Welcome Mahnaz Ishaq

Welcome Mahnaz Ishaq

Mahnaz Ishaq is a Director Public Relations at Precision Diagnostics. She holds a Bachelor degree of Science and Liberal Arts and has many years of management experience in legal and real estate industries. She is married with 2 grown sons. She is a philanthropist and passionate about Sonia’s mission of educating and empowering underprivileged girls. She has been supporting, advising and volunteering for Sonia Shah Organization for over 8 years. She supervises the operations and running of Sonia Shah School in Kangra Pakistan. 

 

During the current visit, she overviewed the new school building of Sonia Shah School and met with different students and teachers of the school.

Happy Birthday Sonia

Happy Birthday Sonia

The students and faculty members commemorate Sonia’s birthday on December 24. As we observe this occasion, we reflect on the profound impact she has had on numerous girls and women throughout her life—a positive influence that persists even beyond her passing. Sonia’s legacy is one of transformative influence, as she played a key role in changing the lives of individuals, exemplifying the commitment to effecting positive change on a global scale, one girl at a time.

Growing Together: Greening Our Campus with Tree Plantation Day

Growing Together: Greening Our Campus with Tree Plantation Day

Sonia Shah School has curated an engaging and educational experience tailored to the developmental abilities and interests of its students. While students are not directly handling tree saplings, they are actively participating in seed planting activities. By providing them with manageable seeds, pots, and soil, this hands-on experience serves as a foundation for comprehending the fundamental concepts of planting and nurturing life. Such activities play a pivotal role in fostering an understanding of the significance of plants and trees and their contributions to maintaining a clean atmosphere on Earth. In light of the ongoing global climate warming crisis, Sonia Shah School is committed to educating its students on their role in addressing environmental concerns and contributing to a cleaner and greener environment for all.

Annual Examination in SSO

Annual Examination in SSO

The annual examination at Sonia Shah School has begun.This annual assessment represents the culmination of the students’ efforts and learning experiences throughout the academic year. The examination process is thorough, covering a wide range of subjects and topics, and it is designed to evaluate not only the students’ knowledge but also their critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and overall academic growth. This comprehensive approach to assessment aligns with Sonia Shah School’s commitment to providing a well-rounded education that goes beyond rote memorization.

GALA Event 2023

GALA Event 2023

We are absolutely brimming with gratitude, and finding the right words to convey it feels like an impossible task.


In a single room, we gather together, united by a singular mission.


Our purpose? To Engage, Educate, and Empower, with the unwavering aim of transforming the world, one individual at a time.


The outpouring of support for the Sonia Shah Organization leaves us humbled and deeply touched. Whether you extended your generosity through a donation, graced us with your presence at our Gala, or became a proud owner of a live or silent auction item, it is YOU who has propelled us towards our aspirations, enabling us to work relentlessly towards our mission of enhancing lives for all.


As we revel in the resounding success of our fundraising endeavors, it’s only fitting that we also extend our heartfelt appreciation to those working diligently behind the scenes. The months and days leading up to an event such as this are filled with countless hours of dedication and labor.


It is during those very days and hours that we are reminded, once more, of the indomitable spirit of the individuals who breathe life into SSO’s mission day in and day out.


We are overjoyed to have your unwavering and steadfast support as we journey together towards making a positive impact on the lives we touch.

Iram Shah - President SSO

Uniform Distribution Day

Uniform Distribution Day

The Sonia Shah Organization arranged free uniforms and school bags for students. Most of the students who study in our schools belong to poor and underprivileged families. They cannot simply afford to spend their expenses to educate their children, especially females. Sonia Shah Organizations completely understands the difficulties of parents and families and tries to support them in every way possible. In this regard, an event was organized to distribute school uniforms and bags to deserving students.

Learning through Play

Learning through Play

Sonia Shah Organization believes in modern techniques adopted by finest schools around the world. “Learning through play” is a pedagogical approach that recognizes the inherent value of play in a child’s development and education. It’s a concept that has gained widespread recognition and acceptance in early childhood education and beyond.

Play-based learning emphasizes hands-on, interactive experiences where children actively engage with their environment and materials. This can include activities such as building with blocks, manipulating playdough, or exploring nature. Play naturally taps into a child’s intrinsic motivation. When children are engaged in activities they find enjoyable and interesting, they are more likely to be curious, persistent, and eager to learn.

Vocational Training Center

Vocational Training Center

The Sonia Shah School in Kangra is not just a place of education; it’s also a beacon of hope and empowerment for underprivileged women in the community. Beyond offering traditional academic subjects, it serves as a vocational center where these women can acquire practical skills in sewing. This initiative is a remarkable example of how education can transcend traditional boundaries and empower individuals to transform their lives.

The sewing program at the Sonia Shah School is designed to provide valuable skills that can enable women to become more self-sufficient. Many of these women face financial hardships and may lack access to opportunities for meaningful employment. Learning how to sew not only equips them with a valuable trade but also boosts their self-confidence and independence.

The act of sewing on a piece of paper may seem symbolic, but it represents the initial steps these women take towards mastering this craft. With determination and practice, they can progress to sewing on fabric, creating clothing, and even launching their small businesses. The vocational training not only enhances their employability but also instills a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

The Sonia Shah Organization’s commitment to empowering women of all ages is truly commendable. By offering education and vocational training, it creates a ripple effect of positive change within the community. As these women gain skills and become more self-reliant, they are better equipped to provide for their families, break free from cycles of poverty, and serve as role models for future generations.

The Sonia Shah School in Kangra is a shining example of how education and vocational training can create opportunities for underprivileged women, giving them the tools they need to build better lives and brighter futures. Through its efforts, it not only imparts knowledge but also instills hope and fosters a sense of community empowerment.

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Mr. Zahir Lavji is director of ZL Advisory LLC, a consulting service to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical-devices industries, primarily focused on commercialization. He also mentors healthcare start-up companies, entrepreneurs, university technology-transfer offices, and medical faculty. Having grown up in Africa and managed businesses globally for more than 30 years, Zahir is keenly aware of the important role education plays in personal and social mobility.

In 1972, Zahir left Uganda as a refugee during the mass exodus and emigrated to Canada where he established his new roots. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmacology from the University of Toronto, and his MBA from the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University, in Ontario, Canada.

He spent much of his professional career with Abbott Laboratories, an Illinois-based healthcare-innovation corporation working in more than 150 countries, from which he retired as vice president for international marketing. His career included commercializing billion-dollar pharmaceuticals and glucose-monitoring, medical-nutrition and critical-care devices. As regional director for Abbott in Central and Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, he successfully integrated the Knoll acquisition into single Abbott entities. And as president of Abbot Japan, where he spent eight years, he also managed business alliances with major Japanese pharmaceutical companies.

He devotes considerable time and expertise to mentoring healthcare startups from the Chicago Innovation Mentors group; chairs the Supervisory Board of Temple Therapeutics a development stage Biotechnology startup; is an active investor with Hyde Park Angels; is a Consultant with Breuer Partners & Company, a healthcare consulting organization; serves on the review committee for the University of Chicago’s Innovation Fund at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; and is a panelist for PROPEL-Sikich Investment Banking’s private workshop series.

In addition to pro-bono work in his field, his charitable activities include assisting the Aga Khan Foundation in the Midwest and serving as a standing member of the Alzheimer’s Association Chicago Rita Hayworth Gala.

He lives in Lake Forest, Ill., with his wife Rozmin and daughter Safina.

Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson is a humanitarian and girls’ education advocate. He is the co-founder of Central Asia Institute (CAI), an international NGO that established hundreds of schools, especially for girls, in remote and often volatile regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. He co-authored three New York Times bestsellers about his experiences, Three Cups of TeaStones into Schools and Listen to the Wind. Mortenson grew up with three sisters on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where his parents helped start a medical teaching hospital and an international school. The family returned to Minnesota in 1973, where Mortenson finished high school. He then served in the U.S. Army in Germany; studied at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., on a football scholarship; and graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983 with degrees in liberal studies and nursing. For a decade he worked as a trauma nurse, putting in extra shifts to save money for mountaineering expeditions.

The sudden death of his sister Christa from epilepsy led him to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, in her memory. His experiences there changed his life, prompting the creation of CAI and his enduring vision to promote girls’ education around the world. Mortenson left CAI in 2016, but continues to advocate girls’ and women’s empowerment. He says, “You can drop bombs, build roads or put in electricity, but until girls are educated, a society won’t change.”

He has received many accolades for his work, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service and the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan) medal, and honorary degrees from 16 universities.

He lives in Bozeman, Mont., with his wife Tara Bishop, daughter Amira and son Khyber.

Dr. Sairah Alvi is a scientist, lecturer and philanthropist with a passion for the written word. With a PhD in hematology/oncology and extensive post-doctoral work, she works as a consultant for large pharmaceutical companies and an adjunct faculty member at International Islamic University and Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan and Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan.

Sairah’s first love, however, is Urdu literature. She is director of the Urdu Institute of Chicago, which promotes Urdu language and literature, and an ambassador for Pakistan’s National Book Foundation, organizing events at her home for writers, poets and musicians from Southeast Asia and the United States.

She was educated and has lived and worked in the United States, South Africa, England, and Pakistan. Her husband is an English South African physician and chairman of pathology at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.

Sairah earned her master’s degree in global management from London School of Economics, two masters’ of science degrees in immunology and molecular genetics from the University of Cincinnati, and a PhD in hematology/oncology from Rush University in Chicago. She did her post-doctoral work at the University of Cape Town and the South African Institute of Medical Research in Johannesburg.

She has published over 100 original articles in peer-reviewed cancer journals, and continues to lecture extensively at various universities, medical centers and scientific conferences.

Sairah hosts most SSO board meetings at her home and plays a key role in organizing annual fundraisers, SSO-related events in Pakistan, and visits to Sonia Shah Memorial School in Kangra. Her other charitable activities include support for the ARCS Foundation, dedicated to advancing women in science and technology; and HDF and TCF, which build schools and health centers in Pakistan. She is a member of Good Samaritan’s Festival Committee and her family supports numerous arts and cultural organization in Chicago, including the Chicago Art Institute and Goodman Theatre.

She lives in Oakbrook, Ill., with her husband. They have three children: her oldest daughter is a physician; her son studies economics and international relations at University of St Andrews in Scotland; and her youngest daughter is in high school and aspires to be a lawyer. 

Ms. Iram Shah is a humanitarian and global corporate executive with a career across multiple industries and countries. A senior vice president at Schneider Electric, a global leader in energy management and automation, she also runs the Sonia Shah Organization, started by her late daughter, which focuses on educating and empowering underprivileged girls.

Iram’s corporate career of more than two decades spans numerous Fortune 500 companies — including Schneider, Gatorade, Coca Cola, BP, and Zurich Financial — in five countries in industries ranging from oil and gas to financial services and manufacturing. 

She has served on several nonprofit organization boards, including Seeds of Peace, Central Asia Institute, Schneider Foundation and Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity. She is passionate about girls’ education and women’s empowerment and has been thought leader and keynote speaker at national and international women’s forums. 

Iram earned a master’s degree in business administration from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advanced General-Management Program. She was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the UK in 2005one of 11 top international Woman Leaders in Chicagoland by Chicago Women magazine in 2017; received the chancellor’s excellence award from Chicago’s East-West University in 2017.

She lives in Deerfield, Ill., with her husband Mahmood, two sons, and her mother.

Gianni and Giavanna Geati are 11-year-old twins in sixth grade at St. James School in Arlington Heights. Gianni plays basketball and soccer, as well as being a percussionist in the school band. And Giavanna, also a musician, plays piano and percussion in the school band. She also enjoys cooking and sewing. 

A year ago, when Gianni Geati was in fifth grade at Saint James School in Arlington Heights, Ill., his teacher assigned him and his classmates to each “write a news story out someone you know who has done a good deed or performed an act of kindness.” Coincidentally, Gianni, then 10 years old, had just heard about Sonia from his sisters — Giuliana, Liliana and Giavanna. They had just attended SSO’s 2016 fundraising event. 

“When [my sister] told me all about it, I was very inspired about all the things Sonia Shah did,” he said. “The next day in religion class I had to write about somebody who inspired me.”

Here’s what he wrote: 

“This girl, Sonia Shah, went to Pakistan and built a school for girls. In the past, only boys were allowed in school. Sonia helped many other girls go and get their education. She was only 17 years old when she raised money and made the plan to build a school. Unfortunately, Sonia died in a car crash. Her mother then founded the Sonia Shah Foundation.”

In an appearance onstage at SSO’s 2017 fundraiser in Chicago, Gianni explained, “I chose to write about Sonia Shah because I have three sisters and I think it’s very important for girls to get education.” 

Shayaan Alvi Borok,16, lives in Oak Brook, Ill., and attends Hinsdale Central High School. “My mom is one of the board members, so she told me about the organization and I wanted to get involved,” Shayaan said. “I support Sonia Shah Organization because it is truly trying to make a difference in Pakistan, a place that I have a strong connection to. I am also a woman and undoubtedly believe that all girls deserve a quality education.”

Shahzmeen Hussain, 22, graduated in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois-Champaign- Urbana, and now lives at home with her family in Skokie, IL.

“I came across Sonia Shah Organization at a dinner gathering over a year ago, where Iram shared the compelling story of Sonia’s sincere vision and goals for the children of Pakistan,” she said. “I come from a family that is dedicated to primary, secondary and higher education, so it was a no-brainer for me to become an ambassador for Sonia’s dream.

“It is true what they say, ‘If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.’ That change begins here, with us at SSO, and I’m proud to be able to improve the lives of children across the globe,” she said. 

Mehreen Zakeri, 31, immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in February 2017 and now lives in Chicago with her husband. Prior to her move, she worked at the Oil Marketing Company in Karachi, Pakistan. Her decision to volunteer for SSO was sparked by her experience at the organization’s 2017 fundraiser in Chicago.

“During the event, I got to listen to one of Sonia’s letters,” she said. “It touched my heart, and her passion towards girls’ education inspired me to contribute towards this cause. I believe, as I quote John Dewey, an American educational reformer, ‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.’ Hence, education is the basic right of each child and specifically, an educated girl equals to an educated generation. So, this revolution is so powerful that being a part of it is an honor in itself.”

Enxhi (Angie) Uzeir, 22, studies biology at East-West University in Chicago, and is one of two current SSO scholarship students.

I support SSO for the reasons of enabling me to achieve goals that might otherwise be impossible,” Angie explained. “Through it I became the first person in my family to be able to attend college and follow my dreams.” 

When Rory McKee, a fifth-grader in Evanston, Ill., first heard Iram Shah speaking on the radio, she was stunned to learn that there are places in the world where girls can’t go to school.

“The radio person said there was someplace in Pakistan where girls don’t get to go to school because [their families] need help running the house and doing chores, so they choose their daughters to do that,” she said. That made her mad. “Girls should go to school because boys and girls are the same. Neither one is better. They should both go to school.”

Guided by her mom, Rory went to the Internet to learn more about how Iram’s daughter Sonia had started a girls’ school in a rural Pakistani village

“Sonia’s relatives live in Pakistan, and she visited them and was moved by meeting girls there that didn’t go to school,” Rory said. “[Sonia] wanted to do something about it. And I thought, there are a lot of people at my school. I could do something there. I wanted to get more money so more girls could go to school.”

So she did. Then a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School in Evanston, she raised $200 for the Sonia Shah Organization (SSO). She said she wanted to tell these girls “that other people in the world care about them, their education.”

Zuleyma Cordero, 25, is a Sonia Shah Scholarship Program recipient, attending Harper Community College in Palatine, Ill. and on track to graduate in spring 2018 with a double major in accounting and business. She also works full-time and volunteers for SSO.

The first person in her family to go to college, she has said that Sonia’s legacy provides constant motivation, she added.

I think of what a great inspiration Sonia was and still is to this day,” Zuleyma said. “I like to reflect on how she is changing lives of young girls, including myself. And that it all started with the passion she had, and with the idea of making history. She didn’t give up at the sight of any difficulty, she pressed forward to achieve her goal.”

Zuleyma’s volunteer work includes help with fundraising campaigns and events.