Interview by Sierra Winston, ChildFund Communications Intern
In our 75-post series in honor of ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we’re talking with several of our national directors who oversee operations in the countries where we work in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Rukhsana Ayyub, national director for our U.S. Program, has been with ChildFund since March 2010 and is based in Memphis, Tenn.
Where did you work before ChildFund?
I worked with CARE International and was posted in Pakistan, Thailand and Bangladesh. Before that, I worked for many years in the field of addiction in New York.
What is your favorite thing about working at ChildFund?
ChildFund’s approach of making a long-term commitment to each child, knowing that change does not happen overnight.
What successes have you had in your national office?
The Area Strategic Plans developed in each of our program areas in the U.S. are a major accomplishment. We have successfully conducted the ASPs in Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Dakota and are completing one in Texas. These plans were developed through extensive community consultations, which allowed us to hear the community’s voices and their needs and aspirations for the future. Cultural and family restoration emerged as strong needs of communities in Mississippi and South Dakota.
Rukhsana with three children enrolled in a ChildFund program in Mississippi.
What motivates you in life?
Throughout my life, I have admired people who do not accept injustice and inequality but are willing to make a change, not waiting for someone to come and rescue them but in their own small or big way are making an effort. I continue to seek such change- makers in my work, my circle of friends and in my selection of readings.
In my current work with ChildFund, as I travel through some of the most poverty-affected areas in the U.S., I have had the good luck of witnessing many emerging leaders among the youth and children. There is a young girl in Mississippi whose only family member was just arrested and imprisoned, yet she comes and volunteers at a program for children to teach them reading. Witnessing her strength gives me hope and motivates me.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to read. My work with ChildFund has expanded my understanding of some unique and special ethnic populations in United States. In my spare time, I continue to read books written by and about Native Americans and African Americans.
I am a good knitter and have been knitting shawls, hats and scarves, which I usually donate to friends, neighbors and children’s hospitals. This year I was blessed with a grandchild, Sophia, so now I am enjoying knitting for her.
A drawing by a child in our U.S. program.
Who is your role model?
It is difficult to come up with one name; I have been blessed from an early age to have been exposed to the words and examples of some very special people from around the world. At various stages in my life, I have been affected by the words and deeds of some exemplary leaders and poets: Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Rabindranath Tagore, Martin Luther King Jr., Rumi and the Dalai Lama are a few that come to mind.
And then, of course, my work allows me to see people living under very difficult circumstances and overcoming challenges and making a difference. They are role models too and give me the opportunity to learn and derive strength from them.
What is a quote, saying or belief that you live by?
Two come to mind: Let there be change in the world, and let it begin with me.
The second one is in Urdu, a verse by Iqbal:
Tundiay baday mukhalif say na gabhra ai uqab.
Yeh to chalti hai tujhe uncha uranay kay liya.
Do not be afraid of the strong winds, o eagle.
The winds blow so strong so that you may fly even higher.