When natural disasters strike, millions of ordinary Pakistanis donate time and money to assist with relief efforts. But public interest begins to wane soon thereafter and affected communities often find no long-term support to revive the local economy and rebuild infrastructure. The situation after the devastating floods of 2010 was no different.
“We had gone to help provide post-flood relief in Charsadda in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” says Mansoor Sarwar, founding member of the Adam Foundation. “But we realised that when we left there would be no future for these people.” This prompted Sarwar and his fellow volunteers to think about how they could help affected communities not only in the short term but also assist them in rebuilding their lives in the years to come. “We had earlier worked in Muzzafarabad following the 2005 earthquake and we decided to start an organisation to support long-term development in disaster-affected areas,” Sarwar explains. The Adam Foundation was registered the following year.
In the village of Landi Daudzai, Sarwar and his colleagues first turned their attention to the local primary school that was destroyed in the floods. Without sufficient funds to rebuild it on their own, they appealed to friends and acquaintances in Denmark. In response, Pakistanis in Denmark raised money to build the school, setting up an organisation called the Hopes Foundation.
In Landi Daudzai, Adam Foundation reached out to the local community to participate in the reconstruction effort. Village residents provided free labour and low-cost materials, in addition to other assistance, and together they rebuilt the school at a cost of just 1 million rupees.
While the school was under construction, Adam Foundation was already thinking about the students and how their education would be financed. They created profiles of all the out-of-school children in the village, with photographs and information about their families, in the hope of finding sponsors among the Pakistanis living in Denmark. “Within two months we had enough sponsors for more than a hundred children,” Sarwar recalls. “It is not a lot of money for someone in Denmark but it can put a child through school in Pakistan.”
“After running the school for some time we realised that even though these children were getting an education, their families were so poor that they didn’t have clean drinking water,” says Sarwar. This led Adam Foundation to develop an ‘all-round care’ model, with the school providing nutrition as well as regular medical check-ups. “There was a visible improvement in the children after providing them extra care, and they are all thriving.”
The primary school in Landi Daudzai currently employs 2 teachers and has just over 120 students. Children are provided with books, uniforms and other school supplies, and donations also pay for operational expenses.
Following their success in Charsadda, Adam Foundation is now working to expand the sponsorship model to help educate orphaned children and to support entire families. “We are finding that sponsoring entire families is more cost effective,” Sarwar says. “For instance, we helped a father start two small businesses and now he can send his children to school on his own. We are also targeting widows to help them earn a livelihood, to get them and their children to become self-sufficient.”
Time and again, Pakistanis have opened their hearts to assist those less fortunate than themselves. Whether a home or abroad, these individuals have shown that when disaster strikes, or when children are in need, all it takes is a few good people to make change happen.