Oct 2, 2019

Meet Ahsan, a young technology enthusiast

Sowing car seats at a workshop
Sowing car seats at a 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 participating in class
Ahsan participating in class
All smiles showing his seat in the computer lab
All smiles showing his seat in the computer lab

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Aug 30, 2019

Back to School with Fresh Fruits

Queuing up for boiled eggs and milk
Queuing up for boiled eggs and milk

After a long summer break of nearly two months, the hustle bustle of school resumed in July. As the schools continued to serve nutritious local meals to their little elementary school students they observed the adjustment to the back-to-school routine had brought challenges with it.

At Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School (KPS) it was noticed students of Kindergarten were taking longer than usual to complete their meals due to their recent change in waking up time. Not to be daunted, the school management in conjunction with the breakfast cook and ECE (Early Childhood Education) teachers and In-charge, decided to serve breakfast an hour later. Instead of beginning the day with breakfast, Kindergarten students now complete their Circle Time in class and then proceeded to the Breakfast room. The results of this change has completely surpassed expectations! Students who were previously unable to finish their breakfast were now gobbling it up and the average time taken to complete a meal fell! In other amazing news, the program was expanded to provide Breakfast for our 33 students of Nursery too!

July also marked the beginning of another academic year which brought new admissions in Kindergarten at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School (SMB). It has been observed previously that students show resistance towards eating fruits. SMB held a Fruit Day Celebration filled with fun activities to encourage our new tots and old to enjoy fruits with the same enthusiasm as other foods! Parents of students also participated actively in the celebration, since healthy eating habits at home are a necessary reinforcement to the habits being developed in the program. The day started with performances by few of the students playing various seasonal fruits like mangoes, pears, peaches and apricots and grapes. During this, the students recited poems and songs about the fruits they were representing. Later, all students took part in a fruit coloring activity where they learnt about more fruits and made wristbands with the help of their parents. The day ended with all students getting served by their parents with seasonal fruits and fresh yogurt while their teachers explained the nutritional value of each fruit.

What’s on the Menu?

During this quarter, SMB’s and KPS’ students were served boiled eggs, omelets, seasonal fruits with yogurts, oats with yogurt and mild spices, porridge, aloo parathas (flatbreads made with whole wheat and stuffed with potatoes), chickpeas and lentils. Milk is a regular feature of the meal, along with stewed vegetables such as spinach, sweet potatoes, lady fingers, carrots, and bottle gourd. Fruits are also given in the form of shakes to satisfy the picky eaters. All effort is made to ensure processed foods are eliminated such as using dates as a sweetener instead of sugar and getting rid of store-bought bread. The focus is to provide a healthy balanced meal without compromising on taste.

About the Program

Zindagi Trust’s Breakfast Program aims to provide students with a nutritious locally sourced meal. At KPS, 250 students of Nursery, Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 were served. SMB served 300 students of Kindergarten only due to its much larger student body. The program seeks to integrate and build awareness of health, nutrition and environment among our young students. 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.

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

Representing fruits while learning all about them
Representing fruits while learning all about them
Mothers of students watching during performances
Mothers of students watching during performances
Learning about names of fruits
Learning about names of fruits
DIY Wristbands
DIY Wristbands
Learning about the nutritional value of each fruit
Learning about the nutritional value of each fruit
Ending Fruit Day with yogurt and bananas
Ending Fruit Day with yogurt and bananas

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Jul 24, 2019

Meet Sara: A budding linguist

12 year old Sara
12 year old Sara

12 year old Sara loves waking up in the morning to the sound of birds chirping and singing, it instills a sort of calm in her before diving into a hectic routine. After morning prayers, she assists her mother in daily tasks such as cleaning the house and washing dishes. All day she waits for her favorite part of the day—going to school! She loves meeting her friends there but above all she loves studying English and Urdu more than anything. “Studying language has enabled me to read newspapers and billboards which I could not have done before. This gives me immense pleasure and when I go to the bazaar (market) I like to read everything I see around me, be it writings on buildings, cars or anywhere else”  she says.

Sara had never attened school before, and had recently relocated to Rawalpindi, one of Pakistan’s major cities, with her family. Her father, a carpenter and the sole earner of the family, was not able to support her education on a meager monthly wage of 130 USD. However, upon learning of Zindagi Trust’s Paid-to-Learn Program from neighbours, her parents instantly admitted all six of their children. This school where Sara is studying specializes in non-formal education, covering basic primary education in an accelerated two-year course. Now, she is in the equivalent of fourth grade and upon graduation will be able to enroll in a secondary school to continue her education.

She’s one of the most active students I’ve come across, who is eager to learn as much she can in the limited time that she has in class”, says Irum, her English teacher at the school. Sara adores reading and is willing to read anything that appears in front of her eyes. She is particularly fond of reading newspapers, especially fiction stories and the news updates section.

Sara’s doting passion for learning makes her friends want to study and learn from her, and this is precisely how Sara spends most of her time with them. They spend hours writing, reading and sometimes even doodling together. In the future, she is looking forward to teaching young children from low income communities who do not have anyone else to teach them. In her words “I learnt from someone and I would love if one day someone learnt from me too”.

Thank you for helping us support confident students like Sara! We urge you to continue donating so that together we can support more students like her, who are eager to learn but whose financial constraints prevents them from realizing their untapped potential.

During a group activity in class
During a group activity in class

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