Sanya Pirani is a fourth grader in Minnesota who has become a dynamic fundraiser for helping marginalized people around the world. She has raised thousands of dollars for Aga Khan Foundation and is a strong voice for the Foundation’s work.

What inspires you to fundraise and volunteer?

I first got interested after seeing a girl on a Youtube video. If I remember correctly, I peeked into my mother’s office while she was watching videos of children affected by war. I saw a girl who looked younger than me, sitting on the ground in worn clothes and with sadness in her eyes. I became sad and angry, concerned for her, and ran to my room. My mother came and asked what was bothering me and I told her about the girl in the video. Was it real? I asked. “Why are some people extremely poor and others are not?”

My mother said, “God created people like you and others who are passionate about helping others.” That night I was inspired to do something big to help others. The question became, What should I do? I started googling ways to help and saw about how much could help people in other countries.

What part of the Aga Khan Foundation’s work first interested you?

Afghanistan interests me because I heard the story of the villages on both sides of the border, where the Tajikistan side had electricity and the villages on the Afghanistan side did not – they had to use firewood to stay warm. I was inspired by the way the Aga Khan Foundation worked with the company Pamir Energy to bring electricity across and get light to those villages on the Afghan side. Many stories like this inspire me to volunteer with AKF.

How have your parents contributed to your success as a volunteer?

Without my parents I would be nothing. They give me time, knowledge and resources. Let’s talk about time first – they spend a lot their time helping me understand how AKF and other institutions help marginalized people, they help introduce me to various organizations, and they take me to my various appointments. Second, about knowledge: they have helped me learn how to speak in public and to large groups. Their experience also shows me a lot about the world. Third, they help with resources, helping me buy lots of jars, fabrics and more for my charitable projects.

How has your community contributed to your success?

My friends, neighbors, the Ismaili community, teachers and family are my strength. They help me in many ways. Some of my friends are my team members who help me raise money for these projects. My teachers and school principal help by giving me a chance to speak about my project at school. Neighbors and friends at my jamat khana also help by donating to my charitable causes, and spread the word from my website and Facebook page.

Tell us about a cause or a social issue that you feel strongly about.

I actually have a mission statement. As it states, I strongly believe that every child deserves basic human rights like food, clothing, shelter, safety and education.

What would you tell other young volunteers to inspire them?

I would say, “Believe in yourself and the power of God, follow your dreams, don’t give up, and listen to your heart.
How do you hope to carry your spirit of volunteerism forward as you grow up?
My dream is to continue to help marginalized people, especially children. My biggest dream is to have my own foundation, which will collaborate with Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, and local communities.