This week we get to know Dutch/Pakistani Anya Raza, part-time model and face of Positive Jewellery brand Soko. Anya chats to us about how she keeps her life positive, the best advice she’s been given and some of the more challenging parts of her job.
With a passion for development, Anya has set up several campaigns to support Pakistan during times of difficulty and unrest, always with the motto ‘empowerment through dignity’. In June 2010 she travelled to Pakistan to work with an international organisation, when three weeks into her position, devastating floods hit the country, leaving a fifth of the country under water and over 20 million people stranded. Alongside her day job, Anya plays the role of connector, supporting various global grass-root initiatives.
One word that describes you?
In your own words, what do you do?
I currently work in an international organization on management-related issues. I work on a number of side projects, connecting people and supporting various global development initiatives.
Who is your greatest influence in your career/life?
While I admire and am inspired by many, I wish to pave my own way.
What is your favourite part of your job?
The opportunity to interact with so many characters. In order to get from A to B, I consistently have to morph into different versions of myself. It’s amusing, and challenges me to keep pushing.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Currently, I wish I were more connected to my campaigns. I am used to grass-root campaigns with immediate impact, which I miss.
What is your greatest achievement?
In June of 2010 I returned to Pakistan to work with an NGO. Three weeks into my position, devastating floods hit the country, leaving a fifth of the country under water and over 20 million people stranded.
As the weeks developed, I felt a need to connect and engage on a personal level with the victims. Next to my job, I established the informal organization ‘Every Little Helps’ where several campaigns were carried out, with fundraising a constant undertone. Flood-struck villages were visited, vulnerable families were targeted, guaranteeing that the right people were supported. Schools were approached to donate clothing, toys and school supplies, individuals were approached for food and hygiene supplies and the media and social networking was used to spread the message. As the campaign grew to over 600 families, we expanded our activities to include bedding, hygiene items, and medication. Further into the campaign we built homes, a school, and supported farmers.
Having been brought up in the somewhat privileged, isolated city of Islamabad, having to approach and work in harmony with a very rural part of Pakistan provided to be an experience equipped with extreme learning, despite the fact that it was within the confines of my own country. Through the campaign I interacted with women who never had left their homes due to their very conservative religious views, where I was able to absorb, listen and learn, admitting that even though we may fundamentally differ in our opinions, realized there is always need for sensitivity and understanding. The opportunity to support these resilient communities during moment of extreme hardship, interacting with traumatized families, fostering relationships built on trust, and designing the campaign based on their needs was demanding to say the least, yet gave me great insight into forming a sustainable strategy. Having raised over $40,000 from private donations, this has been my proudest achievement to date.
What was your Plan B?
I am still discovering my best traits, so Everything is my Plan B until I finally unveil!
What is your most prized possession?
A ring my grandmother gave me when I turned 17. I can’t wait for the day I get to pass on the torch.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Things sometimes happen for reasons you will only understand later” – this has caused me to stop trying to be as controlling, and truly immerse myself in the moment that is. And an adaptation of a Paulo Coelho quote, “When you want something, and put your soul and all your might into its materialization, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.” Work Hard – nothing is achieved without ambition and determination, never underestimate yourself, never compare yourself: as an individual you can write your own story.
Please complete the sentence… I could not live without…
The family I was born with, and the family I chose. I am so privileged to be surrounded by so much love, humour and absurdity.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Jim Morrison, pre-peak.
Sustainability and consumption are two words you will hardly find in the same sentence – which brands do you think are good quality and are doing their bit for people and the planet?
It’s so refreshing to see brands starting to pay attention to their long-term impact, from their communities of origin to their final consumer. A brand I recently did a campaign with, called Soko, works with Kenyan artisans in an equitable and sustainable manner, creating beautiful pieces of jewellery.
Do you support a charity or cause?
Mostly homegrown grass-root initiatives in my circle of trust in Pakistan. I am also a big advocate of micro-finance, and worked with Kiva for several months as a Fellow. They provide an incredible platform which allows lenders to connect with borrowers in a very personal manner, all the while empowering deserving people with dignity. You could make a loan as small as $25!
What’s on your Xmas wish-list?
The opportunity to disappear completely for 3 months!