People and prosperity

My big break: ‘no’ is not in my dictionary

How education visionary Shabina Mustafa persuaded parents and benefactors to support her school-in-a-garage project

Company snapshot

How it all began

The Garage School is actually my late husband’s – Flight Lieutenant Syed Safi Mustafa – dream. It’s a tribute to him and his memory. He was convinced that a good education leads to better opportunities in life, and wanted to give underprivileged children the chance to change their destiny. His dream became a reality in November 1999 when a young girl I knew, Somia, eager to learn and change her destiny was denied admission into a school just because she was not fortunate enough to read or write. Luckily, the word ‘no’ is not in my dictionary. I felt a deep urge to help her, and The Garage School was born. I started teaching 14 children from my community in my garage. That was the beginning of the journey and we have not looked back since. Today, we teach 550 underprivileged children in Karachi.

My toughest lesson

I was not prepared for how popular the school would become. More and more parents brought their children to attend as they thought the school was as an ideal opportunity to keep their children off the streets. A few years later, my garage was no longer big enough to accommodate our student numbers and pressure from parents about the lack of space was mounting. I realised it was time to rent a space and found one in Karachi’s Neelum Colony. Suddenly, with the bigger space, I could fulfill our aim of becoming a hub for academic training, medical treatment and social well-being for the underprivileged communities in the surrounding area.

Finding funding

The first year was tough on finances. I was funding the school completely on my own. I opened my first account with Standard Chartered, with just a few thousand rupees. When awareness about my project grew after the first year and student numbers increased, I convinced personal and professional contacts that the school was a worthy cause and slowly but gradually procured funding, which in turn let me set up additional classes and employ more teachers. Eventually, as the project kept growing, we partnered with Standard Chartered to open a Trust account, making it easier for us to pool our funding and manage the day-to-day costs of running the school.

I owe my success to

My late husband. I started the school to honour his dream of providing underprivileged children with a great education. I also owe my success to the families and friends who gave me a chance, especially in the first year, to the children who worked so hard to learn and have gone on to achieve great things, and to Standard Chartered for being a supportive financial partner.

Standard Chartered has been providing business banking services to The Garage School since 2006.

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