Grad helps village through education and … goats?
published January 27, 2012
He was a well known mover and shaker on campus, and now he’s turning heads in the UAE and India. We recently caught up with Akbar Khan Qureshi (BAS ’07) about his latest projects, his time at York and, of course, the goats.
You attended York as an international student from Dubai. What made you choose to study at York?
I was a very active student in school and college in Dubai and was looking to transfer to a university with a highly active student life. So I looked for a university with the maximum number of student clubs, and York topped the charts with more than 200 clubs.
So did you end up joining many clubs? And what are your most memorable York experiences?
Oh yes! I was a very active student. By fourth year, I was a volunteer for many clubs, an executive on five clubs and an advisor for another four. In my final year I ran for YFS president. I was the only international student to run for presidency and received the most votes (1800+).
My most memorable experience was during that election. I had friends, and friends of friends (people who I had never met) come out in big numbers and volunteer hours and hours of their time to get me votes. It was great to know that students saw potential in me.
Another great memory was at convocation. The hall roared and came alive when my name was called out. It got so loud that the speaker had to pause till things calmed down.
We hear you’re running a development project in India in addition to your day job in construction in Dubai.
My project, called Live India!, is about teaching people the skills needed to make a living and getting them to cooperate in order to develop their towns and improve their lives. It’s taking place in a small village 180 km from Rajasthan, called Fatehpur. I’m setting up the biggest goat farm in the district and inviting scientists and researchers to share their know-how on building a farm with the local people.
Why is this initiative so dear to your heart?
Although I was born in the United Arab Emirates, I feel a connection to Fatehpur because my great grandparents were originally from there. I have the urge to develop the village into a city and improve the standard of living by providing good employment opportunities for everyone there.
What’s your goal with the initiative?
As with any government, the Indian government prioritizes the budgetary spending. The livestock trade in India is a billion-dollar industry, with Rajasthan being the key player. My goal is to make Fatehpur the hub of Rajasthan in goats, because I believe it’s with trade that our village will develop.
You’ve recently become involved with Nations United, an organization dedicated to raising global awareness about various humanitarian causes. How did this begin?
I was initially contacted by Nations United last summer. They told me that my project to empower Fatehpur had been nominated to compete for the Faces of Transformation competition. I had my hands full at the time, so I politely turned it down. After two weeks, I was contacted again to be told that I had been nominated a second time. The second time around, I felt that the people believed that I could do well in this competition so I said yes. I just completed the final stage of the competition in December and placed among the top three contestants.
Clearly, you love to have many things going on. What’s your secret to juggling it all?
Passion. I do things that interest me. And time management is also key. I give my first half of the day to my businesses in Dubai and the latter half to my project in India. If it’s a month I’m required to visit my farm, I’ll spend three weeks in Dubai and one week in India.