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Worldwide fundraising mission completed despite tragedy


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The goal of a trip around the world was to raise $1 million to build schools in Pakistan, and a donor has completed the mission for the two pilots who crashed in July.

Babar Suleman and his 17-year-old son Haris had raised $500,000 before their June takeoff. They left from Greenwood in their single-engine plane, visited 14 countries and were headed back to the U.S. when their plane went down July 22 off the coast of American Samoa.

Haris’ body was found, and his father and much of the plane are still missing.

 

Ashar Aziz of San Francisco, a longtime friend of the Suleman family, heard about the crash and contacted Seeds of Learning, the organization Babar and Haris Suleman were supporting, about donating the final $500,000 toward the Sulemans’ goal.

Seeds of Learning is the Indianapolis branch of The Citizens Foundation, which builds schools for Pakistani boys and girls.

“Once he knew what happened, he wanted to complete the dream,” said Azher Khan, board president of Seeds of Learning.

The $1 million will pay for construction of seven or eight schools, Khan said.

Babar Suleman said before he left to circumnavigate the globe that the only way to educate Pakistani girls was through co-educational schools. Women are undervalued in the culture, and an all-girls school wouldn’t be allowed, he said.

He wanted girls in the country to have the same educational opportunities as boys, he said.

Babar Suleman moved from Pakistan to the U.S. in the 1980s. The Sulemans live in Plainfield, but Haris took flying lessons at the Greenwood Municipal Airport.

Haris had gotten his pilot’s license in June and would have been the youngest pilot to fly around the world in a single-engine plane if they had completed the trip. Babar Suleman had about 10 years of experience as a pilot, flying often to other states for his job as an engineer.

The pair were well-prepared for their trip, instructors at the Greenwood flight school have said.

The search for Babar Suleman off the coast of Samoa has been fruitless so far, and the U.S. Coast Guard has given up the search. The family is asking for additional help from the U.S. Navy, Khan said.

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