Farah Deeba still recovering from dengue fever, the day we met her
my sister in purple smiling broadly as the students gather
Farah instructing students to line up for a group photo, the rest of us are enjoying the process.
Every one is ready FD is on the left in dark brown. The rest of us are
in the background. These are only a handful of students who stayed
behind. The school was closed long before we arrived after meandering
through the area
Farah Deeba is a twenty three year
old young woman who is doing gargantuan work that most of us only dream
of. I met her through my sister, who after seeing her on a television
program – Pakistan ke Asli Hero (Pakistan’s Real Heroes) - had gone to
meet her in person in a suburb of Lahore. Deeba’s is an amazing story of
courage, conviction and compassion.
At eighteen with 60,000 rupees
secured from her father she was set to go to Saudi Arabia to perform
umrah (minor hajj) in 2005. Wanderer that she is, after taking the
final exams for graduationfrom college while waiting to go for umrah,
decided to visit different neighborhoods in and around Lahore. She was
struck by the abject poverty and hopelessness she saw in some areas.
Chungi Amar Sadhu was the worst of the worst.
Men in this area
gamble do drugs and are abusive to their wives and children. The
hopelessness is so deep that they don’t even dare to dream for a better
future. She went door-to-door gathering information for each household.
At the end of the day she had 60 children ready to be fed, clothed and
educated. A woman in desperate need with three daughters, a drunk of a
husband on the spot signed a lease to the lower level of her house
without any money in advance, purely on trust.
With LLB (law)
degree that she acquired at 21 and coming from a well off and a
well-educated family the expectations for a career were high. But,
against the advice of family and friends, who wanted her to get a ‘real’
job and climb the corporate ladder, Farah Deeba persisted and did not
budge from her decision to bring hope to this depraved and deprived
community. She used 60,000 rupees for umrah as the seed money to start
her free public school.
This was the genesis of Aalam Bibi Welfare
Educational Welfare Organization named after Aalam Bibi her paternal
grandmother. That was in September 2005. Five years later the day we met
her, November 11, 2010, 319 children are being looked after - taking
care of their needs of food, uniform, books, stationary, personality
grooming, training, extra curricular etc. by ABEWO.
regretted that decision. Her devotion to her cause is so strong that
she’ll forego any personal glory. When a friend who volunteered in her
school arranged for a television interview in Karachi, Farah refused the
offer, thinking the air fair to Karachi could feed so many children for
so long. Needless to say, the friend who had gone to great length to
arrange for the interview, was quite upset. Upon learning the reason for
Farah’s refusal organized a fundraiser and bought the ticket for her to
go to Karachi for interview that my sister and her family watched in
Tarbela and followed up on the lead.
Family and friends who
initially apposed Farah’s endeavors have come around and are very
supportive of her work. Farah’s work though gigantic for ik nikki jaee
kuri (a little petite girl) as Munnu Bhai of the daily Jang calls her in
his article on her; it is the tip of the iceberg that Pakistan’s
education system is. Farah believes not only in educating but civilizing
these children as well. She believes there are many institutions that
‘educate’, but the ones that teach real manners are few.
all, Farah has educational and vocational program for mothers and the
local women in the neighborhood of the school. She also helps out with
urgent needs at home that may disrupt a child’s attendance/education,
e.g. fixing or replacing leaky roof of a house.
In a culture where
initially there was suspicion and mistrust, she is well respected and
people believe in her mission that the street vendors unable to sponsor a
child individually pool their money to do so. For a mere 500 rupees
(about $6 at the current rate of 85 rupees to a dollar) a month any one
can sponsor a child that guarantees his/her education, provides uniform,
books and lunch as well. Farah Deeba is doing all this without any
Farah has a vision to promote education with
training in all the deprived areas of Pakistan, which will make Pakistan
a civilized and developed country on the canvass of the world.
Summary of Farah Deeba’s educational achievements:
Graduated from college at 18
Got her law degree (LLB) at 21
Currently she is pursuing an M. Phil – a precursor to a Ph. D.