The future looks bright for the young men graduating from the Street League Academy, writes Amber Fairrie of Creatives Against Poverty. But it hasn’t always been that way.
It was a grey and windy morning as Nafesha, Makda and myself walked through the little paths of Calthorpe Park in London to a meeting room overlooking a football pitch. But the moment we walked in to the graduation ceremony for the young men of Street League it was smiles and sunshine all round! Street League, a Trust charity partner, uses the power of football to get disadvantaged youth into work, education or training.
A Taste of Pakistan: Hospitality, History… and Truck Art
Seven days in Pakistan is not enough to know the country, but at least we’ve become acquainted. Visiting the Trust’s charity partners—Developments in Literacy (DIL) and LRBT—took me to cities and villages in the Punjab and Sindh provinces. I travelled from the heart of South Asia’s largest slum to remote rural areas where women wash clothes in rivers and cow dung is dried for fuel.
Right from the very start, no matter where I went, unprecedented hospitality prevailed. Pakistan is famous for it. Warm welcomes are swiftly followed by refreshments. Pakistani people cannot do enough for their guests. From charity headquarters in the cities to rural community centres built by local villagers, hospitality flows.
We join 1,300 patients ready to regain their eyesight at the Layton Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust Hospital in Lahore.
Futures in Sight
It’s only 9 am, but treatment is already underway for more than a thousand patients at Lahore’s LRBT Hospital.
They have come to regain their sight. Eighty percent of blindness is curable and here they will be treated for cataracts, glaucoma, and all other eye ailments. Their care is free — LRBT believes that no-one should be blind because they can’t afford treatment. The Lahore LRBT hospital is one of 16 throughout Pakistan.
We are welcomed by the hospital’s Director Col. Iqtadar Hussain who explains the streamlined ‘production line’ system that allows LRBT to treat so many patients. Patients follow a succession of steps from reception to release. Illiterate patients receive coloured cards that match the door colours of the departments they need to visit – red for examinations, green for cataracts etc, he explains.
Despite bleak prospects following last summer’s floods, we find inspiration in Developments in Literacy schools where children are realising their aspirations.
Readers are the Leaders!
Bougainvillea spills over the walls and yellow zinnias frame the garden of the Indus Resource Centre guest house in Khairpur, our home last night. Outside the walled garden donkeys bray and I can hear the muezzin in the distance as we await a taxi to Sukkur Airport and our return to Lahore.
We are in South Asia’s largest and most notorious slum seeing how children’s lives are being transformed by Developments in Literacy.
“Education is the Key to Success”
It’s the ’slum of all slums’ surpassing even the size of Dharavi in Mumbai, the area made famous by the film Slumdog Millionaire.
Orangi is home to more than a million people living in poverty amidst 22 square miles of huts and limited hygiene. Its people are denied government social services because Orangi has no official status. It is notorious as an illegal settlement where rival ethnic gangs clash. Violence can erupt without warning.
But that doesn’t stop Developments in Literacy (DIL) from reaching out to the children of Orangi. Despite the chaos that can force schools to close until disruptions subside, DIL continues to bring education and life chances to children who might otherwise remain illiterate.
Writing from Karachi, Rosemary Brown, communications manager, and Rabia Nusrat, programme manager meet the Trust’s charity partners there.
‘The British Asian Trust Made it Happen’
My first day ever in Pakistan and already I have met - and been inspired by - many people who are working to change lives in Pakistan’s poorest regions.
The day starts in Lahore with a lovely and much appreciated introduction to Pakistani hospitality by the family of my colleague, Trust Programme Manager Rabia Nusrat. They dressed me in a rich red kameez (tunic) and shalwar (trousers), taught me a few essential words in Urdu and served a traditional breakfast of puri (fried bread), chana (chickpea curry) and halva to send us on our way to Karachi.
Dodging the colourful Karachi traffic of rickshaws, donkey-driven carts, cars, and ultra-decorated busses spilling over with people, we reached the headquarters of The Layton Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust (LRBT). Celebrating its silver jubilee this year, LRBT has provided free eye care to more than 19 million people, many who would otherwise be blind.