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Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to save a life

Ubaid Malik is a resident of Pind Dadan Khan – a town not too far from the hauntingly picturesque salt mines of Khewra. Although Pind Dadan khan lies at a distance of only 200 Kilometres from Islamabad the atmosphere that prevails there is predominantly rural. Growing up in Pind Dadan Khan Ubaid witnessed first-hand the unjust and discriminatory practices that are woven into the rural fabric. “I grew up in a place which is unmatched in backwardness of thought and where a high level of illiteracy prevails” says Ubaid.

An unfortunate reality that is part and parcel of the rural life is the high mortality rate due to inadequate medical facilities, especially true for women – a fact that Ubaid refused to accept. In search of ways to improve the deplorable medical facilities he approached several community leaders, but instead of encouragement he mostly found disinterest.

Refusing to give up Ubaid found his way to an Active Citizens training organised by a partner organization of the British Council. Here he got an opportunity to polish his skills for starting fruitful dialogue and involving others in the struggle to achieve mutual goals. Most importantly though he formed lasting friendships with other like-minded young people.

With a strengthened belief in his abilities Ubaid approached the problem anew. He convinced a few of his friends to join his cause, and together they came up with a brilliant idea to help members of their community: a database of blood types. Says one group member: “although we did not have sufficient resources for to set up a proper blood bank, but we though that at least we could compile a record of people and their blood groups”. The thought behind this was the high number of people that pass away because they did not receive a blood transfusion in time.

The young people made contact with the local health department and pitched their idea to them. Their response? The concerned officials agreed to lend the youth group – dubbed the Active Involvement and Motivation (AIM) youth group – the services of two members of the medical staff for a fee of Rs. 1,000 for each blood group awareness camp they organised. After following this model a few of times the youth group began to feel the inevitable brunt of bearing the expenses. According to Ubaid: “we quickly came to realize that we could not continue to set up these camps (using our own resources)…not for the number of people we wanted to reach”.
 Ubaid and his friends next visited the health department of Jehlum, the district that Pind Dadan Khan is a part of. The officials there were so impressed with the group’s social action project that they took necessary steps in order to ensure that the young people receive the cooperation of their town’s health department, free of cost.

To date Ubaid and his group have organised nearly 30 health camps. Their database now boasts names, addresses, and blood types of 3,200 individuals. When blood samples are collected forms are also circulated which inquire whether the individual is willing to donate their blood in case of emergencies. According to Ubaid nearly half the people in their database have agreed to donate blood if required.

Not one to be satisfied by what he has achieved, Ubaid recently completed an Active Citizen’s Training of Facilitators (TOF) and now plans to help other young people achieve their dream of making their communities a better place to live through positive social action.

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