Stories of Resilience Zoomed in Through KHI Awards

“Every life is worth living! When everybody gave up on her, she fought back,” says Ali Allawala, who, along with his wife Farzeen Ali, serves as a Co-founder of the Karachi Down Syndrome Program (KDSP), an organization dedicated to supporting individuals with Down syndrome and their families.

When Alaiyah, the co-founders’ daughter, was born six weeks premature with a diagnosis of Down syndrome, she was placed in a regular nursery, lacking adequate attention for her specific needs. Nine hours later, she suffered from a cardiac arrest and had to be put on a ventilator for the next 10 days. The difficulties continued beyond the hospital. In the face of immeasurable stress, Alaiyah’s young parents struggled to find resources and support to manage the situation, but they braved on until their daughter fully recovered and set on finding the best care for her from across the globe – with the promise to come back and set up an organization that would provide support and care that they were not able to receive locally.

Over 2,000 individuals are registered in KDSP’s Family Network, which is marking its 10th anniversary this year and has begun to go nationwide by establishing a chapter in Islamabad.

KDSP serves as a KASHTI (boat) providing holistic services, including Khandani Sahara – Family Support, Agaahi – Awareness, Sehat – Healthcare, Hunar – Skills Development, Taleem – Education, and Ibtidyai Bunyaad – Early Childhood Intervention therapies. The organization stands true to its two core promises laid at inception by the Co-founders: to never compromise on the quality of services and not to turn any family away, even if they cannot afford services.

‘We are more similar than different’, says Ali. “In today’s world, spreading hope is crucial. Every challenge is an opportunity, and whether it’s individuals or groups aiming to make a difference, they should start, even if it’s with small steps.”

The Layton Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust (LRBT) is another story of individuals coming together to build institutions. In December 1984, Graham Layton and Zaka Rahmatulla pooled together PKR 1 million to establish a mobile eye hospital in Tando Bago.

LRBT offers free-of-cost eye care, ranging from simple treatments to retinal surgery and corneal transplants. Since then, the organization has spread across rural and urban areas and is on its way to opening the twentieth fully equipped hospital soon. Today, LRBT has 49 Primary Eye Care Centres and 5 outreach clinics, alongside 16 Secondary Eye Care Hospitals and 3 Tertiary Eye Hospitals and recently treated its 55 millionth and happy patient, 13-year-old Bakhtawar who hails from Mirpur Sakro for congenital cataracts in both eyes in Karachi, post initial diagnosis in LRBT Gharo Primary Eye Care Clinic.

“Pakistan with 26 million visually impaired and blind people ranks third in the world with the highest number attributed to this issue. These eye-related ailments account for 12% of the total population and surprisingly 90% of blindness, if treated on time it is curable,” explains Umar Ghafoor, Chief Executive LRBT. “Our founders’ vision was to cultivate an organisation dedicated to offering free eye treatment to the impoverished and marginalised citizens throughout Pakistan, ensuring that no individual suffers blindness due to an inability to afford necessary care. We are grateful to our donors whose contributions enable LRBT hospitals to provide free treatment within 200 kilometers of people’s residence.” he shares.

Charity and giving constitute almost 1% of GDP in Pakistan, a percentage easily comparable with the developed world. In 2018, it had been ascertained that the nation generously contributed about PKR 240 billion to charitable causes.

“As advocates for accessible eye care, we deeply appreciate the philanthropists, both individuals and organisations, committed to creating a positive change in our society. Amidst these challenging times, we urge philanthropists to recognize the vital role of vision health in overall well-being as all contributions help us reach underserved communities, prevent blindness, and restore sight, thus improving the quality of life,” says Umar Ghafoor.

However, the Doing Good Index Report 2022 mentions that social development organisations believe that there has been an 83% decline in individual donations, meanwhile other reports and news mention that there has been a collective decline by up to 50% among individual and corporate donations, while at the same time, the nation witnessing an astounding 50% increase in people seeking help.

These figures correlate with the consecutive crises facing Pakistan since 2020. A global pandemic brought daily life to a standstill, which was followed by torrential and devastating floods. Macroeconomic and geopolitical conditions have also increased inflation to as high as 37.97% in May 2023. The pressure is now affecting people’s ability to give back, ironically at a time when it is needed the most. Today, welfare organisations need support more than ever to continue being the beacon of hope for countless individuals who need them.

“In Pakistan, only 14% of students make it to high school and more than 60% of women are illiterate. Developments In Literacy (DIL) firmly endorses every child’s right to education, regardless of financial status, hence the tagline ‘Educating Children – Empowering Communities’ and continues,” says Zeba Shafi, Program Director DIL. “As the cost of living has increased exponentially in the last few years, many philanthropists have had to curtail their donations, especially post Covid. Businesses closed down, people lost jobs and their spending capacity decreased accordingly. We have faced difficulties meeting our fundraising targets to continue operations. With the operational expenses escalating recently, a strain on our budgets had been inevitable.”

Founded in 1997 by Fiza Shah to address the issue of education in marginalized areas, DIL is providing affordable and quality education to almost 60,000 students in 168 schools across Pakistan, with a female enrollment rate of 72%. Almost 80% of the schools have been adopted from the government across Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Their alumni are working in diverse fields ranging from medicine, engineering, and public service. In its quest to have widespread education, DIL plans to adopt an additional 100 government schools.

Organizations at the forefront of serving communities in Karachi and across Pakistan have continued their efforts to serve people as available funds became scarce. Recognizing a gap, the KHI Awards by K-Electric is one such platform that seeks to support those who support Karachi.

Initiated in 2021,the company created a structured platform encouraging organisations working through social, infrastructural, and environmental realms. Since its inception the KHI Awards has supported 74 organisations across 14 diverse categories with an aggregate positive impact to 17.8 million people. An independent jury and auditor are employed to make the process fair and transparent. The 3rd edition also closed with 154 applications, serving as a powerful testament to the platform’s credibility and a poignant reminder to extend our generosity during challenging economic times. Just like KDSP, the narratives of some of the other previous KHI Award winners reflect resilience, altruism, and the unwavering belief in doing good for society. They embody the profound realization that hope still exists for those in search of it and is boundless for those who share it.

“Through these awards we managed to save a significant amount for other purposes while alongside the profound philanthropy of other corporate organisations and gracious individuals helps us continue with our mission.” says Zeba Shafi.

Ever since its inception, Educast has been creating a twofold impact as it enables the professional revival of out of practice Pakistani female doctors through online trainings and connecting them with patients, thus reducing the gap between patients and doctors through eDoctors. Currently, the organisation stands as the largest online female doctors’ platform in the country and thrives on empowering people through knowledge and healthcare access, thus prioritizing their wellbeing without the limitation of geographical or socioeconomic barriers.

“Our mission has always been to harness the power of digital platforms to deliver scalable and effective solutions. The inception of Educast was driven by a profound commitment towards leveraging technology for social good, specifically in the realms of using innovative technology tools thus creating an impact towards the health and education sector in the underserved communities, thereby bridging the accessibility gap,” explains Sohail Butt, Director Educast, “Our donors’ support has continued to be instrumental in amplifying our efforts geared towards the sustenance of hundreds of Karachi based senior citizens through eDoctors and Tele health, especially those who had been diagnosed with COVID 19.”

Driving change, and creating resilient societies is a collaborative effort that extends beyond any individual. The current conditions serve as another opportunity for us to come together and support platforms and organisations working dedicatedly in the service of a larger humanitarian cause. In these testing times, these stories are a gentle reminder for us to open our hearts a little more.

Published by
Publishing Partner