A Story of Empowerment in Rahim Yar Khan
By Dr. Shahnaz Khan


HDF’s role in improving the lot of the common man is all too obvious

“We have many problems. We used to talk about these problems but did not know how to solve them. Even if someone suggested a solution, we could not agree upon it and so nothing would happen. Then Human Development Foundation started its project in this area and helped us organize ourselves. So in 2003 we formed this DO (Development Organization) and named it Alvi DO. Initially we used to sit and talk, then someone would get angry and the meeting would end. HDF staff would bring us together again. Gradually we learned to develop some rules and guidelines for our DO and started taking responsibilities.” These are the words of Shabbir Ahmad, the president of Alvi DO in Basti Khandoo in the union council Amin Garh, district Rahim Yar Khan. He was giving us a run down of the activities of his DO in a community meeting during my last visit to the area.
Shabbir went on to say, “To overcome the problem of scarcity of irrigation water we proposed two projects, a watercourse lining and installation of a turbine. HDF was willing to help us but per their partnership policy we had to raise 20% of the cost. We spent six months collecting donations to meet this. We also physically carried bricks, bags of cement and other material for the project. Now after the completion of the projects, per acre irrigation cost is Rs. 80 instead of Rs. 350. We share the cost of maintenance.”
Shabbir told us that they realize now that women’s education is as important as men and so they arranged an adult literacy course for them. These women are so excited that now they want to attend formal school.
Their success encouraged them to embark on building a school on their own. They have collected Rs. 50,000 through local donations and need another Rs. 30,000 for the project to be completed. It is a two-room school and will accommodate 40 children.
The story of Alvi DO confirms our belief that people are capable of finding a solution to their problems and implementing them, given relevant skills and enough resources. Once the challenge of organizing people is overcome, people realize their collective potential and learn to resolve their differences, it is then that we start seeing the rewards of this hard work. The Alvi DO members are now demonstrating this to the neighboring communities. So four months ago the community in the neighboring village got together and Umer DO was formed.
We envision communities that are proud, empowered and self-sufficient. And we are making this vision into a reality - one community at a time. We have over 800 such DOs all across Pakistan. One DO represents 10-15 households. So in a village there may be several DOs. After they reach a certain degree of maturity they form an umbrella organization which is called a VDO (Village Development Organization). We are empowering people by providing them with education, health care, economic opportunities. Our goal is to develop a critical mass of such empowered communities to act as a catalyst for positive change.
HDF has been working in Pakistan since 1999. Our mission is to bring about a positive social change by empowering people through an integrated model of development which addresses educational, health care and economic needs of the community. With projects in all four provinces of Pakistan in seven regions, HDF is serving 200,000 people. During the October 2005 earthquake HDF adopted six villages in Kashmir and is now in the process of implementing its integrated model there also.
At this time HDF is running 211 schools with over 8,000 students, eight Community Health Centers and seven mobile health units. Under the economic development program over Rs.73,000,000 has been disbursed in loans and over 7,000 people have been trained in different skills. Under the physical HDF also installs hand pumps, tube wells and has other water projects.
We believe that hunger cannot be eliminated by giving free food, health cannot be promoted by opening free clinics and we cannot get rid of poverty by giving out money. The only way to make a lasting difference is to change people’s attitude, thinking and behavior. The change has to be from within. It is a slow process. There is no instant gratification. Most of us who started this organization will not be there to see the full impact of its work. But we know that this is the only way to help the people of Pakistan, by helping themselves.
“Allah does not change the condition of the people unless they change what is within them.” - Quran 13:11
To learn more about HDF visit www.hdf.com. HDF accepts Zakat donations.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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