Most people wouldn’t choose to spend time in South Asia’s largest slum on the outskirts of Karachi.
In fact, sometimes just the mention of the notorious slum of Orangi makes people withdraw. Not so for Nermeen Islam.
A Developments in Literacy (DIL) volunteer, Nermeen is a regular visitor to DIL’s schools there where she provides training for the teachers from the community. A British Asian Trust charity partner, DIL receives funding for teacher training.
A qualified Montessori teacher at one of Karachi’s leading academic institutions, Nermeen’s commitment to education extends well beyond her working hours. All children benefit from effective teaching. But it can transform the lives of those living with the poverty and violence that characterise the Orangi slum.
“I wanted to help. They are so eager to learn and willing to try,” she says of the teachers. Nermeen provides them with ‘a new way of teaching and approaching the curriculum’ in regular training sessions. Her specialties are English and art.
“I can see a world of difference in the teachers,” she says. “DIL students are getting a better education. They develop confidence in themselves that they matter,” says Nermeen. “You can see it in the classroom. It’s all been so rewarding,” she says of her three years as a DIL volunteer.
Nermeen isn’t sure who benefits most from her volunteer work – the teachers, the students or herself. “My work with DIL made me make priorities in life. I really thought about what is important and what is not. I am much more pro-active in society now,” she says.
Her own children are now involved in community work, often with Developments in Literacy. “I am thankful to DIL for that,” says Nermeen. It was her sister Ahmereen Reza, Chairperson of the DIL Trust UK, who introduced Nermeen to Developments in Literacy.
“It’s nice to go there and give a little bit of yourself,” says Nermeen.