Click photo to enlarge
Mahnoor Umair of Antioch, and a senior at Carondelet High School in Concord, shows awards she has received for her website, "Angel's Without Boundaries", at her home in Antioch Calif., on Thursday Jan. 24, 2013. She developed and launched a school in Pakistan in a relatively short period of time through her website. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff)

"I am forever thankful that I took Mahnoor to Pakistan the summer of 2009, because it was that trip that truly opened her eyes," said Sharif Umair about his daughter, a Carondelet High School senior.

In middle school, Mahnoor had coached and volunteered in religious education classes. In high school, she volunteered at Kaiser and as a youth leader at the Antioch Islamic Center.

Her father did not suspect how Mahnoor's community instincts would change her world and ours.

Before that journey, Mahnoor collected backpacks and school supplies from classmates, friends and family to give to students there, but was shocked by what she found in Sarai, a village about a five-hour drive from the capital.

"When we traveled there I was horrified by what the kids were going through," Mahnoor said. "No pencils, no books, over 100-degree heat, sitting under a tree and trying to learn ..."

Pakistani students generally do not speak English, so Mahnoor communicates in Spanish Urdu, Hindi, Eastern Punjabi and English.

"When I first handed out the backpacks, I asked them their names. One little girl was so scared she stood back. Then she finally took the backpack and ran away.

"That little girl came back a few days later and said in English, 'You are an angel.' She was just a kid who wants an education. I was so happy, but I had no idea what I was going to do."


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Back home, as Mahnoor sat in the living room watching TV with her father, he recalled, "A commercial for 'Make a Wish' came on. Mahnoor stated that the ad was 'cool.' I corrected her and stated back, 'No, Mahnoor. It's only cool if you're doing it, not watching it.'

"That was the moment Mahnoor said she would do it. At the time, I didn't know what she was going to do," Umair said.

Since then, Mahnoor has returned to Pakistan alone to found a two-classroom school for about 275 girls and boys, and established the nonprofit Angels Without Boundaries to continue fundraising for international charitable projects.

"My parents are totally supportive, but told me from the start, 'It is yours to do,' so it is solely my charity," Mahnoor said.

Through Angels Without Borders, Mahnoor arranged the installation of four clean water well pumps in Ethiopia and is working with the United Nations and World Bank to install more.

Locally, she was awarded the Soroptimists' Violet Richardson Award scholarship.

"This is really remarkable to me since we are talking about a country where it cannot be all that easy to pull something like this off," said Soroptimist Dorothy Lucero Buffington.

"I am impressed with the way her parents have pointed her in the right direction, helped her navigate international red tape, but made sure that she did most of the footwork herself. Her enthusiasm is contagious."

Soroptimists have joined Mahnoor's local network of charitable allies, including Barnes & Noble and the Jones Family.

"The Soroptimist women have been great supporters," Mahnoor said.

In Pakistan, Mahnoor noticed the government, and many adults, did not seem to understand how to take advantage of resources such as the United Nations and World Think, or even use newly constructed stop signs and crosswalks.

"I want to help the children learn how to use the resources that they are given. Most kids do not go to school. They work as servants. Kids work with parents," Mahnoor observed. "Just because your mom or dad does something, doesn't mean you have to."

Meanwhile, Mahnoor's high school life continues with school work, volunteering at Kaiser and finding time to collect blankets and coats for the homeless in San Francisco during the holidays.

Carondelet religion teacher and mentor Lindy Sullivan is impressed with Mahnoor's global awareness, "It is a habit in her family. What is really special is that she does take it a step further."

Mahnoor said, "I took an ethics class and we talked about out what is going on around the globe, and an AP class in global affairs. All of my high school classes have had something to contribute to what I am doing,"

And the teen is motivated. "I hope to one day make it to Washington, D.C. or the White House and carry out what I have begun."

In the interim, Mahnoor has applied for admission to Stanford University, Harvard University and UC Berkeley.

Contact Dana Guzzetti at dguzzetti10@gmail.com or call 925-202-9292.

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To learn more about Angels Without Boundaries, visit http://angelswithoutboundaries.org.