If you were to meet the Rajan family of Winter Park, you would immediately be impressed. Certainly, they evoke poise, intellect and charm. However, what you would see shine through more than those qualities is generosity.
Each of the four family members, Arif, Gulzar, Nausheen, 19, and Alisha, 15, exude a remarkably generous spirit; certainly, in part, attributed to the family’s focus on serving together in our community.
Their generous nature is expressed in the usual form of giving of funds, time and resources. However, the kind of generosity that elicits the title of “generous spirit” truly revolves around those whose hearts are filled with love and a willingness to offer that outwardly to humankind. The Rajans are generous in words, acts and spirit.
Gratitude to the Community
Part of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community in Orlando, the Rajan family spends a lot of their time volunteering at the family’s community center, which is closely linked to the Aga Khan Foundation. Gulzar and Alisha participate annually in The Partnership Walk, an initiative to raise awareness and funds for disadvantaged communities in developing countries.
Arif’s business takes him to extended travels around the globe and older sister Nausheen attends American University in Washington, D.C. but that does not deter Alisha and her mom, Gulzar, from giving to their community. “Volunteering at our community center is extremely important to both me and my mom because it allows us the opportunity to give back to a community that has not only instilled beliefs within us that are integral to our identity today, but has also offered us a sense of belonging over the years. Both my mom and I have grown up being a part of our community, and we want to reciprocate our gratitude to a community that has always supported us,” says Alisha.
The ladies can often be found, side-by-side, volunteering with many local organizations such as Give Kids the World and Girls Scouts of Citrus Council. “No matter how simple or challenging the task may be, working side by side as mother and daughter brings great joy to both of us. It makes us closer by building a positive relationship based on important values. It gives us the opportunity to give everything we have to offer,” says Gulzar.
Balancing School With Philanthropy
Always encouraging, Gulzar verbalizes her passion to giving back to society and, what’s more, teaching her daughters the importance of giving back. Her lessons and passion have proven to hold impact with both young ladies.
Nausheen, currently a sophomore in college, volunteers the miniscule free time a college student has by teaching classes at her religious place. She previously ran an underprivileged Girl Scout troop in D.C. too. Alisha mentors younger Girl Scouts in Orlando, tutors students at her school, and is an active member of National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta, participating in global action projects through her different club experiences.
Beyond working together in global-action initiatives, the Rajans spend time talking as a family about world events, struggling communities, and the importance of compassion. “The exposure we earn from assisting these organizations is invaluable because it offers an eye-opening perspective about the world and gives us a sense of appreciation of our circumstances,” Alisha explains.
Certainly busy with a heavy load in her sophomore year at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Alisha encounters moments when her time is less than available, even for serving. “But then I think, I know how important it is to help those who need it. I know that I have the ability to help others, and it would be ungrateful of me to not share what I can with those who need it. I just have to work really hard to fit it all in. But it’s important, so I do.”
Alisha has been volunteering regularly with her family since she was nine years old. She values the importance of helping others and enjoys giving back to the others with her family. Gulzar and her husband chose to volunteer with their children as a way to exemplify the values they hope to instill in their daughters. “Our kids are always watching what we are doing, so we would like to present a positive example of how we manage our time. One way to show them is through volunteering, which teaches us how to deal with people and different situations; how to be compassionate, humble, giving, caring, and empathetic towards others,” says Gulzar.
Beyond family relationships, Alisha recognizes another bonus to serving. Her insight reveals the amazing life-long relationships she’s been afforded through her family’s philanthropic efforts. “Working alongside other volunteers, we invest our time and effort because we understand the beneficial impact it can have as a whole. The ability to work communally and the desire to help others stems from our time as volunteers,” she explains.
Alisha appreciates how volunteering as a family continues to build her family support system and encourages their family values. Serving together helps them grow personally, intellectually and collectively. “We realize that every deed we do can benefit somebody, even the little things – the smile of an elder when you hold her hand as she gathers her belongings, or the sigh of relief a child exhales when you offer him water –everything matters. There is nothing more rewarding than making a significant difference in someone’s life, and that feeling of satisfaction we attain from it is unparalleled.”