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#Culmination: Moeen Ali named ‘Livelihood Ambassador’ for Pakistan by British Asian Trust

'Tis the season of Moeen Ali, it appears.

The England all-rounder was today named a 'Livelihood Campaigner' for Pakistan as part of the British Asian Trust.

As part of his role, Birmingham-born Ali will help raise awareness about the campaign which assists thousands of unemployed youth, women and the rural poor in Pakistan.

“Though I am born and brought up here in the UK, I have very strong links with the country of my forefathers, Pakistan", Ali said.

"I am passionate about the issues of livelihood, especially that of unemployment amongst the youth, both here and in Pakistan.  I am looking forward to raising awareness about this important issue and visit the charities chosen by the Trust to help the unemployed youth, women and rural poor in Pakistan", he added.

Ali's ambassadorship is the culmination of a successful first year at the national level for the gifted southpaw. 

As a batsman he made what was arguably the finest century of the British summer - many commentators described it as one of the greatest of all time - when he battled for eight hours to almost deny Sri Lanka victory with an elegant, chanceless and unbeaten 108 at Headingley.

Later Ali tormented India's much-vaunted batting lineup with his seemingly innocuous off-spinners whilst also piling on the runs: that despite some appalling behaviour towards him by a handful of Indian fans.   

He topped off the summer by winning the Professional Player of the Year award at the inaugural Asian Cricket Awards at Lord's.

Welcoming Ali on board, Hitan Mehta, Executive Director, British Asian Trust said, “We are delighted to have Moeen Ali as our ambassador.  He will add energy and vigour to this important campaign.”

Ali is known for his passionate views on issues.

He was chastized by some members of the cricket media after wearing 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' wristbands during the third test against England in Southampton in July when Israeli forces were pounding the Gaza Strip.

On a number of occasions, Ali also spoke eloquently about the issue of Islam in Britain and his responsibility as a devout Muslim to help breakdown misconceptions about his religion.

His ambassadorship with the BAT is a natural next step for the cricketer especially as it involves working in Pakistan.

According to a study commissioned by the Trust, a quarter of Pakistan's population lives below the national poverty line with more than half living barely a tick above it.

Public sector waste, poor governance, political turmoil combined with a raging militancy has left the Pakistani economy in tatters with many depending on foreign aid for their livelihoods - the country received nearly half a billion pounds from Britain in the last fiscal year.

Exacerbating the problem is the country's population boom.

While its South Asian neighbours have implemented effective population control policies, Pakistan's population continues to grow at two percent per annum: according to the report, the country will be the sixth most populous in the world by 2020. 

“Pakistan's growing population offers a great opportunity to spur economic growth, but that is only possible if we are able to support interventions that work within the wider context of leveraging this demographic", Mehta continues.

"By adding value to Pakistan’s infrastructure we work together to reduce endemic poverty, and begin to make a real impact on reducing that figure of 40 million living on less than $1.25 a day.”

As part of its campaign in Pakistan, the Trust will launch the Livelihood Fund with the aim of generating £1 million from individuals, corporations, trusts and foundations.

Visit www.britishasiantrust.org for more.

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#SheddingLight: Asian Charity Clarity helps British Asian donors make informed decisions

Pratik Dattani

Pratik Dattani, founder of Asian Charity Clarity (ACC), is speaking in tongues. 

Words like 'Metrics', 'Dais', 'Hypothesis' etc - the kind of words meant to give 'structure' to information - spew out as he describes ACC.

Structure is probably a useful thing for Dattani given his various jobs - the soft-spoken management consultant is also the UK Director of the Federation of Indian Chambers of  Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Managing Director of the consulting firm Economic Policy Group, among many other things.

The appropriately-named ACC is Dattani's latest venture, a digital platform resplendent with information and aimed at providing clarity for potential donors to British Asian faith and community-based charities.

British Asians are among the most generous when it comes to donating to charitable causes. 

What occurred in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami - when the Diaspora raised hundreds of millions of dollars - is testament to that generosity. 

And it's often not just for the benefit of those impacted by tectonic-plate movements.

Whether it's a posh afternoon tea at a luxury Central London hotel or a sparsely attended cricket match in the back of beyond, an overwhelming majority of community events will be raising money to send some poor child to school, build a school, put a new roof above an existing school or myriad other initiatives aimed at alleviating the suffering of those back home.

This magnanimity has, in turn, resulted in a large number of charitable organizations, ranging from behemoths such as the British Asian Trust to the one that raises funds to provide lunch packets to beggars in a particular district of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

The surfeit of charities has also meant that transparency and clarity can be elusive, particularly for second and third generation British Asians: part of an increasingly successful community with plenty of disposable income and who make far more informed choices than their parents and grandparents. 

That's where Asian Charity Clarity comes in. 

ACC measures charities according to various different metrics and assigns a rating out of 3 in areas such as Financial Health, Accountability, Transparency and Accessibility to information.

The UKAsian caught up with Dattani to find out more.

UKAsian: Why do we need clarity?  Do community-based charities have a bad reputation?

Pratik Dattani: There have been a few high-profile incidents when the money has not been used properly.  But before we started this we wanted to see whether ACC would be useful, so we did a survey of people aged between 25 and 30 and asked them questions like whether they knew where their donations were going, whether they were confident that the money would not be misused.  Surprisingly a majority of people surveyed said they thought the money was not used the way it should, while some said they had no idea and only a handful said that they were confident that the money will be utilised properly.  So there is a need for greater transparency and communication and ACC is all about facilitating that communication.  ACC gives information to donors so that they have full faith before donating.

We are very similar to a US initiative called Charity Navigator.  They do pretty much the same thing but charity reporting is more intense because they have more information.  They look at the bigger charities but ACC  looks at the community-based, grassroots-level charities as well as the larger ones.  Within the community we are a source of information for potential donors.   Small charities don’t have enough resources.  Within the community we have donors who donate and we help people to channel the money to the appropriate places.  Empowering the donors and strengthening the charities.

UKAsian: Give us an example of how ACC would work for a potential donor.

PD: If you are a young British Asian, you are probably at a stage where you are still forming your opinions, particularly about the charitable activities that you want to engage in.  If you don’t get your information at the right time, then one can’t channel one's resources to the right place.  For instance, there is a very respected charity that we scrutinized.  They have 25 trustees and began their activities a quarter century ago.  But there's no information about how the trustees are selected.  Their public submissions don't say how the trustees are trained or if they have an election process or even if the current trustees are the very best people for the job. 

If you can’t articulate what your trustee training or election or renewal  process is like going forward then it turns out that if I give £1000 to the charities then there is no guarantee that the charity will be there for five years.

UKAsian: What was the catalyst for you to set up ACC?

PD: Working in the City I had come across a lot of issues when there were trustee disputes and concerns about inefficiency.  As I came across these issues I met like-minded people encountering the same problems.  But people mostly talk about these things and never actually do anything to address the problems.  My Personal experience as well as the experience being corroborated by others drove me to this venture.

UKAsian: What does your research suggest as to who is more generous?  Second and third generation British Asians or their parents and grandparents? 

PD: The younger generation is more willing to donate but they have not strongly identified with one organisation.  They donate mostly if they have a personal understanding or experience. They develop their preferences through family experiences of charity or having being helped by a charity. The other reality is that a lot of young people these days rely on information.  The key is to provide a credible platform and people are convinced about the message.  So, when targeting young people we don’t go to temples, we go near their work place.  We organise dinners and deliver the information they want. 

UKAsian: There are hundreds of smaller charities that don't need the skill set that you talk about but have been doing amazing work in places like India and Sri Lanka and even here in the UK.  Wouldn't that mean that potential donors would look at historic performance rather than skill sets? 

PD:  Let's take another example.  At the moment we have four charities dedicated to primary education in parts of South Asia.  Let’s say there are four schools being built somewhere in India and these charities have been in existence for a decade or more.  They all have websites, and everything else.  What ACC provides is the ability for the donor to assess which of the schools have achieved the greatest impact.  You can get a clear picture and can say which will make your donation go the furthest and you can see where they have the greatest internal governance processes, because if you are investing money and in one place they have educated 100 children and in another place they have educated three we will provide the information to help you make your choice.  They both might be great projects but which is the best one for you as the donor? 

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#Triumph: Denied by Sri Lanka, booed by Indian fans, Moeen Ali caps eventful summer with top honour at Asian Cricket Awards

A British-Pakistani all-rounder who tormented the Sri Lankans and Indians during the English cricketing summer and who was subjected to abuse by some Indian fans last night won the top award at the inaugural Asian Cricket Awards in London.

Birmingham-born Moeen Ali was named Player of the Year at the event at Lord's, beating out fellow England international Ravi Bopara, Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid and Warwickshire captain Varun Chopra for the signature award.

The honour capped a fabulous summer for the 27-year-old Worcestershire cricketer who played one of the finest ever Test innings when he held off Sri Lanka's victory charge at Headingly in June only for a miraculous draw to be snatched away off the penultimate delivery of the match when non-striker James Anderson was caught out.

Later on in the summer he troubled India's much-vaunted batting line up with his seemingly innocuous off-spin and was booed and abused by Indian fans during several One Day International matches.

He also made headlines for wearing a wristband in support of Palestinians during Israel's bloody Gaza offensive in July.

After being presented with the award by another high-profile British-Pakistani, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Ali became emotional and dabbed at his eyes as he recalled his first summer in England colours. 

"I’m very happy and very proud.  It’s a great achievement to be the first person to win this award.  It has been one of those seasons where I took every day as it came.  I didn’t get too excited or too down.  I just enjoyed every single minute of it.

"I always feel I can do better. This was my first full season in international cricket and it is a stepping-stone. Hopefully I can go from strength to strength."

Ali said walking out at Lord's on Test debut against Sri Lanka had been a personal highlight of the summer.

"I wasn’t that nervous, my dad was more nervous than I was, I just enjoyed every bit of it."

Other notable winners on the night included Middlesex left-armer Ravi Patel, who won Young Player of the Year; former England all-rounder Isa Guha, who won Media Personality of the Year and Sky Sports commentator Nasser Hussain, who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Full List of winners:

Grassroots Cricket Award - Gopi Raj, founder, England Tamil Cricket League

Amateur Player of the Year - Simran Panesar, Warwickshire U-19's

Professional Young Player of the Year - Ravi Patel, Middlesex

Woman in Cricket - Salma Bi, Worcestershire

Coach of the Year - Qasim Ali, Lancashire South Asian Talent Saerch/England Physical Disability Squad)

Media Personality - Isa Guha

Behind The Scenes Award - Amjad Aziz, Vice Chairman, Birmingham Cricket League

Asian Cricket Club of the Year - London Tigers

Inspiration - Naz Khan, Chairman, Attock CC

The Founders – Lifetime Achievement Award - Nasser Hussain OBE

The Founders Special Recognition Award - Wasim Khan MBE

Professional Player of the Year - Moeen Ali


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#BFI: South Asian Cinema at the London Film Festival 2014

With nearly 250 films screening, his year's 58th BFI London Film Festival is set to be the biggest yet.  And it's a bumper year for South Asian cinema with films from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka joining features from the UK.

Here are the main highlights.  (Click on film titles for venues and timings).

Margarita, with a Straw

Based on a true-story, this compelling drama explores disability in India through the story of a young Punjabi girl suffering from cerebral palsy.  The gifted Kalki Koechlin plays the central role of Laila, a university student, writer, lyricist and musician who is confined to a wheelchair.  After winning a scholarship to New York University, Laila moves to Manhattan with her mother (played by the veteran south Indian actress and activist Revathi).  In the city that never sleeps, Laila falls in love with Sayani Gupta's fiery young activist Khanum: a love that threatens chaos for Laila and her family.  Writer, producer and director Shonali Bose is no stranger to tackling difficult subjects.  Her 2005 feature debut 'Amu' - based on her novel of the same name - was a skilfully crafted exploration of the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres in Delhi through the eyes of a young Indian American girl.  'Margarita, with a Straw' had its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month and received an extended standing ovation with some critics drawing parallels between Koechlin's performance and Daniel Day Lewis' Oscar-winning turn as cerebral palsy sufferer Christy Brown in 'My Left Foot'.

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