Oct 3, 2018

Muskan-A Seamstress and an Inquisitive Learner

Muskan, defiant in the face of adversity
Muskan, defiant in the face of adversity

 

“I want to keep studying because I love doing so. It was my Papa’s dream to see me and my siblings get educated, and become successful in life. Every time I would wear my eye glasses he would call me ‘Doctor’. I want to keep his dream alive and this is why I try to give my best every single day!’ says the inspirational 15 year old Muskan Arshad from Lahore, Pakistan. Muskan’s father, a sweeper, passed away very early on in her life, leaving behind his family of 6 in both an emotional and financial crisis. Her mother, who is now the only breadwinner of the family works at a school as a cleaner to support the education of 4 out of her 5 children, with an income of only 65 USD per month.

 

Muskan contributes to her family income by helping her mother tailor clothes in the evenings, after school. Her mother has a simple set up at home, where she stitches outfits given to her by neighbouring families in the colony. Through this labour, Muskan is able to give her mother USD 14 every month so her siblings may be able to attend school. Muskan’s aim every month is to stitch as many extra clothes as possible so that she may be able to earn an extra 3 USD, which she uses to pay for evening tuition classes held at her school.

 

Muskan dropped out of school in first grade because of her family’s inability to afford her education. Muskan found herself completely unsatisfied with life since she wanted to resume her studies. 6 months passed before she came across, Paid to Learn Program by Zindagi Trust a non-formal 2 year accelerated primary school program. Upon successful completion of this program, Muskan was then admitted to Allama Iqbal Public High School in Lahore, Pakistan, as a part of the Zindagi Trust’s Secondary Sponsorship Program where students are not only given support for admission into grade six at a formal school but also given a full scholarship till Grade 10.

 

Muskaan’s passion for learning is immediately palpable as well as her curiosity and fascination with life. “I like science because through that I get to learn about the world, learning about force, pressure, chemicals… I love stories and I love history! When my papa was alive I used to ask him to tell me stories about partition and people from the villages,” She recalls.

 

Muskan wants to become a doctor who treats patients regardless of their ability to pay. “I want to become a doctor and have my own practice. I do not want to work under anyone, so that I can practise however I want and treat those who cannot afford treatment” she says, ever the aspiring entrepreneur.

 

Please continue to support our Secondary Sponsorship Program! Your donations will continue to help Muskan, and others like her, in realizing their professional ambitions, and one day fulfilling their dreams.

Hard at work cutting clothes
Hard at work cutting clothes
Studying is her passion
Studying is her passion
At the sewing machine
At the sewing machine

Links:

Sep 5, 2018

Back from the Summer break: Eat your fruits!

Breakfast Hall at KPS
Breakfast Hall at KPS

Schools recommenced in the month of August after a two and a half month summer break. The school management came back to school with renewed energy to take on new challenges. As the breakfast program continued to serve nutritious local meals to their little elementary school students they observed that many students were showing resistance towards eating the fruit that was being served. Given the importance of fruit in our daily diets, the managements decided to try new things to encourage the students to also eat fruit with the same enthusiasm as other foods. Firstly, the number of days fruit is being served was increased. Now, four out of six days, some fruit is being served to students either whole, as shakes or mixed in their porridge. Students especially liked banana and mango shakes. Moreover, the school nurse who oversees breakfast counseled students about the importance and benefits of having various fruits in their diets. Slowly but surely, students are seen completing their entire meals on their own including the fruit!

At Khatoon e Pakistan Government Girls School (KPS), breakfast is served to students of Kindergarten, first grade and second grade totaling 200 students. However, due to its larger student body, SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School (SMB) is currently only able to serve breakfast to their 278 kindergarten students.

During this quarter, SMB’s students were served bread, jam, butter, pancake, boiled eggs, omelet with chapatti, cooked or fried ladyfinger (or other vegetables) with chapatti and yogurt, boiled potatoes, chickpeas, biscuits, sandwiches, fruit salad, french toast, kidney beans, potato cutlets, raw vegetables and wheat porridge. Milk remains a daily feature in the menu.

KPS is currently serving  dates, milk, yoghurt, porridge, fruits, vegetables, chickpeas, eggs, milk shakes, wheat porridge (mixed with dates, milk and sliced bananas) and wheat flat bread (served with a mix of butter and dates). Sweet potato, spinach, and bottle gourd, fresh from our school vegetable garden, is also being served.

Speaking of the school vegetable garden, which we introduced to you in the last report, KPS is now growing Brinjal/eggplant and serving it to students. Various vegetable seeds have been planted which will be ready to serve students during the next quarter. Measures are being taken to protect the vegetables from pests. An environment club has been initiated which comprises of 30 students. These students are growing their own vegetables and fruits, composting using school kitchen and garden waste and learning to take care of their environment. Awareness of health, nutrition and environment are being integrated.  

The Breakfast program has done wonders. It has brought about a heartening improvement in the development and health of our young students. Teachers and staff report a decrease in absenteeism, fainting due to malnutrition, yawning during the class, and diminished concentration in studies and sports.

The provision of breakfast has also tremendously boosted student admissions in the Early Childhood Development grades (ECD) at SMB. Visitors comment very positively on providing hot-meals to the young kids. The parents of newly admitted kids were especially very happy and overwhelmed by this facility at school and appreciated the efforts of the management and the concept of having healthy food. These newly admitted kids will hopefully uphold having breakfast every morning and inculcate the tradition of regular and healthy breakfast at their homes.

We are especially happy to hear that the breakfast program is making waves outside of school. The message of having a good breakfast has travelled to the community and kids who have moved to higher grades have been asking their parents to make similar breakfast for them at home. “I miss the breakfast of KG II; we used to get new yummy dishes every day.” Said Areeba Hussein of grade 1-B. Iqra Rizwan of 1-D said, “Our KG breakfast introduced us to very healthy breakfast items and I ask my parents to make the same for me for in the morning”.

Please consider making a donation to our breakfast program to continue supporting nutritious meals for children in Pakistan’s public schools

Milk and fruits
Milk and fruits
Breakfast hall at SMB
Breakfast hall at SMB

Links:

Jul 30, 2018

Meet Sher, aspiring doctor and refugee

Sher Ali collecting trash at the local market
Sher Ali collecting trash at the local market

Sher means lion in English. Fourteen year old Sher Ali definitely seems to exhibit the bravery which is the defining character trait of his namesake animal. He first showed this bravery when he and his family fled from war-torn Afghanistan when he was seven years old, and came as a refugee into Pakistan. He remained brave when his father’s kidneys were about to fail, and remains brave to this day, as he works as a trash collector and seller in the local mandi (vegetable and fruits market) during the day to support his family.

This bravery is apparent in his smile as he poses for a photograph in front of the leftover vegetable sacks from the day’s batches of produce brought into the market. Sher wakes up at 4 am every morning and comes to the mandi where the day’s produce is being brought into the market, in fiber sacks. These sacks, after being unpacked, are often discarded by the vendors, and are the source of daily income for Sher Ali and many other refugee children like him. After scouring the whole market for these sacks, Sher sells them to a seller for $0.008 apiece. On a lucky day, he will make a daily income of $3. This contributes to his total family income which is made up of the daily earnings of his siblings only, because his father is chronically ill and too weak to work.

Fourteen year old Sher is a student at a Zindagi Trust school in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. This school specializes in non-formal education for working children, covering basic primary education in an accelerated two year course. It was through a door to door recruiting campaign that our Zindagi Trust team in Rawalpindi found Sher at the local vegetable market, and encouraged him to join the program. Now in the equivalent of the second grade, Ali spends three hours at the school every day, after his 10 hour shift at the vegetable market.

Sher is the only one amongst his ten siblings who is attending school. He is an exceptionally bright and quick student, and often scores the highest marks in his English course. ‘I feel so happy when I am in school. Since I started studying, life has become so much easier; I can read street signs and labels in shops’ he tells one of his teachers.

Sher’s bravery again shines through as he speaks about his ambitions in life. “I want to become a doctor, so I may cure all the sick who cannot afford treatment, in my country”

Please continue to support bright and brave students like Sher through our program.

The young doctor during class
The young doctor during class
Participating in his favourite class
Participating in his favourite class
Studying Geography
Studying Geography

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