Forbes 30 Under 30

The 2017 FORBES 30 Under 30 is the most definitive gathering of today’s leading young change-makers and innovators in the U.S. Now in its sixth year, the 30 Under 30 offers an annual opportunity to embrace the optimism, inventiveness and boldness of youth. We bring you 30 game changers in 20 industries all under 30 years old — 600 in total — who are challenging the conventional wisdom and rewriting the rules for the next generation of entrepreneurs, entertainers, educators and more. They are passionate and formidable bunch, and for good reason. Their goal is nothing short of breaking the status quo and transforming the world.

Caroline Howard, Forbes Magazine, Jan. 3, 2017

We are so proud (and gobsmacked really!) to announce that Afzal and Sabrina have been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2017.

forbes-30-under-30-sabrina-afzal2Forbes has been compiling this list since 2012, and the 30 Under 30 community is 4,000 strong the world over, from the U.S. to Europe to Asia. The 2017 competition was more extreme than ever before.  There were 15,000+ nominations for just 600 spots:  that’s an acceptance rate of less than 4%; making it harder to get into than America’s two most selective schools, Stanford University (4.8%) and Harvard University (5.2%)..

The 2017 class is an impressive one:  actress Margot Robbie, Canadian tennis superstar Milos Raonic, Olympic gold-medal winning gymnast Simone Biles,  and Lonely Planet CEO Daniel Houghton.  These are individuals who are making a difference and having an impact in 20 industries.  Even more impressive is the list of past winners:  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, musicians Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, superstar athletes LeBron James and Sidney Crosby, and the founders of Snapchat.

Forbes magazine, with 17 pages of coverage, goes on stands on January 10th.  The list is live online here: https://www.forbes.com/30-under-30-2017/

Check out Afzal and Sabrina’s individual profile page right here:
http://www.forbes.com/profile/kidogo.

Afzal immediately gave credit for this award to the Kidogo Family, it’s partners and customers.  Sabrina expressed hope that the award would give exposure to the plight of mothers in the poorest areas of East Africa who have limited options for good quality childcare, particularly during the crucial first five years when 85% of brain development takes place.  Kidogo serves to offer best-practice early childhood development in the urban slums where children from 6 months to 6 years are provided with quality care and education for less than a dollar a day.  Their hope is to expand Kidogo to other low-income communities so that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. Our prayer is that they can realize this goal.


We are just as proud of Samir Ibrahim, co-founder of Sun Culture, which sells solar-powered irrigation systems to Kenyan farmers. Samir was named Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Energy category. We know Samir’s parents, Al-karim and Tazim Ibrahim of Orlando, Florida, very well.  In fact, Nagib and Al-karim grew up together in Dar­−es−salaam, Tanzania, and their families originate from the coastal town of Mtwara, Tanzania.  How incredible is it that two of the top young people on the Forbes list have roots in the same little town in East Africa, whose parents immigrated to Canada and the U.S. in the 1970’s, and now,  the younger generation is working towards improving the lives of the people of their native lands!

Samir’s profile is here: http://www.forbes.com/profile/samir-ibrahim

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Gulistan-e-Akeedat

A recording of Tasbihs

It started out as an idea.  Over time it became a vision.  Then it was about bringing people together to bring this vision to reality.  This was a collaborative effort, with each contributor bringing something special to the process.  And today we have a product, a recording titled “Gulistan-e-Akeedat” which means Garden of Devotion.  And after many months of working on this project, we are thrilled to share this recording with you!

The recording is a series of prayers in the praise of Allah.  It was created with love by the vocalists to transport listeners to a place of spiritual bliss and tranquility. Munira Premji initiated and led the project.  With raw energy and enthusiasm, Salim Nensi shared insights on how to move this project forward, including making the soundtrack available on-line.   Khairunissa Gangani brought her passion for music, design, beauty and structure to the team; her involvement was integral to the team. Shahzadi Devje came up with the title of the recording and lent her beautiful voice to the recording. Karim Dayani starts off with a solo piece at the beginning of the recording and was the technical expert, responsible for enunciation.

Flute Player Jatinder (Jeetu) Prakash provides the soulful music that permeates the recording.  Jeetu is known for playing flute in the Oscar winning score for the movie, Life of Pi, as well as playing the flute for the movie, Chloe.  Jeetu is an instinctive flute player and his music in divinely inspired. As he played, we experienced a myriad of emotions.  His music is at once, energetic, exuberant, plaintive, reminiscent, choral, mysterious, sustained, swirling and graceful.

The recording was done by the talented Khalid Saleem of Saleem Recording Studio. Khalid also provided the keyboard accompaniment.

The recording is available on SoundCloud.  To listen to the recording, click on the link below:

Feel free to send the following link out to your family and friends if you think they will enjoy it.

https://soundcloud.com/user-961150609/sets/gulistan-e-akeedat

Our hope is that this recording will be shared with listeners worldwide to bring joy and prayer in their lives. This is a recording we are so proud to share with you!

A Year In Review, and What’s Next?

2016-12-21-049Toronto, December 31, 2016.  I love the feel of a brand new year.  A time when everything seems entirely possible.  January is derived from the two-faced Greek God, Janus.  One face looks back in the past, and the other face looks forward to the future.  Symbolically, it is a time to reflect on the past year and begin fresh with a new year filled with new hopes and dreams.

As you think about the new year, take some time to consider all the successes, joys and accomplishments from 2016.  What meaning do they hold for you? How have they shaped, even transformed you?  What breakthroughs are you celebrating?   What impact have you had on others and on the world? I find that it is so valuable to reflect on this and celebrate; otherwise, they get forgotten and buried in the busyness of life.

While 2016 was a tough year for me — with the diagnosis of breast cancer in January, it was also a particularly fulfilling year for celebration and accomplishments.  Sabrina graduated from Columbia University in May.  We celebrated Sabrina and Afzal’s wedding in July, enveloped in the love and warmth of family and friends.  I made progress on all the goals I had set for myself — learnt to cook at least 30 new dishes, started a fitness program, recorded a CD of Tasbihs with friends, continued to work a few days a month to keep current in my profession, woke up regularly at 4 am to meditate for an hour, took on many volunteer assignments as a way to give back to the community, and became an active learner, spending at least two hours every day learning and developing skills on areas of interest.  And then there was the Munira Bra – – a wonderful collaboration between North York General Hospital (NYGH)  and Knixwear — proceeds of which will go to the NYGH for a biopsy table for breast cancer patients.

Also think about the regrets, disappointments, letdowns and losses from 2016.  What meaning do they hold for you?  Without blame or guilt, what might have caused the situation to happen?  What part did you play?  What did you learn about yourself?  Then let it go.  

This year,  I said goodbye to three friends who lost their battle with multiple myeloma;  I salute their valiant fight, feel their loss and honour their memory.  I continue to feel guilty for the pain I caused Nagib and my family as they saw me struggle through the side-effects of the surgery, chemo and radiation.   And there were a few relationships this year that I did not nurture.  I regret this as I realize that I played a part in causing the failed relationships.  These are opportunities to work on.

And as you start a brand new year, think about what you need to do to up your game and Play Big in 2017?  What do you need to bring forward from your accomplishments and successes to continue to be your best self?  What is your commitment to creating the life you want? And how will you make this happen in 2017?

I hope to do this by becoming more caring and compassionate.  By letting people know: “I see you, I really see you”.  Whether you are lost or joyful or sad or hopeful, I see you as whole, complete and resourceful.  I hope to Play Big by having a book published in 2017.  And I want to continue in my quest for health and vitality.  I will also continue to build on the successes and momentum of 2016.

This is such a great activity to do as a family.  We sat together for a couple of hours on Christmas Day, each of us talking about our 2016 achievements, learnings and goals for 2017.  The conversation was rich and authentic.  We learnt more about each other and have a better idea on how to support one another in 2017.  The best part is that, as we were speaking, Shayne wrote what we said in some detail so there is a sense of record and accountability, and something we can look back on a year from now.

To everyone that I have been blessed to have in my world this year and over the years – – the pioneers, the dreamers, the adventurers, the collaborators, the discoverers, the illuminators, the caregivers, the courageous ones, the heroes, the misfits, the shape-shifters, the hopeful ones, and the salt of the earth — I wish for you all the bountiful blessings from the universe.  And I celebrate your greatness.   May your 2017 be resplendent with hope, optimism, faith, dreams, joy and fulfillment.

– Munira

A Humbling Experience!

2016-12-21-020I am a Type A personality – competitive, an overachiever, ambitious, impatient.  Anything that slows me down or keeps me from getting things done irks me.  Waiting in long lines, rambling meetings with no purpose, cumbersome processes —  these are things that drive me nuts.  Over the past few years, as I have grappled with first one, then two and now three cancers, I have noticed a significant shift in my personality.  I have been forced by the universe to learn to be more patient, more Zen-like, more relaxed, more accepting.

I notice this particularly in my work-out regimen.  Each time I enter Goodlife Fitness, I brace myself, take a breath and park my Type A personality at the door.   I am definitely the worst in the workout classes.  I don’t follow instructions very well and more times than not, do exactly the opposite of what the instructor wants me to do.  If I am supposed to lift my right leg, I will invariably lift my left leg.  Thank goodness, I am not an octopus, otherwise God knows what leg I would raise!  I have no style when it comes to working out.  Nothing comes gracefully.  Everything is painfully inelegant.  And it doesn’t matter how many times I go to a fitness class, I don’t seem to get any better.  I am the one that the teacher will call out most in the class because I am not displaying the right form.  I have noticed that strangers in the class will often show me what I am supposed to do because they notice I am not doing it correctly.  In one situation, an individual figured I did not speak English so I could not understand the instructor.  Each visit to the gym is a humbling experience for me.

In the past, I don’t think I would have handled this embarrassment very well.  I would not even try If I could not be the best.  Perhaps it was being a perfectionist.  Perhaps it was ego.  This time, though, its different.  I have become somewhat addicted to working out and love how I look and feel after.  My Aqua Fitness instructor commented that I have a smile from ear-to-ear from the time I start the workout until the end of it.  And she’s right.  Somehow, somewhere along the way, I am okay with being the worst in my class, not comparing myself to others and not worrying about how others see me.  I now focus on competing with myself and being just a little bit better each day.  What is more important to me is that I am in the game, trusting my body and doing what feels right for me.  In the process, I have become more accepting and understanding of others.

Cancer is a hard taskmaster.  It is a gift that comes wrapped in a barbed wire.  When I look back, I regret how many times I hesitated doing something because I knew I would never be the best at it.  Today I no longer stay in this safe zone.  I throw caution to the wind, let loose and let myself have fun.  I dance every morning even though I have no rhythm.  I cook for the heck of it.  I try new things all the time.  When there is no fear of failure, life expands exponentially.  I wish this is a lesson I had learned a long time ago – what might have been possible for me?  Now I am more than making up for past hesitations.  Life is a theatre and I have decided to live in the front row of my life.

 

It’s Been a Month of Ups and Downs….

This month I had a real scare. Everything was hazy and I couldn’t see anything in the distance.

 

2016-10-28-023This month I had a real scare.  I was at a client site doing some work and then met Nagib for lunch.  As we were having lunch, I realized that I had trouble seeing.  Everything was hazy and I couldn’t see anything in the distance. I figured that I had been working late hours and my eyes were probably just a bit tired.  A couple of days later, I went to a seminar and was shocked to find that I couldn’t read the Powerpoint slides.  I actually wondered for a moment if I was going blind.  The very next day I went to see my friend and optometrist, Dr. Areef Nurani.  After a thorough examination, he told me that I had totally scratched my cornea.

The good news is that this was something that could be fixed except it would take some time.  My eyes felt like someone was rubbing them with steel wool; the pain was unbearable.  And my vision was seriously compromised so driving became problematic.  When I called Sabrina to tell her, she reminded me that the elephant that she had adopted with Afzal some 5 years ago, Kainuk, had also injured her cornea when she accidentally struck her eye with a tree branch.  She wondered if I had done the same thing!  And then, she had the nerve to suggest that perhaps I should put some socks on my hands to prevent me from scratching my eyes.  No sympathy there!  My scratched cornea then turned into a full infection which needed to be treated with antibiotic drops.  Once treated, I needed anti-inflammatory drops to heal my eyes.  This went on for a couple of weeks, and my sight has now almost returned to normal.  My optometrist’s view is that the infection occurred because my immune system is severely compromised.

This month, I also started on a breast cancer medication, Letrozole, as I am estrogen-positive.  My oncologist, Dr. Robson, said that it is important for me to be on this pill for 5 years to prevent a recurrence of the cancer. The problem is that I hate don’t love this pill – it’s causing me bone pain.  And, fatigue is a huge problem (probably due to my low hemoglobin count). I run out of spoons easily before the end of the day.   Opting out of this pill is not an option so I have to find a way to give it a chance and to embrace it.  I am working on this.

I continue to go to the hospital every 3 weeks to get an IV infusion of Herceptin.  This will continue until March of 2017.  In addition, I am booked for an echocardiogram every 3 months to make sure that my heart is functioning well, as heart muscle damage is a potential side effect of Herceptin.  It’s all connected.  The good news is that the Herceptin infusion is going well and the echocardiograms show that my heart is just fine.

One piece of really good news is that my multiple myeloma is behaving very well.  I had an appointment recently with Dr. Tiedeman, my superhero oncologist for Lymphoma and Myeloma at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  He said that my myeloma numbers were “too little to be seen”.  It is these small miracles that make life so precious.  Oh, and my hair is growing back, and I’m having fun with it (like having my hairstylist Afsaan do speed lines).

So, it’s been a month of doctors and hospitals, of ups and downs.  I have continued to work through this time and have tried to maintain a positive frame of mind.  And in spite of the challenges of this past month, if I were to rate my life on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best), I would, without a doubt, rate it a 10!  I think this is because I have so much to look forward to:  Sabrina, Shayne, Afzal and Fareen are coming home in December, and my heart is so full with anticipation.  Nagib and I took off to Niagara Falls for a couple of days this week to celebrate 36 years of “going steady” (we started dating on November 20th at 3.20 pm at Founders College at York University).

I am engaged on a couple of projects that I am loving.  One of this is the “Munira Bra”.  If you haven’t already bought a Munira Bra, please consider buying one.  It is a great bra, and 50% of the proceeds go to North York General Hospital (NYGH), which is looking to raise $100,000 for a biopsy table for breast cancer patients.  To order the bra, please go to knixwear.ca.  The bras will also be sold at NYGH, in the lobby, by the gift store, on December 6th, from 10 am to 4 pm.

So, all in all, Life’s Good.  There is something hopeful and magical, and certain, about the sun rising every morning.  I look forward to each day with such joy as it is a chance to reset life, choose your path, move forward and embrace life with your whole being.  I can’t wait for the sun to rise tomorrow again and discover more gifts from the universe.  Life is Good Great!