Sonya Khan is on the leadership team of Acumen Fund’s Dubai volunteer chapter. Dubai for Acumen’s Spring Benefit successfully raised more than $10,000 for Acumen Fund. The Dubai chapter is Acumen Fund’s third official chapter and we are excited to welcome them to our Acumen Fund Partner community.
Surveying the crowd of professionals mingling at Dubai for Acumen’s first fundraising event in the heart of Dubai’s financial district, I felt a surge of satisfaction. Only a week earlier, as the volunteers made our final push for ticket sales, we weren’t sure how many people to expect for our first event. Unlike many of the other cities where Acumen Fund and its Chapters operate; in Dubai, Acumen Fund was a completely alien concept. The objective of the event was to make an impact on Dubai’s professional community and to get the word out about Acumen Fund, so numbers mattered. Volunteers had been sending out emails, making phone calls, and talking to co-workers, friends, and acquaintances for weeks in a bid to reach as many people as possible and it had clearly paid off – the Chapter ultimately sold 300 tickets. The atmosphere at the art gallery was animated; people strolled through nibbling on canapés, enjoying the accompaniments of the pianist, some still in business suits straight from the office, others glammed up for an evening out. Small groups gathered around scattered TV monitors, watching videos of various Acumen Fund projects and hearing Jacqueline Novogratz speak. Once the presentation started, the chatter quickly died down and attention turned to the informational part of the evening.
Dubai draws many people from around the world through its reputation for decadence and the lure of a more luxurious life. The informational session that evening was a call to action, daring us all not to be lulled into a life of comfortable complacency. It started out with Ankur Shah presenting the facts and figures along with real world examples of how Acumen Fund is achieving its goals, appealing to the most practical minds in the audience. He was followed by the keynote speaker for the evening Sarah Dimson, a Ghanaian-American Acumen Fellow, who iscurrently working at Ansaar Management Company, a low income housing company based in Lahore, Pakistan. Sarah challenged all of us to find a way to make a difference. She spoke passionately about how amazed she was by her experiences as an Acumen Fellow, even though it was radically different from what she had anticipated when she applied. She presented the Acumen Fellows program not only as a means through which to make positive mark on the planet, but also an avenue for personal growth.
I expected the evening to wrap up quickly after that and was pleasantly surprised to see how many people lingered on, stopping volunteers to ask questions, sharing ideas and seeking ways to get further involved. If as Voltaire says, the present is pregnant with the future, then this event will bring inspiration, growth, and energy to the Dubai for Acumen chapter.