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  • Naisha Chowdhury and Yasmeen Mannan

In For A Penny, In For A Pound: Moving the Dream Forward

The funds raised by the women were not enough to finance buying property, building a school, and hiring staff. The founders of PVS split their focus between finding local donors and outside donors. After sharing the idea of an Islamic school at local masaajid and community gatherings, the founders decided to organize a formal fundraiser. The first donor fundraiser was hosted at the Hilton Hotel on April 3, 1996. The organizers were nervous and had no idea what to expect. However, the Memphis community did not disappoint. Dr. Muhammad Zaman, one of the founders of PVS said, “The support was overwhelming, 1,200 people showed up and donations were pouring in giving [us] a great deal of incentive to move forward.”

The success of the first fundraiser was encouraging for the founders. It led to a series of donor-focused gatherings and dinners as the founders’ dream of an Islamic school in Memphis spread throughout the community. The founders finally felt that this dream wasn't just their dream; it was the dream of the entire Muslim community.

The founders reached out to the community through periodic communication using the available resources. “We did not have the internet widely available. We did not have online resources,” Zaman explained. “The volunteer base started widening, so after five people initiated, very soon, a large number of people and their families dedicated their time to the project.” The increase in support was instrumental to raising funds. The founders and the volunteers started going from door to door distributing flyers for the school. Postal mail was also a major means of communication, as well as announcements at the mosque after congregational prayers. After spreading the word, the founders were getting donations from all walks of life. “Donations ranged from $1/month to $2000/month,” Dr. Ibrahim Benter, one of the founders of PVS, said. People from all economic backgrounds were supporting PVS in whatever way they could.

The fundraising effort initiated by the founders did not stop in Memphis. The passion for an Islamic school in Memphis was so strong that volunteers were willing to go out of town to collect funds from other communities. Some even started writing grants in hopes of attracting the support of outside resources. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim organization in North America today, helped the founders reach out for donations and support.

We think of PVS as an ordinary school in a small city, but the founders and supporters of PVS were---and are-- some of the most extraordinary people in the world. As Zaman said, reaching out to people in Memphis and around the country “led to a large group of stakeholders, parents, donors, and volunteers who came together for the school to be successful.”

A letter written in 1996 from the President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Abdalla Ali, to the Muslim community asking for their support for the school.


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