For Dozens of Children Mama and Papa Provide 'a New Home'
By Shazia Mehboob


I am brave and I can achieve what others can’t.  I will be a trendsetter and people will follow me. I will serve humanity and spend my energy and strength for my cause. I will do because I can do everything with the support of my mama and papa, says seventh grader Summaiya.

Summaiya is from a far-flung village in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and has been living at Saba Homes — an orphanage — for the last couple of years, along with her sisters. The three girls lost their parents in the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

Contrary to the belief that orphan is synonymous with underprivileged, particularly girls, have little chance to improve their lot, philanthropist Saghir Aslam believes that no child is born to suffer. In fact, that is also the reason he set up the orphanage — to provide disadvantaged girls with love, affection, understanding and education so that they become empowered women in the future.

There are currently 42 orphaned girls from around the country living in the orphanage, supervised by Aslam and his wife Bushra.

Aged between six and 18 years, the girls are confident about their futures and say that they are not underprivileged any more.

Aslam noted the importance of teaching the children to fish rather than simply giving them fish. He paved the way for others to help orphans by establishing an orphan’s home that included classrooms, a large playground, an audio-visual library, a cafeteria, gardens, a computer lab and state-of-the-art sleeping rooms.

The orphanage is a place of affection for those orphans who have lost one or both parents, the founder said.

Aslam lived in the US for 58 years before moving back to Pakistan with the intention of helping the poverty-stricken people of his homeland. He has donated all his assets to Saba Trust, managed by an independent board of directors. He says, “The trust will continue to flourish, whether I am alive or not.”


Mama and papa

Another orphan, Tayeba, narrated how she ended up at the orphanage. “After the death of my parents, I was staying with my uncle. While there I got chickenpox. I was in desperate condition, but my uncle did not take me to a doctor. He dumped me outside the shelter home. Mama and papa (Bushra and Aslam) took me to the hospital and looked after me. When I look at them, I see my parents.”

Another little girl, Hira Bashir said her world fell apart when she lost her parents. “When I came here, I felt warmth and real love,” she added.


Changes of heart

So why did Aslam decide to give everything away?

“I was as greedy as anybody else,” Aslam said while telling about the turning point.

“Once I was sick and visited a hospital in Kamalia. As a foreign national and being from a well-known local family, I was treated like a king, but I saw poor people with young children suffering in pain, crying out for treatment. I felt guilty and decided to spend the rest of my life serving humanity,” he said, pursing his lip to hold back his emotions.  - The Express Tribune



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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