The idea of volunteering one’s energies or time for welfare and development work is quite unusual in Pakistan. Most of us live for ourselves. We come to this world without our will and live without any cause. We acquire the best education to get a good job and use maximum talent and skills to earn money. All our efforts are aimed to live a comfortable life and fulfill the wishes of our family and children.
Social work is popularly considered a pastime activity of Begmats and celebrities in our society. Its main purpose is to get coverage in newspapers and earn public and political recognition. According to a news report, thousands of registered NGOs exist in the country, which raise funds in the name of poor masses and achieve their own selfish interests. Hardly a few of them actually work for the people .
But do we have any right to criticise these NGOs? Being an aware member of a developing society, we generally follow the policy of doing nothing, criticising everything. We criticse our country and leadership, its set up and system, institutions and authorities but do any one of us ever taking any practical steps to improve the situation at our own level?
Many social sectors need individuals’ attention and are suffering due to public negligence. Throughout the world, public and private sectors play a pivotal role in the fields of health and education, child and woman development, training and welfare of mentally and physically handicapped, juvenile delinquent and socially abandoned people. But in our country, people free themselves from all responsibilities by blaming government and state for everything.
A solution to this problem is that an active participation in the social work should be made compulsory for all students as a part of their education. It will help in two ways. Firstly, it will make young generation more aware of real world and, secondly, it will solve many social problems by directing their immense energies to a constructive cause.
Currently, the situation is that some people, mostly middle aged women, who are inclined to welfare work due to their background. personal experience or internal urge are working with different organizations and individuals in the social sector. Most of them enter this field by chance, the rest by will.
But perhaps there are many spirited souls around us which lack nothing but proper guidance. So whether you are a student waiting for your results, or a professional, getting bored with monotonous office routine, or a housewife with a zeal to devote a part of your life for a cause, following enlightening examples will help you choose the righteous path.
Ms. Daulat Asif is a founder member of the Karachi Vocational Training Centre – an institute for the mentally handicapped adults. Her younger brother is mentally retarded and suffered like many others due to absence of any rehabilitation centre for special adults. It was his plight that motivated her to establish KVTC for training and job placement of special people with the support of like- minded philanthropist. She is in the field for about ten years and has got special training in rehabilitation of disable people from America. She has devoted her life to make special people useful and independent members of the society. She believes that we should return whatever we get in this world, since nothing is lasting except good deeds.
Yasmeen is working in Dewa Academy for five years. It’s the largest institution for the deaf children in Pakistan. She is one of the 52 trained teachers in the complex and is paid for her services. But her work is completely different from other teachers. She told me that she opted for the field of special children education because it’s more challenging. “Anyone can teach normal people. But I really enjoy teaching these children. They are very loving, innocent and intelligent too and with little effort, one can develop harmony with them.” The best part of Yasmeen’s job is that it gives her a lot of satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment.
Naeema Aftab is a social worker for more than ten years. It was her husband who encouraged her to work for the deprived people. Initially, she gave religious education to female prisoners in Lahore. Later, she attached to the SOS children’s village first in Lahore, then in Karachi. It is the home of the orphan and abandoned children, where they are given a warm family environment, training and education for their better future. Naeema says that I always have a nagging feeling that a lot of people suffer around us and we are made responsible by God to help them, while bestowed with so many blessings.
Shaista Saeed is working as a family counselor. She has been attached to Pakistan Women Legal Association on volunteer basis for two years, where every day a number of women came with serious marital and domestic problems for legal advice. Being a counselor, she first listens to their problems and tries to save their relationship by resolving disputes between the concerned parties through discussion. She is also running a child counseling centre `Parwarish’ at her residence. Her work involves immense patience, time and an understanding of human psyche. She said, ”A number of women contact me only to tell their stories since it reduces half of their pain.” Her work gives her a lot of inspiration for her writings and more that self satisfaction.
A banker by profession, Akbar Abdul Aziz, spends a few hours with the SOS teenage boys twice a week. He teaches them, plays with them and counsels them as a brother and a friend. He first visited the SOS Karachi village to deliver a donation check and was so moved by the way it worked for the orphans that he decided to volunteer his services to the centre.
Having a background of teaching ethics classes, he tries to give these abandoned children a sense of direction in life and develop their personalities. Akbar said, “After working in material world of banking, interaction with these pure, loving souls give him a kind of pleasure and peace which is impossible to describe in words.”
Amber and Aisha are the two young friends, who are volunteering as teachers in Kashana-e-Atfal (an orphanage for girls). They say, “It’s a little contribution we can make along with our professional and personal involvement, but it matters if it helps these children in anyway.”
There are many other unsung warriors like Rehman Baba, who has been driving an Edhi ambulance for more than 20 years. Salima and Nasreen, two volunteers in Edhi Centre, who are mothering new-born children, left by people in jholas. Bari Amma, a source of inspiration in her little community where she gives education of the Holy Quran and home economics to little girls and also counsel the women in neighbourhood regarding domestic affairs.
Aunty Anees who brings tailoring and embroidery orders for the poor women of a slum in Karachi and assures that they are paid well for their labour.
A group of university students who give free education to the children of a kacchi abadi near Gulshan under a tent.
Balam Baji, a qualified homeopath, who attend poor women free of cost and educate them about health problems in her home clinic And Master Sahib who has formed a mohalla committee, which is consisting of young boys to keep their locality clean and free from drugs.
Many such examples are present around us and, of course, they are the people who save our society from complete destruction, make us believe in humanity and give us a reason to live and hope for a better future. Small or big, their contributions/efforts are important because they aim at bringing positive changes in the lives of the deprived sections of the society.
And above all, they are working without any desire for acknowledgment or reward.
What is needed is to channalise such individual efforts to turn it into a strong social force against the problems which have become increasingly complicated in the modern world. Through a network of centrally organised NGOS and welfare organizations, clear in their aims and fields of activity, more and more individuals can be attracted to welfare work. Perhaps this is the only way to solve the basic problems of our community and gives meaning to our lives as individuals and as a society.