Around the World in 30 Days

Published in Huffington Post

As many teenagers are getting ready for the long summer holiday, I am preparing for the biggest adventure of my life; to break the world record by flying round the world in a single-engine plane in just thirty days. I will be flying as pilot in command with my father Babar who will only take over the controls in an emergency situation. If we succeed, I will be the youngest person ever to accomplish this daredevil feat. But I am not just flying to break a world record, I am flying to raise money for The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a non-profit organisation that is leading Pakistan’s silent education revolution to help educate Pakistan’s poorest children both in urban slums and remote, rural villages. My father grew up in Pakistan and has always been passionate about everyone’s right, male or female, to a good education. The government schooling system in Pakistan is deeply flawed but we believe that The Citizens Foundation is the answer to this. Founded in 1995 by a group of Pakistani businessmen in Karachi, the charity builds purpose-made primary and secondary schools in the nation’s most in-need communities with the proviso that every attempt is made in each of the 1,000 schools to have an equal number of boys to girls in the classrooms. All the schools are run by women. Every teacher and principal in a TCF school is female to encourage parents to send their daughters to school. The Citizens Foundation place a special emphasis on the education of women in Pakistan. This is important in a country where UNESCO stats show that only 26% of girls are literate, more than three million girls are out of school and the money spent on education has decreased to 2.3% of the country’s GDP. It is brave work that The Citizens Foundation and these teachers are doing. They are challenging a system that is in desperate need of change. This is why we are flying for the charity; to help draw attention to the valuable work that The Citizens Foundation is doing and help them forge partnerships with the government in the future to fix Pakistan’s broken public education system. I am really looking forward to getting going. Even though I have just got my license, I have been flying with my father since I was 8-years-old and hardly able to see over the windshield, so this is like a dream come true. Weather permitting, we set off this week from Hendricks County Airport in Danville, Indiana and our first refuelling stop en route will be in Goose Bay, Canada. During our thirty day flight we will pass over the Swiss Alps, the Arabian Desert and the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. About 60 per cent of the trip will be over huge expanses of water, including the Atlantic, the Pacific and parts of the Indian Ocean. Although I am a little bit nervous, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my summer. If all goes well, I will be going back to school for my senior year with some tall tales to tell!

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