Overlooked #5 The Arduous Test of Life

So a few weeks ago my sister told me about how she came across this piece about a family really struggling mentally and financially. I decided to investigate further and discovered the situation was a very grave one indeed and the family was in dire need of assistance.

We decided the best way to get a gauge of the seriousness was to go and meet the family first hand. Once we reached there, we started talking to their eldest daughter, trying get a feel of the household and it’s struggles. The family consisted of an elderly couple and their two daughters. The father, a 79-year-old man who used to drive taxis, had suffered from a paralytic stroke a few years back, and the family had struggled to make ends meet ever since. Even prior to the paralytic stroke, he had had a series of medical complications throughout his later years, including a heart attack, but they had been improved considerably when he was operated on by a local hospital (The operation paid for by the generosity of Sharjah TV).

Relief for the poor souls?

After the operation, the family experienced their first pleasant period in quite a while. However, this was not to be. The father was involved in a car accident which, unfortunately, undid a lot of the progress made through the operation. From that day to this day, the man has been in a brain-damaged state, barely talks, and is in a semi-paralytic state.

Eldest Daughter elaborates:

“Throughout the years after the accident, we really felt like all our work and headway had been for nothing and felt broken and shattered. To make matters worse, our father’s visa expired and every year we incur fines for living here illegally; The total penalty accumulated so far is AED 65 000 and we have no idea how we will even begin to pay back such a colossal amount. My sister and I work, but forget about paying the debt, we barely make enough to get by. I’ve only studied until the 8th grade and so I babysit the neighbor’s kids. After all, who would hire a girl with no educational background? My younger sister does a pick-and-drop of girl(s) from a college, and my mother sporadically sews clothes, but that is about it for the income our family generates.”

Options back home?

“We can’t leave this country and go back to Pakistan, as our house over there was destroyed in an earthquake. As of right now, the land and most of the nearby places are not inhabited by people due to the damage, leaving most of the land virtually worthless. I hate to to say it but we are indeed in dire need of assistance.”

Our proposal

As my brother understood the situation, he had a pretty clear idea of what needed to be done. He knew a few people who wanted to pay their Zakat (Charity) and would be able to get aid if we presented a suitable case to them. As we stood up to take our leave, My brother and I tried talking to the 79 year old man. He couldn’t say much, was sitting on a wheel chair, and could barely move, but when I suggested that he would get better once he took his medicine, he just calmly looked up towards the sky, pointing towards God. I know it might seem bizarre, but despite his situation, he seemed quite content and an aura of serenity seemed to surround him, as if to suggest he had made peace with God and this world.

PS. We are trying to ensure that the money is used for the appropriate purpose and so will try to make sure the money is given directly to the debtors of the family, so as to ensure the money is not used for any other purpose. If anybody is interested in knowing more about the family, my email is: walock1996@gmail.com

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Overlooked #4 Orphanages and Destitute homes: Forever Unsung?

The picture above is from Kashana, A Welfare home in Islamabad. In the time I was in Pakistan, I made sure I to visit various points of interest. These points were not the type places you would find marked on guides or google maps, but sometimes you visit places just because you feel like it.

I’ve written about one of these places: The Dialysis Center, and I will write about another one today:

Kashana, A Welfare home for Destitute, Orphaned and Runaway girls.

I got into contact with the Director of the institute and told her that I was really interested in a visit, since such establishments intrigued me. She replied by saying she was pretty busy that week, but she could squeeze me in on the weekend.

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A look from the side entrance (Apologies for the blurry picture)

Immediately after I arrived, I wanted to get into the gist of things and went into the Director’s office. The Director, Mrs. Naz, started off by showing me a few of her financial books. She told me how she kept a register for all the incoming donations, and how she kept a separate book for the ongoing expenses the home faced. How government aid almost never reached them in time and how over the years she’d become a master at “Making do” with limited resources.

About the institution

As we started walking around the institution, I asked her about the girls and their nurturing. I discovered that the girls ate, learned (through classrooms built in the upper level), played, and slept all under the same roof. The home cared for about 200 girls of all ages, from orphans to runaways, and its micro management requirements were eye opening. While I was there, I saw the windows being cleaned of the house, and I was told the whole ordeal usually took round about 4 hours. This was most remarkably intriguing, and I immediately garnered more respect for the depth and skill that goes into the management of such facilities.

Challenges faced?

When asked about the hindrances faced, she told me there was no shortage of them.

“The other day,” she explained, “the cook wanted to play cricket with the girls. They let him play but did not let him bat. Not pleased, the cook threatened he would clean the wheat flour used to make bread with tap water from the washroom. The next day, I came to work and saw, to my shock, that none of the girls had touched their food and were starving. When asked why, they told me about the incident with the cook. I tried to tell the girls that tap water is still water, and I had to reprimand the cook as well for his childlike behavior. I could not dismiss him, as he was the only one willing to work here on our limited budget. I would increase the budget, but that is out of my hands. Nevertheless, In the bigger picture, Social work has always been my passion and I like to think we’re making a difference. A real difference.”

After concluding our talk, I thanked her for her time and told her about my admiration for her work. As I started walking towards the car, I thought about how hard these people strive for the betterment of others. These are the type of unsung heroes who help advance our society, but they are also easily overlooked by it. 

Overlooked #3 – The Visionary Colonel

A couple of months back, when I had to go to Pakistan for my mother’s operation, I visited a Dialysis Center associated with the Pakistan Kidney Patient association. This center is specifically run for the homeless and less fortunate, in other words those who cannot afford the even the most basic of healthcare. My father and I have been in contact with the retired colonel who runs the center – A brilliant man by the name of Yunus – for almost two years now. In that time we have been fundraising to our family friends, school friends and acquaintances here in Dubai, and I was ecstatic to have finally gotten the chance to visit the facility first hand.

Speaking to the Mr. Yunus, he talked to me about his facility and the financial restraints he goes through on a regular basis. Since philanthropy has always appealed to me, such a project only fueled my interest further and I asked the kind sir if he could break down some of the costs involved in running such a facility. The Colonel happily obliged. Below are his answers to my questions compiled into a convenient narrative. Naturally, Paraphrasing is involved and the amounts have been converted to US Dollars since it is internationally recognized (Keep in mind the different parities though).

“I started this facility 14 years ago, with only 40,000 PKR (≈ 380 USD) in my pocket. I had no access to clean water, no staff, no beds or any medical equipment of sorts. Today, after laboring through the years of hard work, I finally have a facility that has developed fantastically over the years and does its job quite competently.

We have fixed a mini water filtration plant inside the facility (getting access to clean water is becoming easier in Islamabad but wasn’t always so in the past) through which water is purified in a 9-step process.However, this wasn’t a cheap endeavor, and the medical equipment added to the arduous financial strain. Currently, we have 28 beds in the facility and each one has its own dialysis machine.
Each machine cost us about 1.2 million PKR (≈ 11500 USD) and whenever a spare part needs replacing, you can estimate an additional 100,000 PKR (≈ 950 USD). To add to this, I am certain you know about the volatile load shedding situation here, so buying a generator was another (pricey) no brainer. We bought a really powerful one for 2.6 million PKR (≈ 24700 USD) and that is WITHOUT the fuel expenses
*Chuckles politely*. But, it was a necessary purchase and it’s worked out efficiently for us so far, so I am happy with it.

Naturally, we have employed full time doctors and the appropriate staff, but we have 11 full-time personnel as well who volunteer their time free of charge, for which I shall be eternally grateful. You see, we charge each patient 11 PKR (≈ 0.10 USD) per dialysis and 26 PKR (≈ 0.24 USD) for each blood test. Since these costs are so low, we almost always have a waiting list for patients and even have a makeshift GP downstairs to treat those who come in with problems unrelated to kidney failure.

Since we charge so little, our primary source of income is fundraising. We have absolutely no government support and the treatment bills barely make a dent into the overheads. Thus, due to the exchange rates, I urge all the overseas residents I meet to donate, even if just a little. For example, my nephew in Australia collaborates with his friends and each of them send 10 AUD each month (≈ 750 PKR), just like you”

The reason I decided to share this information with you guys because I felt that more often than not this type of work gets overlooked.
We NEED more appreciation for magnanimous efforts in today’s society.

If someone stops by, all they see is a building. What they miss is the blood and sweat cemented into the walls, telling a story of how one individual vision can change countless lives.

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Those who build & labor in the heat – under appreciated?

I was in the local store recently and saw a construction worker pick up what looked like a drink. Maybe it was curiosity or my shamelessness to mind my own business but I approached a little closer. The guy looked at the price, pondered for a bit and simply put it back in its place.

I looked at him and saw the silent cry of sadness reverberating through his face presumably due to the poignant reminder of his financial reality (Read the preceding post for appropriate context). After he had left I examined the drink, an iced tea priced at AED 2.50 ($0.68), and my heart sank right through me as the gravity of his simple act hit me. I realized how privileged and ungrateful I was for all the privileges I’ve ever had.

Not only are they underpaid, they’re undervalued as well. So the next time you pass by a worker/builder/construction worker and you’re not in a hurry, give him a smile or a little pat on the back. Let him know YOU care and appreciate his efforts.

For these hard working individuals of society are under appreciated, and their efforts shall forever be lost between the sweat & cement of the brick walls they spend their lives building.

Do we honestly value our home builders enough?

A couple of weeks ago I was in a labor camp distributing “Care Packets” (Basically consisting of 9-10 basic necessities like flour, Rice, Powdered Milk, etc.). If you’re wondering “Why a labor camp?”, you probably come from a developed country, in which case you’re forgiven if you think that builders live perfectly normal & fulfilling lives (as is generally the case in these first world countries).

Here, however, these laborers earn around AED 700-1000 ($200-270) monthly which is very little even when adjusted for parities. Secondly, majority of their incomes go back to their homeland in the form of current transfers, as most of the laborers sacrifice their own living comforts to support their own fledgling families & kids back home. Some have the additional responsibility of supporting their parents as well. Moreover, A lot of them do not hold their newly born children until months later, something no parent should ever have to go through…

Another reason I feel for these laborers – most of whom are construction workers/builders – is that they have to often work under the unforgiving smoldering desert heat of Dubai (We have literally 9 months of summer here). Night shifts aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms either as they bring with them the intolerable humidity. As great as Dubai is, weather is not one of its prettier aspects.

Stay tuned, I’ll be posting a bit more about this topic peeps.


“I’d rather change the world, than let it change me” – Original Quote