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Children play with everyday food items as they learn about the world in which they live, at the National Council Sparks Early Childhood Development Program in Kabul.

Sparks Academy in Kabul is a catalyst for community development and learning opportunities for people of all ages. When Tahmina Shayan began volunteering with a community-based early childhood development programme of the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan that was supported by the school, she discovered new opportunities for herself and an avenue to make a difference in the lives of other young Afghans.

The Mayor of Argenteuil, Philippe Doucet, and the Deputy Mayor take part in the opening of a new business by two Ismaili families, who received advice and support through a programme organised by the Aga Khan Economic Planning Board for France.

A global economic downturn is hitting hard in many parts of the world, making it difficult to find jobs and risky to invest in new business opportunities. But in France, the Aga Khan Economic Planning Board has been on a mission to improve employability and enhance professional opportunities for the Jamat, and its early efforts have met success.

A counselor helps participants tie-die shirts during a self-expression activity at an Ismaili summer camp.

Each year, many Ismaili youth from all over North America spend their summers at camps organised by the Jamati institutions. They learn about the importance of being responsible members of the society, compete at various sports and games and take on leadership roles – all while growing, discovering, playing, and making friends.

Nasim Devji is presented with “CEO of the Year” at the Capital Markets Awards 2011.

Nasim Devji is the Group CEO and Managing Director of Diamond Trust Bank, Kenya – an affiliate of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development – and the first woman in the Kenyan banking industry to hold that office. She has garnered numerous career recognitions, including being named Leading African Woman in Business in 2010. Yasmin Madhani recently spoke with her.

Danial Asaria plays an intense game at a national US chess championship.

Research shows that children who play chess cultivate good habits that benefit them academically and socially. Danial Asaria is a young chess champion from California who has won several local and national awards. His parents discuss how teaching their son chess has helped him to sharpen his focus, improved his analytical abilities and develop other important skills.

The Tajik students together with Les Wilkins, the Head of the Junior School, dressed in traditional Pamiri outfits for the Junior School Assembly celebrating Navroz.

Thousands of kilometres from Khorog, on the other side of the vast Indian Ocean, is the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa. Eight Tajik students were recently given the opportunity to attend the residential school, and are are now benefiting from a multicultural student body, experienced educators and state-of-the-art facilities.

His Excellency President Paul Kagame of Rwanda joined members of the Nkabom Steering Committee, including Naveed Somani (far left), for consultation.

In May 2010, Naveed Somani was named to the Steering Committee for the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Nkabom International Youth Leadership Programme. Focused on equipping young people with conflict resolution skills, the programme took him to Rwanda where he witnessed the legacy of a national conflict and its resolution. He shares his impressions and experiences.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi rides the new Route 100 bus that connects downtown Calgary directly to the airport.

In 2010, 38-year-old Naheed Nenshi made history when he became the first Muslim mayor of the City of Calgary in Canada. In a recent interview, Mayor Nenshi shared his thoughts on pluralism in civil society, community-building and his vision for women, young people, and the Ismaili community.

Champion debaters Iqbal Kassam, Shakir Rahim and Shama Barday argue that debating has improved their self-confidence, built their knowledge on a large variety of subjects, and equipped them with valuable tools for the future.

Good debaters are not only eloquent speakers but also quick thinkers who can mould, evolve and expand a concept in order to challenge their opponent. Three North American Ismailis with a record of outshining the competition in the debating arena at state, provincial, national, and international levels, describe how the ability to intelligently dispute an argument has helped them succeed in other aspects of their lives.

There is near universal scientific consensus that the loading of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases is causing increased global warming and associated climate change, argues Abyd Karmali. Fortunately, he notes, several countries are putting in place policies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, which are resulting substantial new economic opportunities.

Mass media plays a crucial role in forming and capturing public opinion, and in shaping the perceptions of society at large. As more Ismailis emerge into the global media scene, a few from North America share insights into the responsibilities and challenges that are integral to their work.

A number of Ismaili women are courageously taking the initiative to pave the way for the empowerment of the underprivileged, of which women and girls constitute a substantial portion.

A number of Ismaili women have devoted their careers to elevating the status of women – particularly those who are disadvantaged – by improving the quality of their lives and those amongst whom they live in communities across the globe. By leveraging their own potential and fulfilling a desire to make a difference, they are providing inspiration for others to follow their lead.

In the absence of electricity, students in a primary school classroom have to study using kerosene lamps.

Using mini solar-powered electric grids, Naeem Mawji – a determined Canadian Ismaili student and entrepreneur – has provided the villagers of Masurura, Tanzania access to both electricity and hope. Now he aims to transform the country’s economy by increasing access to electricity for other villages in the region.

Shirin Keshvani shooting a scene from “Dream School”.

Shirin Keshvani was a toddler when she first took to the stage. At age four, she was selected to emcee the official opening of her nursery school. In November, the 12-year-old made her television acting debut on Singapore’s Okto TV Channel in Dream School.

In “Outsourced”, Rizwan Manji plays the part of Rajiv Gidwani, an ambitious and conniving assistant manager of a call centre in India.

Rizwan Manji, an Ismaili Muslim actor from Toronto, plays the part of Rajiv in the hit comedy TV series Outsourced. The show, which features a cast of South Asian actors premiered this fall on NBC to critical acclaim, and has garnered worldwide attention and publicity.

Puffins breed in large colonies on coastal cliffs and islands. Together with other seabirds, they are threatened by habitat destruction due to climate change and pollution.

A group of proactive Ismailis are applying their innovative prowess to counter the spectre of climate change and ecological devastation. Inspired by Islam’s ethic of caring for the environment, they are doing their part to preserve and safeguard nature’s precious resources in order to sustain social and economic development.

Created under a public-private partnership between the Government of Mali and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the 103-hectare National Park of Mali creates a permanent green space in one of the fastest growing cities in Africa.

The Aga Khan Development Network’s involvement in West Africa began some 40 years ago, and has included investments in people, culture and enterprise. Last month, Mawlana Hazar Imam joined the President and people of Mali in marking the 50th anniversary of their independence, and inaugurated a National Park developed by AKTC as part of the occasion. Salima Chitalia reviews AKDN’s development efforts in the country.

In Primary Two, Hoopoe, the bird of wisdom, takes children on a journey into the past. Here Hoopoe introduces the Fatimid city of Cairo.

Two decades after the introduction of the Ta‘lim curriculum, primary teacher education programmes have increased the effectiveness of teaching and learning at Ismaili religious education centres. Through a modern approach to education, children learn about Islam both as a faith and through its role in shaping Muslim civilisations.

Little toddlers meet and make friends on the first day of school.

Numerous studies have shown that proper care in the early years of childhood is essential to academic success. Birth to age six is a time of intense brain development; therefore, choosing a quality child care programme that caters to the child’s developmental needs should be a top priority for parents.