Jul 6, 2018

Meet Ahsan, a young technology enthusiast

Ahsan sowing car seats at a car workshop
Ahsan sowing car seats at a car workshop

‘My teachers often ask me who I want to be when I grow up, and everyday my answer changes. Sometimes I want to be an Computer Engineer, and sometimes I want to be a Mathematician; but whichever path I choose, I know I want to be someone whom my family and my country can be proud of’ says Ahsan, as he smiles at us. The sweat drips off his brow, and it is difficult to hear him over the whirring of the aged sowing machine. Ahsan uses the sowing machine to make car seat covers in a dimly lit workshop located in a marginalized area of the city.

Such ambitions may seem strange coming from a twelve year old child who spends his evening toiling in a mechanic’s workshop, but Ahsan’s story is unlike others. He is also a student of Grade 8 at a private school in Rawalpindi (a city located adjacent to Pakistan’s federal capital), where his studies are financially supported by Zindagi Trust’s Secondary Sponsorship Program. The SSP is preceded by a two-year accelerated primary schooling program which is taught to those children who have not had the opportunity to go to school in their early years. After successful completion of the accelerated program, students are not only given support for admission into grade six at a formal school but also given a full scholarship till Grade 10.

Ahsan is the first amongst his siblings to receive an education. His elder brother is a construction laborer. Ahsan tells us he could not attend school before age 10, because he had to help out in his father’s workshop, and going to school would have meant leaving his father to attend to the busy shop singlehandedly. Luckily, Zindagi Trust’s field team convinced his father to let him attend the Trust’s schools in the evening. After his father saw Ahsan’s performance during his time in the accelerated primary course, he enrolled Ahsan’s younger siblings in school as well.

Now, during the day Ahsan attends high school where his favorite subjects are Computer and Mathematics, subjects in which he received second position this year amongst his entire class. After school he immediately runs home to take care of his younger siblings till his mother, who works as a domestic helper in nearby houses, returns home. When his mother is back, Ahsan is off to the workshop where he works till midnight, sowing car seats and fitting them onto the frames of the cars brought in by clients. However, his most treasured part of the day remains his Computer class, where he especially enjoys learning about the different components of hardware and software, and how the two interact together.

Unknown to Ahsan, he is already making his family proud by exhibiting such dedication to his education and his family. We are confident that with such dedication he will make his nation proud of him in no time. Your donations will keep on supporting his professional and personal aspirations in life.

Ahsan recites a paragraph from his textbook
Ahsan recites a paragraph from his textbook
All smiles during Computer Class
All smiles during Computer Class

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Jun 6, 2018

Beyond the Breakfast room: The New School Garden

Waiting in line for their bowl of fruit salad!
Waiting in line for their bowl of fruit salad!

As we reported previously, much to Karachi's dismay, winter ended too soon! The warmer season pushed its way in relentlessly and culminated into a heat wave in May, a two week chapter that recently just closed. However, the Breakfast program at Zindagi Trust's adopted schools likes to see things positively. For them, the changing season  meant getting into action, turning on their creative minds, and renewing the menu with yummier, more nutritious, and climate appropriate items for our elementary grade students.

The current menu at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School comprises homemade omelet with chapatti, boiled eggs, vegetable sandwiches, fried vegetable, spinach with chapatti, chick peas, pumpkin and sunflower seeds with fruit salad, wheat porridge with chicken and vegetables, vegetable soup, chicken soup, sweet porridge, and khitchri (lentil pilaf) with yogurt. Milk is served daily as usual.

The latest menu at Khatoon e Pakistan Government Girls School includes dates, milk, yoghurt, porridge, fruits, vegetables, chickpeas, eggs and milk shakes. Furthermore, wheat porridge (mixed with dates, milk and sliced bananas) and wheat flat bread (served with a mix of butter and dates spread) were also introduced. Most excitingly, harvests from the school's vegetable garden are now also being served for breakfast. These included sweet potato, spinach, and bottle gourd.

Our vision for the breakfast program is about inculcating healthy living habits in our students and we like to take this value beyond the breakfast room. We do not see the breakfast program in isolation from the rest of a students' intellectual development. As such, for long term impact we have involved the school nurse, the gardeners, science teachers, canteen management and parents in the process of implementing the breakfast program.

For example, the school nurse  plays an instrumental role in instilling values of health. In the past couple of months brief sessions were conducted by the nurse with pre-primary students during breakfast time regarding healthy eating. Before breakfast started, students were made to line up and wash their hands properly. They were told about the benefits and method of proper hand washing and teeth brushing. She also identifies students who are reluctant to eat and talks to them. Furthermore, the school nurse collaborates with school administration and canteen staff to ensure that a healthy variety of items is available in the canteen so that the same message of healthy eating is affirmed by everyone at school.

On Earth day, teachers and gardeners took students to the vegetable garden and allowed them to the explore the process of growing food. Students walked around and spotted vegetables growing at different stages and watered the crops as well. We hope that such a practice allows students to develop respect and an appreciation for the earth and the food that it gives us.

At Khatoon e Pakistan, 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 is currently only able to serve breakfast to their 266 kindergarten students. Although students are happy to be growing up and moving on to higher grades they really miss starting their day with the breakfast “class.” AT SMB, First grade students repeatedly ask their teachers about the breakfast program which they had grown to love. Breakfast had fast become an activity for them that not only provided them with a healthy delicious meal— which they probably otherwise would not eat— but also an opportunity for social interaction and learning eating etiquettes. The current KG 2 students who will be promoted to the first grade from April are being mentally prepared, along with their parents, to bring home-made nutritious meals to eat in lunch break. The provision of breakfast has really boosted student admissions in the Early Childhood Development grades (ECD) at SMB which we are glad to see.

The Breakfast program is no doubt a hit. All visitors comment very positively on providing hot-meals to the young kids. The parents of newly admitted kids were specially 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.

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

Watering the vegetable Garden
Watering the vegetable Garden
Student
Student's discovering fresh produce in the garden
Kitchen in charge helping students
Kitchen in charge helping students

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Apr 30, 2018

Ali- A Young Engineer

Ali at the car repair workshop
Ali at the car repair workshop

Ali pulls out a small stool and seats himself in front of a shallow tub containing timeworn petrol and an old paintbrush. He dips the brush into the petrol and starts to spread the oil over the casing of the motor bike’s engine. He works with concentration turning his head at angles, making sure to get the tiny crevices. As he works to clean the dirt off of his client’s bike, his confidence along with his rough and blackened fingers bear testimony to his years of experience at this car repair shop. Towards late afternoon, Ali scrubs his nails the best he can, changes his shirt, and diligently heads over to his school.

Twelve year old Ali is a student at a Zindagi Trust school in Lahore, 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 Lahore found Ali at his shop and encouraged him to join the program. Now in the equivalent of the first grade, Ali spends three hours at the school every day between his time at the workshop.

One of five siblings, Ali chose to work to help supplement his father’s monthly salary of USD 130. His teachers regularly praise his dedication, sharp mind, and ability to learn quickly— qualities that have allowed him to excel in school as well as work. We hope that the same qualities will allow Ali to fulfill his two goals in life: becoming an engineer who serves Pakistan and providing his family financial support and a comfortable life. With your donations Ali’s ambitions can become more of a reality.

Thank you for supporting bright children like Ali through our program and we hope that you will continue to contribute!

Ali in his class
Ali in his class
Ali participating in class
Ali participating in class
Ali the young engineer
Ali the young engineer

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