Sun. May 28th, 2023

Living the dream – Helping Students in Kalash

 Shehnaz  Akhter

I firmly believe that when you set your mind on something positive, the universe helps. Divine intervention, fate or even luck, call it what you may, Good intentions will attract positive action. We are at the mercy of our society’s expectations. The race to succeed in life often makes us blind to a few cruel realities of life and one of those cruel realizations dawned on me and begged to intervene. Our country is culturally very diverse and this diversity is as colorful as it may seem, has a lot of downside such as keeping the minor communities underprivileged.

On a personal level there is not much an individual can do but it is also true that action speaks louder than words. During my teenage, I was more involved with philanthropic activities but then life took a turn and I became busy with “life”. I missed the high I got from helping the poor and needy and wished to do something about it. Lo and behold! A dear cousin of mine was God sent when he came over one day and told me about his plan to contribute to help out a few students in a remote village in Kalash (Chitral). I jumped to trap that opportunity and decided to play my part in this noble cause. We started collecting donations (both financial and material) from close family and acquaintances. It was a proud moment for our team when despite the short notice, people opened their hearts and wallets and decided to lend a helping hand. The funds that we collected were well spent on purchasing sports equipment and stationery item, all boxed and packed, we were all set to leave for Kalash.

It is hard to explain the butterflies I felt in my stomach as the day approached for the departure. This was my first ever visit to Chitral and I was not certain about my expectations. My cousin assured me that all will go well and I must say, it went better than my wildest imagination. We started the journey in a public bus that departed from Islamabad. I was accompanied by my cousin and a sweet friend of mine. The journey continued throughout the night and after about 10 hours of traveling, we arrived at a small quite town called Ayun (appr 30km before Chitral). It was early morning by the time we reached Ayun from where we hired a taxi for Bumbret and it took another two hour drive to reach there. Despite the long journey, I was feeling fresh and my spirits were high. The presence of my cousin was the best element who himself dealt with the heavy-weight stationary. without him, the precious cargo would have been too much to manage. The air of the valley was crisp and chilly and the colors of autumn were clearly visible. The sun shined above us and the beautiful Bumburet River flowed besides us. The whole valley was turning yellow and red due to autumn. It was truly a magnificent sight.

By 8 O’clock we had reached Krakal, the heart and hub of Bumburet valley (Kalash). We checked into a small modest guest house which was a traditional Kalashi house. The plan was to rest and sight-see that day but we were excited with our planned mission and decided to get into it despite the fatigue of traveling. After a quick tea break we were on the road again and made our way to the Government Primary School. Along the way, I got chance to interact with a number of children. The encounter was truly an eye opener, but that story is for another day.

We were greeted by a few teachers and they took us straight to the Principal of the school. He was over joyed by our token and requested us to personally hand out the gifts to the students. We had sets of note books, coloring books, colors and writing tools for about 240 students. The children lit up when they received their gifts. Truly some moments are priceless and this was one of them. Within no time we became friends with these little angels and they started following us wherever we went. It broke my heart to leave the school but all good things must come to an end. We had more schools to go to, so much work to do and so little time we had! More or less, our second school gave us the same love we received earlier. I guess the language of love and appreciation is the same throughout the world. Just interacting for a short time makes you want to live with these wonderful souls. To us, these mere gifts did not seem much but the sparkle in the eyes of these children spoke a joyful tale. By then we were exhausted and famished but we had one last school to visit, the only Higher Secondary School in this area and our last destination as well. Our cargo was almost depleted, we were left with only sports goods and after this our mission would have been completed. To our amazement, we found out that the school was about to have a ‘Sports Week’ and had little or no funds to buy equipment. The Lord truly works in mysterious ways! The Principal was over whelmed by our gesture and good will. We soon parted ways after a long conversation with the Principal regarding the needs of the students.

I left this valley with a heavy heart and took with me only memories of these beautiful children, smiling with those deep soulful eyes that could pierce though my existence. These children have high dreams and aspirations which I believe if given the right tools and opportunities, would be easily achieved.

I conclude that the need of the hour is to provide basic and quality education and medical facilities in this far flung area along with scholarship opportunities for these children. There are numerous talented, intelligent and hardworking students who unfortunately cannot continue their education due to financial restrictions and lack of opportunities. I implore all the people reading this article to help out in any capacity possible. Oceans are created after collection of single drops, let us show the world what we can do together. Our help, though as little as it may seem, would mean a lot to someone. Come forward to bring the change which we always talk about. Become a helping hand in educating this country.

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