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Monday, March 26, 2012

High hopes

Rizwan and his sister Aseya are residents of Bangyal – a village on the outskirts of Islamabad. At first glance Bangyal is no different from any of the other numerous villages and towns surrounding Islamabad. Sadly the residents of this particular village also face similar problems as those faced by residents of other villages: poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment, and education.

There are no government run schools for children in Bangyal. The closest school run by an NGO is at a distance of 7 – 8 kms from the Bangyal community.

Rizwan, like all unemployed young men of his community looked for a job wherever possible. But his case is a little complicated: Rizwan and his sister suffer from a degenerative bone disorder – a condition that has progressively worsened over the years.

Among the various offices visited by Rizwan visited in hopes of finding employment was the office of Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP) – a local NGO and an Active Citizens partner. When the Active Citizens programme began STEP offered him a place on the training programme. As a consequence of this training he resolved to do something for his community: to set up a school for the children of Bangyal.

This brought Rizwan to the next question: how would he fund the school? Rizwan received help for the initial funding from other participants from the Active Citizens training that he had attended. Rizwan along with 30 volunteers (mostly from high school and university students) collected scrap and sold it for recycling. Within a period of a few months this group of motivated young people managed to raise nearly Rs. 50,000.

This money enabled Rizwan to start his dream project but he still needed funds to buy school supplies and books. For this he approached a number of NGOs and commercial organizations. For his troubles he was rewarded with some financial help, school supplies like a whiteboard and books; an organisation also had a bathroom constructed in the school.

Among the people approached by Rizwan was a multinational Pakistani organization with headquarters in the UAE. This organisation provided Rizwan with funds to start a shop of motorcycle parts.

The shop now set up and running generates a modest profit which Rizwan uses to pay for the expenses for the school and provides him and his family with a meagre salary.

But Rizwan’s journey is not complete yet; talking about his goals Rizwan says: “(some day) I want to turn this school into a university”.