Small Business Stories - Kashmir Family Aid
One entrepreneur is making a difference half a world away
Susan Wilson Solovic: Hello everyone thanks for joining us today for this featured advisor series. Today’s program is very special and unique. We’re talking with Sam Carpenter who was one of our featured advisors. He is an entrepreneur and an author and he certainly shared a lot of great advice with us.
But today, we’re going to be talking about something that is very near and dear to Sam’s heart and really truly tugged at my heart strings I had to say. And Sam like many entrepreneurs who are successful giving back to their communities, making a difference in the world is truly important and that is something Sam is courageously doing not for profit you’ve started. You called it Kashmir Famiy Aid Program, and Sam I mean first of all congratulations to you and I really admire what you are doing. But tell us a little bit about what Kashmir Family Aid is and then how you got started.
Sam Carpenter: Okay, Kashmir Family Aid is dedicated toward secular education for children in Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. So the way I begun was I had some business dealing with some folks in Pakistan stretching back to 2003. And it had to do with my call center CenterTel. That relationship ended, however, I remained friends with those folks and I had developed some other friends and we had the earthquake at Azad Kashmir and in northern Pakistan in October 2005. Lots of children died in that and the construction of the homes and the schools were very important and the kids had just sat down to school on a Saturday morning. They go to school on Saturday over there, and a little bit after 9:00 the earthquake came and the buildings came crushing down. It was an awful situation.
A lot of adults died. It was a tremendously violent earthquake. And I had broken off this relationship with these fellows over there, however, when the earthquake happened I jumped on a plane and went over. And I spent three weeks on the ground at the epicenter of the earthquake was at Azad Kashmir helping people. And from that visit we formed this organization called Kashmir Family Aid to assist in rebuilding the schools and providing secular education as opposed to sometimes fundamentalist madrasas in the area.
Susan Wilson Solovic: And by that you mean more religious schooling as opposed to the basics when you talk about self secular schooling, you are talking about the reading, writing and arithmetic those kinds of things?
Sam Carpenter: Right. Many of your viewers will know Greg Mortenson. There’s a book that the author is David Relin, it’s called “Three Cups of Tea” and it talks about Greg’s effort to create schools over in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The truth of the matter is there are something like 10,000 fundamentalist Islamic madrasas and that’s fine but a certain percentage of them are radical and the kids grow up with not a lot of skills for the world as it is outside of the area. And what we do is we provide schools that teach reading, writing and arithmetic to these kids and there are so many of them. The average family over there is five or six kids. But what a better way if you believe there’s a war on terror, you believe there are problems and misunderstandings between the east and the west then what a more wonderful way to go into the area and provide these kids with an education that allows them to have some personal powers as they get out of school.
Susan Wilson Solovic: And you know we’ve talked obviously in previous segments about your book Work the System and you talk about getting to the cause, the underlying problems in your business that’s actually what you’re doing there. I mean your education is the foundation for so many people’s lives in order to make decisions of their own.
Sam Carpenter: Exactly! These are the kids growing up into either Jihadist or into people who will contribute to their communities and what a better way for an American or Westerner to do something, actually do something about the problems that we have between east and west and if you want to call it a war on terror that’s fine. But here’s something somebody can actually do.
And we’re looking for corporate sponsors, we can build a school for 200 kids for $25,000.00 and then we can run that school for a $1000.00 a month. These teachers make $60.00 to $80.00 a month that’s the typical wage. The kids, some of them can’t come up with the equivalent of $0.50 a month to make their tuition. So we go in there and we get a tremendous bang for the book and we’re looking for corporate people who would like to actually go over there and see what its like on the ground. How many people do you know that have been to Pakistan?
Susan Wilson Solovic: Right, I think you’re the first person I’ve met Sam.
Sam Carpenter: Right. And we go right into the heart of what I call the heart of Jihad, right into the back country where Westerners just don’t go. We just got back about a month ago and we spent a week in there and we saw one other Westerner and it was a German woman who is working with the government over there. But Westerners just don’t get in there. It’s fascinating and going over there and being with those people will never be the same when you come back. I never looked at things the same.
Susan Wilson Solovic: I can imagine. I really can. As I said I really admire what you’re doing. How many schools and children are you able to support right now?
Sam Carpenter: We’re off handily we’re not totally supporting these schools but we have six or seven in all. And of course Greg has 60 or 70 schools that he has built and he is doing a wonderful job over there too.
So there’s a few of us doing this working over there and seeing the value of it.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Where have you gotten your money so far, I know you talked about corporate sponsors?
Sam Carpenter: You know so far it’s been just general off-hand I use that word a couple of times and it is just spur of the moment donations and we have a couple of guys older guys that are sending money in every mosque which has been a wonderful help, and that’s what we’d like. We’d like to get sustaining series of donors. We have various projects and we’re putting the new website. By the way it’s kashmirfamily.org.
Susan Wilson Solovic: And we’ll put that up on our site too.
Sam Carpenter: Would you?
Susan Wilson Solovic: Absolutely! So I guess personal donations are welcome as well.
Sam Carpenter: Of course, personal donations. And we have these projects we’ll have them on the website shortly. One school we’re going to put a new bathroom in. Well they have one toilet for 400 kids.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Oh my! Talk about a line. It’s worse than baseball games.
Sam Carpenter: It’s bad news and many of these kids are still intense three year after the earthquake because the school is all fell down. So now their intense 100 degrees outside in the summer and 20 degrees in the winter and kids are literally intense. On the website we have photos of what it’s like over there.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Oh my! I tell you, we do just take for granted some of the luxuries we have in our life absolutely. How can somebody get involved with you Sam if they’re interested in helping out?
Sam Carpenter: We just go to the website kashmirfamily—by the way Kashmir is K-A-S-H-M-I-R kashmirfamily.org and send me an email.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Okay, great!
Sam Carpenter: Tell me what you’d like to do.
Susan Wilson Solovic: And also, I mean we’ve seen a lot of recent disasters in like China for example, why would we still focus on this area?
Sam Carpenter: Well for me I have developed a relationshiop with the people of the back country and I really like the kids and I like the back country people. So that’s my place. That’s where I chose—but the other thing is the whole thing about the Jihadist and Pakistan being a kind of a breeding ground for trouble to know that we’re right in the middle of where this is happening and maybe doing some good in the long run for east-west relations.
I know when I went over there and came back I was different. I looked and wow these are real people and they faces, and names and personalities and this man and woman have these kids real people. And when I go over there and Linda went over, my wife Linda and I went over in ’86 not ’86, 2006 Linda and I went over and I bet you we effected 10,000 people. Because we talked to probably a thousand people in one venue or another and they would go home and say, “Hey these Westerners don’t have horns growing out of their head. They were pretty nice!”
Susan Wilson Solovic: Yes, yes.
Sam Carpenter: We talked to them.
Susan Wilson Solovic: And you can communicate or do you have to have an interpreter?
Sam Carpenter: No, no. In the back country you need an interpreter because the language is Urdu. However, Pakistan broke off from India in ’47 and of course India had this British influence so there's a string of the English language all through the society. So the people we talk to as many Europeans are bilingual or trilingual, we go over there as American speaking one language but we could communicate. And that’s the nice thing about it too is we can talk to the people on the ground most of the time.
Susan Wilson Solovic: You were mentioning before we went on the segment here that because of that English heritage the children dress very properly with little ties and how precious!
Sam Carpenter: They’re so proper! They are sitting in the tents and the chairs all in a row and the little boys have ties and their shirts and the cotton slacks and the girls have their kamis, all matching uniforms and we walk in the tent and they all stand up at the same and say, “Good morning sir!”
Susan Wilson Solovic: Wow!
Sam Carpenter: I’ve never seen anything like it. Leave it to beaver times 10. And I’ll go like this and they’ll all sit down and they’re very nervous about talking to a westerner. They speak English. They have been taught English but they have never met a westerner and in many cases never laid eyes on a westerner. To actually be able to speak English and the typical conversation is I’ll say to one of them, “How are you?” and they’ll say “I am fine.” That’s the conversation but it’s thrilling!
And then after we’re done visiting a school, they all rush up after the class is over they drop the formality and they run up with a pen please sign my palm with your name.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Oh isn’t that sweet!
Sam Carpenter: And that’s what Christopher, my director and I signed palms.
Susan Wilson Solovic: What are the misconceptions that they have about Americans? What have you seen?
Sam Carpenter: Well, that Americans are bent on bombing women and children. I’m not kidding.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Oh that’s—how tragic that is.
Sam Carpenter: In the flip side of that is how many of us over here think every Pakistani has bombs strapped around their waist.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Right, right.
Sam Carpenter: None of that is true. It’s nothing like that.
Susan Wilson Solovic: I think the point that you made is they are real people, we are real people and the rest of the stuff just gets in the way.
Sam Carpenter: It gets in the way and what better way to have a—you know you can feel the passion I have for these real people, what better way to get that than to visit them and support the schools and they’re wonderful, wonderful people.
Susan Wilson Solovic: That’s wonderful! Well, and what future plans what can we expect to see from the program?
Sam Carpenter: More schools. More schools.
Susan Wilson Solovic: You have a goal in mind or—?
Sam Carpenter: Oh I’d like to see a hundred schools. It depends how my book does because a lot of my personal income goes there and will continue to go there and if we can find some large corporate sponsors imagine do the math if a school can be built for $20,000.00 to $25,000.00 what would a million dollars do?
Susan Wilson Solovic: Right!
Sam Carpenter: Oh my gosh. So 200 kids in the school they can go to a madrasa, they cannot be educated at all or they could go to this new school created through Kashmir Family Aid.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Wonderful! It is a great, great, great thing you’re doing.
Sam Carpenter: Thank you Susan.
Susan Wilson Solovic: So I really appreciate it and I tell you, my mother always used to say to me, “Young lady, education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you.”
Sam Carpenter: Isn’t that the truth?
Susan Wilson Solovic: Yes.
Sam Carpenter: Good for here.
Susan Wilson Solovic: You’re a very cause, very worthwhile.
Sam Carpenter: Thank you.
Susan Wilson Solovic: So thanks for sharing this story and thanks to all of you for watching us. Obviously if you have an interest in helping Sam or learning more about his work in Pakistan please check out his website, we’ll have a link to it from your featured advisor page, kashmirfamily.org, right?
Sam Carpenter: That’s it!
Susan Wilson Solovic: And I hope you’ll also check out some of Sam’s other featured advice segments. Great information, great advice. We appreciate all of you watching us here in sbtv.com and remember small business is our only business.
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