I have lived and grown up in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan. And there is one thing they say about Karachi, ‘Karachi mein koi bhooka nai sota’. (No one sleeps hungry in Karachi). Having looked at the children begging on traffic signals, I often thought if this was a stereotype and nothing more.
Pakistan celebrates an active month of Ramadan every year. People do not only fast but also indulge in charitable activities. They spend excessively, both on themselves and on the needy.
If you are wondering why I am telling you all this, it’s because this is a story of a philanthropic city, a charitable month, and a team of young passionate boys on a super hero adventure.
A post about university students appeared on my Facebook newsfeed. It said that some students had been serving iftari to over 400 people every single day during the month of Ramadan. So I met them and sitting in the bustling food court of a shopping mall in the city’s centre, I patiently listened to the story of how they did it.
“This program started in Nixor College. We used to make boxes of iftari and give them to everyone. But this year, we collaborated with IBA students because of our friends, and we sort of went big.”
Raheel, young boy pursuing Accounting and Finance from the University of London, begins telling us about the philanthropic adventures of his friends and himself. His friend, Abdul Qadir, another skinny young boy, studying BBA from IBA, shares the story with him.
“We fed 500-600 people every day. We named it Aik Naiki. It is not registered yet, but it will be an NGO soon”
This passion for helping others stems from their childhood experiences of social work with their families.
“My father used to do this since my childhood. In the winter, he used to go get free eye treatment services arranged for people in villages in Sindh. My father is not a doctor, he is a businessman, but he used to send the doctors and cover their expenses.”
Raheel fondly talks about one of his ventures as a kid.
“Mein visit pe gaya tha Punjab ki side pe 2-3 villages the. Kaafi acha tha logon ka response. Davayein di gayi thi. Hamne is tarah start kiya but ahista ahista badh rahe hai hum bhi. My father’s job ends when he reaches the place himself but logon ka response kaafi acha tha. Usse inspiration mili ki we want to do something too.”
(I went on a visit to Punjab to a number of villages. The people were very welcoming. We gave out medicines. We started off small like this but then eventually grew. Through this work we inspired to do something like this ourselves as well)
The value of giving was ingrained in them since a very young age, and then they ended up finding like-minded friends because great minds think alike, eh?
“We became friends in Nixor A levels, AS. We became friends through mutual friends, but humari dosti iss kaam ki wajah se mazbut hoti rahi.”
(We became friends in Nixor A levels. We became friends through other mutual friends but our friendship grew because of working together on this venture)
“2-3 se logon ne boxes bantne ka kaam shuru kiya.Eventually log badhte gaye.Is saal team mein 20-25 members hein baaki 25 volunteers hein.“
(We started off with 2-3 people distributing iftar boxes. Eventually more people began joining us.. Now we have 20-25 members and 25 volunteers).
Abdul Qadir further shares stories of their growth and expansion from a small group of college boys working for social welfare to a structured entity. While many of us are busy planning our own iftar parties, these boys are relentlessly living up to the generous stereotypes of this city.
“Humara initial jo plan tha wo iftar boxes ka tha jo hum pichle 3 saal se kar rahe hai. Hum sab kisi ek ke ghar pe milte the, we’d pack samosas and juice in boxes, loaded them in the car and would go to hospitals to distribute them. Before Ramzar, a friend of mine told me that he too wanted to join us in this noble work, and wanted to do it at a larger scale.”
Even though they had limited funds available, they decided to take the leap and go ahead with the idea.
“Our initial plan was to organize an Iftari inside Jinnah hospital. We weren’t permitted inside, toh humne Jinnah ke bahar hi iftaari kar di.“
(Initially the plan was to arrange the iftar inside the hospital but there were permission issues. Hence, we made the arrangement right outside the gate.)
Despite these problems and challenges with no major incentive to continue, one does wonder about what brings these young boys outside the comfort of their homes to help people in need.
“Inner satisfaction. This isn’t a religious activity, kyunki humare kuch volunteers Hindi bhi hai. Woh humesha humare sath hote hai”
I am curious as to what keeps them going? So I ask.
“And mein kuch log atee hain, duayein dete hein, aanso nikal rahe hote hein, that’s what keeps us going.”
(There are people who come to us in the end and pray for us, they have tears in their eyes when they thank us. That’s what keeps us going)
Raheel recalls one such event which explains their source of intrinsic satisfaction gained from these activities.
“Once we were distributing the boxes and had exhausted them. Jab hum laut rahe the, an old uncle approached us. He hadn’t eaten anything and humare paas kuch dene ko bhi nahi tha. So we gave him a bottle of water. Woh puree raste humein duayein dete gaye.”
(We were distributing boxes one day and all the food we had was finished. While returning we met an old man, he didn’t have anything to eat or drink so we gave him our bottle to drink from. He kept sitting there and blessing us and went all the way back constantly praying for our betterment)
Their selfless adventures do not end with the 30 days of Ramadan. There are several other projects they are working on. These include a school in the Thar Desert and an employment scheme project which is in the pipeline.
“We’ve opened a school in Thar with 2 teachers and a couple of families who co-ordinate with us. Hum 6-7 mahine mein ek baar chakkar lagte hai.”
I ask them why did they decide to open a school? They tell me,
“We’ve always heard that people in that location don’t want to study. We just wanted to prove that it isn’t true. Aur humein bohot achha response bhi mila.”
Talking about their plans, Raheel shares,
“We have plans to launch Rozgar scheme, wherein we shall empower local people to use Rishshaws as an employment opportunity”
Just like the rest of us, they are also not perfectly settled on their career plans. While planning to join their father’s trade related businesses, they are also exploring other options that they have available.
“Bohot sare plans hai, we want to try as many things that can bring smile on faces of people.”
However, one thing which they are intent upon is to continue with their activities. Their passion for helping others is only growing every day, and so is there friendship.
“When we choose the name Aik Naiki for our NGO, we wanted people to recognize our work as Aik Naiki’s work as a whole, not the work of Raheel or Qadir”
There are people who overcome difficulties in life and help others do the same. Then there these boys who are an epitome of the kind of spirit we need in our society to make it a better place. They do this out of goodwill, pure goodwill. They have given us all some serious things to reconsider in life (Not that there is anything wrong with being fancy). I am going to end this superhero story with some life lessons they talked about before saying goodbye.
Never ever step back. Even if the naiki is very small, God will help you do it. We didn’t have any funds when we started, we owned nothing but we went through. So we didn’t stop. Don’t stop helping.
If you want to donate or help these guys in anyway, contact them on their page.