Blue Day at Orange Tree

What can be more satisfying than to work for the betterment of our society? At the beginning of the day my expectation from Jaag’s volunteer work was not more than a certificate. But once I got into the program, my priorities, my objectives, my life changed! Blue day with little oranges was tremendously amazing, I never thought I’ll have this feeling of bringing a change in the society which we are part of. Holding a child’s hand and walking through the beach is one of the finest feelings. My dad always taught me to work for a good cause, which is not only the part of our good deeds but also the source of inner satisfaction. The beach trip made me all dirty, tired and hungry but when I saw the children smiling, playing around with the water and waving to the helicopters flying, it showed me the importance of enjoying the nature and of learning to make the best out of the day.

The outstanding feature of the blue day was the unspoken pleasure, joys and happiness reflected in the shinning eyes and the glowing faces of the children and their mothers alike. This oppressed and deprived community of our society is not exposed to these pleasures. When exposed I saw them overwhelmed with excitement and emotions, initially I saw them completely lost but gradually they realized that it was all real and no dream and then the children seized to be children and mothers seized to be mothers. It was all fun and fun and fun, the mothers forgot there sufferings there deprivation and at that very moment what they had known was nothing but happiness and joys. What else would have made me happier then these unforgettable moments of happiness?

The whole activity was well conceived, planned and executed. The sea water has it magnetic effect and that is why the cost line always remains saturated with from all walks of life and all age group. Even the watch of the waves would involve you so much and that you tend to forget about the sounding and lose track of time. Most of these mothers and children have visited the cost line before too and I learnt that each time they came the attraction of cost line never decreased and they were still looking forward for the next visit.

        Blue day is certainly marked as a great experience, a memorable day and an amazing trip of my life. I am someone who’s really fond of children and at orange tree, I met dozens of 2 to 4 year old kids which of course made me happy and gave me a reason to continue volunteering over there. The spirit of helping others to earn God’s blessings is best reflected in Muslim society. The greatest charity for a Muslim is to learn/ acquire knowledge and then pass on to other Muslims. Knowledge is the most wonderful thing in the whole universe. That is why there is nothing greater then knowledge being imparted by one human being to another.

Written by Gaity Khan(volunteer at Orange Tree)

A visit to Darul Sukoon with the mothers at Orange Tree

The sky was partially overcast when I left my house early in the morning of 29th June, 2012. I had not known that this day in my life would become an unforgettable one.

We were scheduled to visit Darul Sakoon with other members of the Orange Tree team along with the mothers of the children who go to the Orange Tree montessori. These mothers and their kids were the ones with whom we had spent Blue Day on the beach of Arabian Sea sometime back.

The objective of this visit was to develop an understanding that there is no end to sufferings and misery that are beyond the realm of poverty. It was arranged as part of the motivational training of the mothers of the Orange Tree students for their emotional forbearance for which is worked upon on consecutive Fridays.

We assembled at Orange Tree; collected gift packs (which we had prepared a day earlier for the people living in Darul Sakoon) and headed towards our destination.

On reaching, we were briefed by Ms Mina that on entering we have to keep our cool and if the occupants try to shake hands or hug us, we should let them and should not be frightened.

We then entered a sprawling courtyard and what we saw there made me, in my imagination, bow to Allah Almighty for giving me so much. There I could see people who were physically and mentally challenged. Some were on wheel chairs, some walking, some on the beds inside and upstairs, some could not even move, some could talk and some could not. This sight was such that cannot be described in words.

I gathered my courage and with my team got onto the job of distribution. We presented gifts to all, mixed up with them and started talking about different matters of their interest with them.

The objective was to make them feel loved. The mothers of the Orange Tree students were fully involved with us. My gut feeling was that these mothers must be also be extending their gratitude to God Almighty for being blessed with health.

It was a very painful sight. Strange are the ways of nature. These physically and mentally challenged people, given the choice, I am sure, would ask for recovery from their disability and none of them would pray for material or worldly gains.

The compound effect, of this visit, on the mothers who went with us was immense which fulfilled the purpose of taking them along. In hindsight, I saw a glow of hope radiating on their faces.

The psychological impact was visible proving that the purpose of the visit had been served. One could read from their body language that the sight of people at Darul Sakoon had made them see life in a whole new perspective, one where they feel thankful and one where they have renewed sense of hope in their journey of life.

This stay of ours lasted about an hour or so but to us it seemed like a lifetime and there after we made our way back.
-Gaity Khan (Volunteer at Orange Tree)

 

Here is what the mothers at Orange Tree had to say about the visit:
I never thought I’d go to Darul Sukoon. Going there made me feel like I entered a whole new world. However, going there made me first thank Allah especially when I saw a kid in a wheelchair who held my hand and would not let go. I felt like hugging him right there.

Truly Allah has blessed us with everything but all we do is complain. Now I know and realize this more than ever before.

-Bisma Shah

When I went to Darul Sukoon, seeing the people there made me really sad that this is their life. We saw all types of people there those who were physically or mentally challenged, both rich and poor and even those who were waiting for their family to show up so much so that they were trying to find them in every person who walked in there. Some of them were even tied to chairs. Seeing them made me really upset and want to thank my Lord that He gave us so much.

However it made me appreciate the efforts Minah and people like her are putting there. I salute them for all that they are doing.

Even so, going there left me quite upset. I don’t believe that the people there are looked after well. It is sad if they are shouted at, thrown at the beds and not properly taken care of. One poor woman fell off her wheel chair but no one went to her help, when we n Minah saw it we ran to help her sit back on the wheel chair. Watching all of this gave me more patience and made me thank God even more.

At times I wish that I had so much so I could help these people. Allah chooses His special people for work like these, people like Minah.  Looking at them made me realize that God has given us wealth in the form of health. It makes me thank Him that I am not dependent on anyone. Certainly, money is not everything it is something that just comes and goes but complete and proper health is what has made us rich. We can do anything and everything we like, we have goals in life that we can strive to achieve.

What I felt for them that day I probably can’t even describe in words. Nothing I write can define what I felt.

Consequently, one thing is true, after visiting Darul Sukoon the patience and content feeling that I have now is way more than I ever had before.

-Yasmeen Abassi

We should be thankful to Allah who gave us every thing, provided us with mercy and His grace. The most important thing that I felt was that the madam of that school, her attitude is very bad with the kids. They need a lot of love and deserve happiness, not the attitude like that their teachers gives.

This was my experience and what I felt when I went there!

-Ayesha Khan

65 and counting

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The thing I absolutely love about August in our country (well other than monsoon) is the fever of patriotism that spreads like a viral through every corner of every street in each city here!

My beloved turns 65 this year and as the day comes closer we see a fever and increased energy levels, whether it be in terms of Facebook updates with green all over or the green flag stalls on every corner or the green and white merchandise and of course, the green and white flag that marks the beauty of the Land of Pure. Streets that remain flag free rest year round are lit up with shades of green and white. Pictures of patriotism flood the internet with every Pakistani oozing with love for their country and its people.

The question here is why this fever is so short lived? Why must we wait another 11 months to revive that spirit? Why do we throw away our flags as 14th August comes to an end? Why are we unable to carry on with the same zeal and energy for the rest of the year?These questions no matter how simple they might seem carry a heaviness that most Pakistanis today might understand for today all of this seems evident to each and every one of us.

Even though 65 years later we do carry the flag with our heads high today, we have overtime forgotten the real essence of green and white. The Pakistani flag today carries the beauty of 14th August while back then it was much more. It was a symbol that carried with it the feeling of a separate nation, the ray of hope, the unity of all existing groups. It was more than a piece of cloth. It was an ideology.

Even today on the eve of Independence Day if I go for a walk outside, I will see the flag waving high on top of buildings. But somehow we all know that there is a major difference of perspective when we are celebrating independence today as we did 65 years ago. That simply being that for us independence is on the 14th of August while for those of the time, it was on every day of every year that followed. It is the mark of freedom after years of struggle and fighting daily battles. Hence they understood Independence in its real form because they are the ones who really worked hard to give us the land, culture, history and beauty that lies within the boundaries of this nation.

This was something that was just not to be taken for granted. Every day of freedom had to celebrated with heads raised up high in honor of the ideology that is Pakistan!

Nonetheless, this does not mean that we today, abandon the festivities of 14th August. One cannot and should not let go of the feeling of patriotism that still exists; wherever and whenever it does. Even if many of us take out these flags only once a year, that single day is still an opening, a new beginning.

For those of us who have lost hope in this nation, know that change has to start from somewhere. May it take a single day or years to come it always needs an origination, a point where it all began. Therefore, the worst thing at this stage would be to loose it. This is the only thing our fellow countrymen held on to 65 years ago during their struggles.

If we promise ourselves today that we use this 14th August to not just display the flag but believe in it, work for it and strive to make it better, make us better!

Happy In Dependence my fellow citizens, let’s make the 65th year a good chance to join the two words and understand the real meaning of it.

 

Kiran School System’s 5 year Acknowledgement Seminar

It was an overwhelming moment for all of us when we entered the five years completion ceremony of Kiran School. This was one of those moments that I know we would all remember. It only feels like yesterday when we had our first meeting with SabinaAunty about the initiation of Orange Tree. Our whole team was beyond inspired by her work and dedication and so, as we entered we were even more amazed.

The set up was beautiful and the hall shined brightly with sparkling faces of young students from Kiran School. Their faces showed their excitement. It was the first time that their school organized an event on such a scale. Thus, it was an exalting moment for all. Let’s say it this way,  when we entered we fantasized to ourselves about being here at one point in the future where Sabina Aunty is today.

As the performances and speeches began, different children who had graduated from Kiran School came up on the stage to give their input to the event. These kids not even ten years of age, came up and took the stage sharing with us their dreams and convincing us of how, one day, they intended to make Lyari a better place.

One of the students, Hamza, spoke about how he wanted to be an engineer when he grew up. He believes that Pakistan needs its own engineers and machines to solve it’s problems. He elaborately explained his plan about making a machine which would be hidden under the ground on the streets of Lyari and whenever someone would throw litter, the machine would automatically throw it back at them so that they do not litter next time.

The children also performed on songs like Mai toh Dekhounga by Strings and Heal The World by Michael Jackson  and touched the hearts of the audience.

With such confidence and such high hopes, they showed us how life truly extended beyond the four walls of our houses.

The volunteers and teachers of Kiran School also took this opportunity to speak about how much they had learnt in these five years and how this school was not just limited to it’s students but it engulfed and resolved the entire community’s problems.

What touched us the most, perhaps,  were the speeches given by parents who were called to the stage. Uzair Butt, father of Afnan and Abdul Sami, spoke about his increased employment opportunities after joining Kiran School System and how much he adores Sabina aunty for guiding him and looking out for him. The outstanding mothers teared up and addressed the audience thanking them for being there for the people of Lyari in times when even their relatives had not been there for them.

Dr. Ghaffar Billo, the Chief guest at the event, spoke about how impressed he was with the work of Kiran School, especially Sabina Khatri and how he was grateful to people like her for coming forward and serving the community.

Yes, therefore, it felt even more heart warming when the Orange Tree team was recognized at the ceremony. With that said, it definitely increased our confidence and faith in our own project at that moment more than anything else.

Even if they are just kids, their passion is still inspiring. Every individual carries with themselves the power to do great things. However, I feel, to move towards the path of your dreams, the driving force needed is that of passion. As Sabina Khatri explained her future plan of creating a model home for the families of Kiran School, it came across that she had just that; the passion required to move forward, to take this project and make it into bigger than it already is.

Many might think it is not a big deal to run a school and teach little kids but when Sabina Aunty spoke about the conditions in Lyari and when we saw her continued efforts towards spreading peace and love among the children of Lyari,   Rafeef Ziadah’s words rang in our ears replacing them with, “She teaches life, sir, as grenades drop over Lyari.”

What I realized that day was that at the initiation of every such project lies an individual, who inspires many others to join in his/her struggle. This initiation can then change a whole society. What we need to realize in this all is our own role; the true importance of the individual and the self and its effect on the rest. As Marianne Williamson said:

“Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.”

So what are you waiting for? Work on yourself and the society will in turn correct itself!

-Hafsa Khan

Ho Yaqeen – Let’s believe in Orange Tree!

It was the first month of setting up Orange Tree and needless to say the craziest one. The selected students came for an hour in the first week and it used to be the most happening hour of the day. The kids used to cry, squeal, pee on us, run to their mothers and no matter what we tried, they were not getting detached. When they would leave for the day, we used to sit and get upset wondering where we were going wrong and would call up Sabina aunty asking her for advice and figuring out what needed to be fixed. She would reply in the calmest of tones and soothe us down saying it is completely normal for the kids to not immediately adjust. She told us, it might go on for months and our faces would go white with horror thinking, how will we do this? Amidst all this, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy called and said they would like to shoot us. Arfa; our head teacher took a stern stance, no way were we going to embarrass ourselves to the world by showing how we are not able to handle this. The walls weren’t painted, the kitchen wasn’t set up and we did not want to make our children be portrayed as objects of pity. However, Sharmeen called me up which made me more star struck than convinced to agree and allow them to shoot. Consulting with Sabina aunty made me relax as she explained how we must not panic and take it all in as we go and even Omer bhai told us to go for it. Not until Asad showed me the trailer did I realize how amazing this documentary looked and later on the premiere itself me realize the impact it will have on the viewers in Pakistan. Truly, Sharmeen knows the art of telling a story this powerfully. Sabah and I couldn’t stop ourselves from tearing up during its screening (thanks to Ahmed for making fun of us). It was the story of Lyari, of Sabina aunty who we’ve idealized for many years now and the story of our mothers and children whose stories we’ve always wanted to share with the world. These mothers, who now, after five months, treat us like their own family and Orange Tree as their second home; their stories being told to hundreds of people, to the “Karachi’s intellectual elite” as I like to call them. This story would hopefully be told to thousands more and we only and only hope to inspire more youngsters like us to come forward and work as selflessly as Sabina aunty does. As our mentor, Tazeen Javed had taught us, Pakistan faces an Education Emergency today and it is our duty to come forward and respond to this emergency. We cannot change the past, we cannot change the present mindsets of men and women but the future is in our hands and if you and I can read this blog post, we certainly have the literacy and resources to save our future As Margaret Thatcher, Aqsa Tariq and I like to say: “For those who can do, must just get up and DO!” – Bemisal Iqbal

Pakistan’s 9 year old novelist, hope for the literacy of our nation?

By Huda Syyed

When  social turbulence and political instability encircles us from every direction, the last thing we need is to be reminded of how our country’s literacy rate is relatively low in comparison to quite a few countries in the South Asian region. There are children wandering the streets who have neither been enrolled into schools to be educated, nor do they carry national identity cards to prove their affiliation with their homeland. Where do their futures lie? Some might suggest that they’re paving their way to the same old, crime infested and child abusing corners of the county, but some refrain from making pessimistic, yet slightly realistic analyses, and lean towards the fertile possibility of hope and change. Young and emerging writers such as Aiman Waheed are the very reason that many of us grasp the fragile strands of hope, and pray that ‘education’ turns into a compulsory and effective phenomena throughout our nation.

This young girl at the tender age of 9 managed to write a novel and get it published, her ‘manuscript turned book’ is comprised of 64 pages and is titled “The Dangerous pet” which is out in the local market. So don’t hesitate to buy and explore our very own Pakistani talent who has made an academic impression even though she’s still in sixth grade. Aiman Waheed treasures her books and has always been fond of reading, which shows that the appreciation of literature and books hasn’t died and continues to thrive in our young generations too. Clearly this girl has been encouraged by her parents and has a personal liking to the idea of reading and writing (especially since she is working on her ‘mystery novel’ which is yet to come). The pressing question is how does one make the idea of reading appeal to other children?

As parents, teachers and children themselves have started prioritizing the importance of reading, it’s one way of opening up a child’s mind and broadening the horizons for imagination. Reading is the gateway from one world to another, it’s a sacred place where the child can relate to the story and characters and determine mental images him/herself. Possibilities of love, kindness, ruthlessness are recurring themes in children’s books too, and they provide a platform of learning without putting the child in a classroom in front of a chalkboard. Once again, reality hits hard and reminds us that reading throughout the country is only going to happen if the children are literate. Indeed, several schools have initiated reading programs and improved standards of libraries, but those less fortunate children also deserve to explore the depths of literary value. We as citizens have the potential to bring about change on a small-scale which could in turn create a long-term positive effect, which explains the existence of Orange Tree. The motive of this Montessori is to reach out to everyone on a local scale and enhance the efforts being invested to improve our educational status.

It’s the little steps that truly matter, tutoring a child in need, financing the yearly stationery of a child whose parents find paying his school fees burden enough, or even giving away your old books to those who might need them. Will these actions lead to an immediate wave of educational awareness and literacy across the country? No, but they will lay out stepping-stones for a better and more ‘aware’ future.

Thank you Aiman Waheed for reminding us the positive energy and potential our young children possess!

Support our Mothers, Encourage the Team, and Educate our Kids!

What was most heartening for the team was that not only did members of the community (some with absolutely no reference) joined us at the Open House and gave us a lot of positive feedback, we also had all our families come in and see what we were really doing.

Funny how all this time our parents (who are the driving force behind each of our team members) thought that we were joking around but that day, they walked out of that place extremely satisfied knowing that their children were close to reaching that sense of responsibility towards community, the sense that they had been drilling in to each one of us since the beginning of time..

One word of appreciation from someone you look up to is extremely fulfilling and right when you think something has drained you and things won’t last, you receive just that ample amount of motivation that keeps you on your toes. Without those unspoken words, that one smile has such value that is difficult to spot the feeling that was instilled in our hearts as our families came in and encouraged us.

Members of our extended family came in and shared valuable feedback with us. Everyone who walked through the door that day brought in a whole lot of energy and positivity and filled our little haven with so much love that we felt absolutely overwhelmed. With each one of these wishes, prayers and suggestions, we do feel a little more responsibility coming our way, but as long as we are backed by such amazing individuals around us, there is nothing really that can come our way!

In the true meaning of our tagline, every guest who walked in that day came in to ‘Support our mothers, Encourage the Team, and Educate our kids!’

Thank you to everyone who made it! Your contribution to Orange Tree is extremely valued! For those of you who missed out, stay tuned via our Facebook page because we will be having similar sessions to keep this an interactive support program.