Bettering the Lot of
By Mahsa Abassi & Fareeha
of the visit of American students to the Saba Trust,
Our first encounter with the
Saba Trust was when Mahsa arrived at the Irvine residence
of Mr. Saghir Aslam in California where she was greeted
enthusiastically by the founder of the Trust. The meeting
began with Mr. Aslam explaining the various activities that
Saba Trust has undertaken in Pakistan as well as other countries.
As Mahsa explained her purpose of visiting Kashmir and Pakistan
with three other medical school classmates, Mr. Aslam contacted
his general manager in Islamabad and promptly instructed
him to receive and accommodate us.
The kindness that Mahsa received from Mr. Aslam that June
morning did not diminish across the Pacific one month later
in July as she, Fareeha, Matt and Jaspal met Mr. Malik,
the general manager of Saba Trust in Islamabad. Again, we
were received with the same open generosity and willingness
to help. Mr. Malik transported us to the Saba Trust headquarters
and immediately chalked out plans for us to partake in various
activities the next week.
WISDOM HOUSE: Our first adventure began on July 13th at
the Wisdom House in Channan District in Gujrat, Pakistan.
It was established in 1994 for educating women in the rural
areas of Pakistan. While the first school session started
with 70 students in 1994, today the school teaches 3000
students at multiple class levels ranging from nursery to
the university level, and accepts both women and men. Unfortunately,
as our visit took place during the summer break, we were
unable to meet the children during the regular class sessions.
However, we were able to tour the campus and were amazed
by the extent to which in only a mere ten years, the establishment
has been able to expand and improve upon its facilities.
It was also very impressive to see the various class levels,
the different physics, chemistry, biology and computer labs,
as well as the school libraries, classrooms, and playgrounds.
After talking with the administration officials, we discovered
that the Wisdom House provides transport facilities to students
from over 60 different villages and towns who are unable
to commute on their own. Equally impressive was the fact
that the Wisdom House provides scholarships to numerous
students whose families cannot afford the minimal tuition
fees. To date, an estimated 5.2 million rupees have been
given out in scholarships.
CLOTHES DISTRIBUTION: Our second adventure took us to the
village of Nouthain, about 1 ½ hours drive from Rawalpindi
and to the home of Mr. Malik. We were graciously invited
to stay at his home with his family as we partook in various
Saba Trust activities. We witnessed the distribution of
clothes among the local women. Each woman received two sets
of shalwar kameez, and we felt honored to have had the opportunity
to help in this event that also afforded us the opportunity
to interact with the people of the village. Later, we headed
out into the village to meet with stroke victims who had
received wheelchairs donated by Saba Trust. These women
were previously confined to bed but now enjoyed mobility.
Not only were we graciously received by the women but also
by their families who expressed the same degree of gratitude.
While these encounters were brief, the moments of shared
prayer and tears will not be forgotten.
CAPACITY BUILDING WORKSHOP: The next morning Mr. Malik,
his wife and daughter Amna accompanied us to a local community
meeting organized to raise awareness about violence against
women. Speakers at the event included a Pakistani human
rights activist, a local doctor, and a lawyer from Islamabad.
Topics ranged from different forms of violence as well as
new legislation aimed at deterring and convicting perpetrators
of violent acts. We were deeply distressed to learn of women
being burned and how many of such cases go unresolved. It
was reassuring to see people working at both the national
and local levels to eradicate the inequalities, abuse and
injustices inflicting the society.
OUTPATIENT CLINIC: We also met Dr. Anwar Qazi, a local physician,
who operates an outpatient clinic in a nearby village. It
was astonishing to learn that Dr. Qazi works as a sole physician
in his clinic and sees an average of 50-70 patients every
day. It was gratifying to hear that Dr. Qazi waives all
costs for those who are unable to afford treatment.
HEADOFFICE VISIT: On our last and final day in Pakistan,
we joined Mr. Malik at the Saba Trust Headquarters in Rawalpindi
for another distribution of clothes. As we drove to the
office, we saw large crowds that had already gathered. Women
and children rushed through the gates and were handed two
packets of clothes each. Unfortunately, the number of women
and children outnumbered the available stock of shalwar
kameez and children’s clothes. The speed at which
the clothes ran out left us to reflect on the alarming incidence
of poverty in Pakistan.
Luckily, there are organizations like the Saba Trust that
make sincere and sustained attempts to better the lives
of the people and make a difference. God-willing they will
continue to do so. As we departed from Pakistan we carried
with us memories of kindness, compassion, service and good
friends. It was a truly memorable visit.