Off in a small Pakistani village, a woman and two children form a tiny circle on the floor. The woman gently stitches her needle in and out of a piece of fabric – the base of a gorgeous pink and white flower is starting to form. The two children gaze at their elder in awe. Hope and excitement glimmer in their eyes – they know that in time, they will be able to help make these beautiful greeting cards as well.
Throughout Pakistan, there are 30 schools that house this exact scene on a daily basis. After the formation of Little World Community Organization, or LWCO, these schools were built in needy Pakistani villages in order to educate and empower women. The villages where the schools are located are currently filled with women who place more value and confidence in themselves, but it wasn’t always that way. These women were transformed by one man’s simple belief that personal happiness can only stem from helping others.
When a massive earthquake struck Pakistan in 2005, LWCO founder Greg Zaller knew that he needed to do something. He dropped everything that he was doing at the moment and traveled to Pakistan. Upon his arrival, he organized the people of the Hilkot village to start building a safe and simple shelter. Running short of funds, Zaller returned back to the United States to raise the remaining money for the shelter, but he faced some obstacles along the way. Nonetheless, Greg Zaller was able to return back to Pakistan, but his entire direction changed after meeting a native who inspired him to focus on other ways of lending a helping hand.
Zaller met a man named Aneel Mushtaq one day while riding the bus in Pakistan. Mushtaq asked Zaller if he could borrow a pen, and Zaller handed him one with the words “This pen is mightier than a sword” written across the top. This message struck a chord inside of Mushbaq and he became very interested in Zaller’s purpose in coming to Pakistan.
Mushbaq asked Zaller if there was anything he could do to help, so Zaller gave him a little job. He told Mushbaq to go interview everyone in the entire village and ask them what they needed the most in order to improve their lives. After asking everyone in the village, Mushbaq returned to Zaller and reported that everyone desired a school. There was a universal interest among women who wanted to learn how to sew, embroider, read and write. Wanting to fulfill this desire, Greg Zaller partnered with Aneel Mushbaq and the two of them formed Little World Community Organization in 2008.
Once LWCO became official, several schools started sprouting up in Pakistan and many women began to attend. The schools are taught entirely by women who volunteer their time. Their curriculum teaches women how to sew, embroider, read and write. In learning these things, the women and children in the schools embroider greeting cards. These creations take about a full day to complete and they are often painstakingly made by candlelight. Once the cards are finished, they are mailed to the United States and arrive at Greg Zaller’s house. Zaller and other volunteers then sell these cards at local stores in his town of Nevada City, Calif. at $5.00 each. All of the proceeds of the cards are then mailed back to Pakistan (with no profit made by Zaller or others) in order to keep the schools running. It takes about $1,500 to maintain a school per month.
The students of these schools are extremely grateful for the education that they have been receiving. They view it as a great honor to make these cards that are sold in the United States and are proud that their creations fund their school.
Hundreds of Pakistani women have benefitted from this program, especially Murtaza Bibi. When she heard that a school was coming to her village, she couldn’t contain her excitement. “There was one thing missing in my life,” says Bibi, “and that was school.” Being able to fulfill her educational desires has not only improved her self-worth, but her family relations as well.
“LWCO has changed my life and my family’s life,” she continues. “I know my four children will be educated, and so there will be four families now who will get an education as well.”
Although so many people have been affected by the schools, there are still millions of women in need. LWCO hopes to raise its publicity and awareness so that even more people can be helped. “LWCO isn’t a charity asking for your money in exchange for promises of success,” explains Greg Zaller. “LWCO is an opportunity to creatively join in community with the poor and help them end poverty themselves. It works.” Buying their cards helps further their education, which in turn improves the well-being of their community and brings them one step closer to ending poverty.
“It’s really inspirational for all people who get involved,” continues Zaller. “They get to experience giving without getting something in return.”
For more information, please visit www.lwco.org.