gave a look of a little Sindhi village in the midst of Long Beach, CA providing an opportunity to the convention participants to be close to the rich Sindhi culture at least for a few days.
Thanks to SANA EC, LOC, event organizers and all the volunteers for a job well done! Thanks also to all the participants for their cooperation to make the convention a success. It is our North American Sindhi community’s love for Sindh, Sindhi people and Sindhi language and culture that keeps the fire on! Keep it up, friends! See you all next year in Washington, D. C.