If you've ever visited Karachi, the metropolitan city of Pakistan, I guess you've come back with the usual share of traveller's tales; the lavish food, restaurants, beach visits, wedding parties that start at midnight and of course the shopping. Back in 2001, Jalal Idris also visited Karachi, but his sights were set above and beyond the bustle and bright lights of Tariq Road, Sadar or Clifton.
|Jalal's holiday to Pakistan turned into a lifetime quest of serving Karachi's poor and bereft and it was through this struggle that Al Ansar Education and Welfare Trust was born.
Shortly after Jalal's first visit to Karachi, Al Ansar Education and Welfare Trust was set up as a response to the lack of education for the most deprived children in the outskirts of Karachi. This registered charity, based in Jalal's home in London, has to date funded full-time school teachers, the building of classrooms, general school equipment, science and computing facilities and even a couple of community water wells.
The charity has grown and now also funds a clinic/dispensary in the Orangi Town area of Karachi, which has treated 31,000 patients in the past twelve months, for the small price of five rupees a patient, equivalent to five pence in Britain.
One may well wonder how a holiday visit resulted in the above. Well here's how.
When Jalal's plane took off from London, as thousands of passengers do for a family holiday, he packed with him his empathy for those suffering and his desire to do charity work. He recalls his motivation:
`When I was younger, like lots of young people I wanted to change the world. I was part of the 'flower power' generation. The 60's was a time which formed a lot of aspects of my character. Some big dreams don't work; and I accepted that helping people, even one or two is like helping humanity. When you first become a Muslim, you acquire all these brothers and sisters you didn't have before. I felt I wanted to do something for them. I always thought I'd do some sort of voluntary work after retirement, but going to Karachi gave it the focus. I didn't just want to do fundraising, but I wanted to be involved on the ground and use my teaching background.'
Soon into his visit, Jalal made contact with Al Madad Falahi Tanzeem, a charity which had been helping to educate the most deprived amongst Karachi's fringe towns. To see their work he took a trip with them out of central Karachi. Travelling northwest along dusty tracks that seem to lead to nowhere, eventually took him to Baldia Town. Here, Jalal saw families well below the poverty line. Many children work all day and are not educated or receive minimal education. Their families are beset with all the problems that scarcity and deprived living conditions bring. Another such place he visited was the densely populated Orangi Town, with an estimated population of over a million, again with urgent unmet educational and health needs. Lack of clean water, adequate sewage disposal facilities and access to basic medical care being particularly common problems.
Back home in London, Jalal initiated, with the support of family and close friends, the process of forming and registering Al Ansar Education and Welfare Trust:
`When setting up the charity, I had huge support from my in-laws, friends and well wishers. In the beginning you can meet a huge wave of negativity, but everything depends on your intentions, and God guides you to those who are right to work with. You have to be very careful to check everything personally. The fundraising was slow in the beginning, but in three years we have raised over £50,000 in donations to fund the projects. My wife Iffat is an artist, and donates some proceeds from her sales to the charity.'
Since the schools in Orangi and Baldia Town have been extended and refurbished, Al Ansar has ventured into other areas of supporting those in need, through building additional school buildings in Dalmia Town and assisting Al Madad with their inadequate facilities in Chisti Nagar.
Apart from the schools, Al Ansar's Orphan's Project supports 22 orphans providing them with health and education. Jalal has also identified young students with particular educational aptitude and sponsored their further education in a variety of disciplines, ranging from medicine, computing and studying languages. This he hopes will branch into more vocational opportunities for youngsters.
Despite the difficulties of language, and the `steep learning curve' Jalal refers to, the memories of the school children and the education they are receiving, spur him on to continue the work of Al Ansar and he plans to spend more time in Karachi to oversee the charity work.
For further information on Al Ansar Education and Welfare Trust (Registered Charity 1089280) please contact Jalal at firstname.lastname@example.org.