This past summer I was given an opportunity by you to experience something I didn't believe would happen for a long time.
I am ever so grateful that I was one of the people you chose to bring along to Goharabad. My visit to Pakistan has made me realize that this type of work is something I am meant to do for the rest of my life; not only in Pakistan but also in other parts of the world; parts where not only my brothers and sisters, but others live in conditions in which it is inconceivable to us that human survival is possible.
Going to Goharabad has been the happiest and most life-fulfilling time of my life, and I have you to thank for that.
Salim uncle, you asked us upon going to Pakistan to think not about what we were going to give to the people there, but what we would eventually learn from them. Being in Goharabad, I have learnt the true meaning of unconditional love and giving, I have learnt the true meaning of equality, and the true meaning of family. In our society we are so consumed by the material world, that the true meanings of words like family, love, sharing, equality have dissipated not from our vocabulary, but from our actions and intentions towards each other; and we are so consumed by all the material objects we have to acquire, that we eventually become selfish and everything is all about the individual. This is not the person I want to become, but it was the person I was becoming before going to Pakistan. I believe that giving a few months out of the year to help improve the life of someone else, will help me to stay grounded and will always remind me of the true meaning of why we are here and what is possible to help others achieve during our lifetimes. I believe that by being born into such a prosperous society and having such amazing opportunities given, this is a duty that I must achieve during my life.
You have opened my eyes and have shown me that one or two people can make such a huge difference in so many people's lives. By opening a school in Goharabad, you not only helped so many children gain an education, but you helped a community grow and prosper. I know that there is still a lot to be done there, but what you have given to that small community is so amazing. To me, both of you are such an inspiration and I hope that one day I will be able to do what you have done for so many.
After leaving Goharabad, the memories have stayed with me and not a day goes by when I don't think about what is going on in the village, how everyone is doing, if the children are studying etc. I have also been thinking of ideas and programs which could help better the future of the Goharabad community.
For example, this past summer we saw that hygiene is still a big issue in the smaller communities and is something that needs to be addressed. Time permitting, once every week or two weeks, we could convert a science class into a health and hygiene class starting with simple hygiene in pre-school and getting into more complex issues as the classes mature. It would have to be planned in such a way that these classes would be incorporated into the curriculum such that nothing from the normal curriculum gets excluded. For these classes to be possible, proper teacher training would need to take place. I believe that if a few health and hygiene classes were held for mothers and the importance of good hygiene impressed upon them, it would help to ensure that simple hygiene would be practiced by the whole family.
Water sanitation is something that needs to be looked into as well. As we saw, many of our students suffered from worms, likely due to drinking the river water. Water sanitation is a huge project to undertake and a lot of research would be required to tackle it; with the right people and finances it could be possible to guarantee that the community would have clean drinking water. This could possibly eradicate many of the health concerns stemming from drinking unclean water.
Something else that I thought would better help the children in their education is to set up teacher assessment programs. Teacher assessment programs were started in Canada a few years back to make certain that teachers were not becoming lazy and to make sure that their students received the best education. The assessment is broken into two components; an oral segment and a written segment. The written segment tests knowledge in the teacher's designated subject area, while the oral segment includes potential scenarios screening everything from how the teacher delivers material (are they enthusiastic, motivating, giving the right information) to how a teacher would handle certain class situations, such as a mischievous child or how to effectively control a loud class etc. The assessment is generally done once every two years and I believe it would ensure the standards at the school were upheld, ensuring that the education the children receive is as beneficial to them as it can possibly be.
This next idea is something that is very important to me personally, and if given the opportunity, I would love to lead up this project in the next few years. I believe that having a breakfast program is essential in helping a child achieve their educational goals. I know you guys have already thought about this, however due to restricted finances it has never taken off the ground. It has been proven that having breakfast first thing in the morning makes significant improvement in a child's learning, school attendance, behaviour and self-esteem. It has been noted that children who misbehave in class, who don't attend school regularly, who are lethargic in their performance, could be lacking something as simple as a nutritional breakfast. In order to make it a success, issues such as financial cost, personnel needed to prepare and serve the food, the type of food to serve would have to be looked into. As previously mentioned, this is something that is very important to me. Inshallah, within the next five years or so, I will be able to not only give my time but I will also be able to financially contribute; if given the opportunity, I would be grateful to play a role in this project.
When we last met, you had mentioned that you were teaming up with other people and organizations in order to build schools and better the lives of people in the entire Ghizer district. I am asking to be considered to become a member of this team within the next few years. I know that your aim is to give every student a chance to experience what I have and to open doors for them in this area. You have given me my chance, and you have opened my eyes to what one person can do for another. In order to tackle your next goal, you will need not only finances, but manpower. I therefore humbly ask that within the next few years, you consider me for both these roles and take me on as a member of your team. Inshallah, one day, I may be able to give another young person, the priceless experience you blessed me with such that the work you have done, not only to aid those of developing world, but also to open up the eyes of those raised in the western world, may continue.