Nasruddin Rupani, owner of the wholesale jewelry business Low Cost Leader/World’s Gold & Diamonds, in Houston, is using gemstones to help reduce poverty in the mountain communities of northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and surrounding areas.
Gemstones mined in those regions traditionally have been sent to other countries for cutting and polishing, Rupani says. So his nonprofit Rupani Foundation established a dozen centers—six in Pakistan, five in Afghanistan, and one in Tajikistan—to train local people in gemstone cutting and polishing. The training centers have graduated more than 500 people, primarily women.
The centers eventually will include production, in the hope of developing a permanent cottage industry. To promote sustainability, the Rupani Foundation is partnering with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme and the Karakoram Area Development Organization.
The Rupani Foundation also focuses on early childhood development and has established educational centers for needy families in rural areas. In partnership with the Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan, the Rupani Foundation has introduced two customized village-based early childhood projects, Agah Walidain and Project Umeed, which are expected to benefit approximately 1,000 families by the end of 2011.
Agah Walidain seeks to engage families with infants and toddlers to begin their child’s development through talking, playing, reading, nurturing, and non-violent discipline. Project Umeed is a Montessori-based program for the 3-to-6 age group that aims to provide age-appropriate facilities and sustainable resources and encourages parental involvement in the classroom setting.