Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Children of the tracks

Every track has a story

 “I was six when Ama told me to not get ready for school, she had no money,” Guddu confessed.  And what was he made to do then? Cleaning human waste dumped on the railway tracks.

Even after all these years, the condition of Pakistan Railways is nowhere near different. A number of its services have been cancelled or terminated but worst then that is to witness juveniles of six to ten years old picking up all sorts of junk ranging from plastic bags, shattered glass pieces, dangerous wires and even human excreta with their bare fragile hands. They later burn the wires and sell the copper in the market for pitiful amount of money.

The children performing this perilous job are dwellers of the railway lines area, located just beside the Pakistan Railways where reside hundreds of citizens who have given their sweat and toil to the tracks and their generations are doing no different. "We couldn't get any other job. There are no requirements here so we just come and work, no one asks anything from us," says Amina bibi, the mother of two. Her husband, a railway maintenance worker lost the battle of life after being hit by a speedy train. For these people, it’s impossible to even dream of getting their children educated as they are the bread earners of the family as well.

The year 2010 brought with it a ray of hope, an aspiring change, and a passion for education. I left you wondering, isn’t it? I am talking about the girl who decided to embark a sparkle of optimism in the lives of the children of tracks. A thesis on Pakistan Railways compelled 22-year-old Sadia Ahmed to come back to the land of pures.  “I went to USA never to return but when I did, I couldn’t go back,” she exclaimed. With her short spunky cut, sporting a purple kurta and jeans, she doesn’t resemble somebody to be termed as a revolutionist. Majoring in social development, Sadia was planning to live the American dream but discovering the devastating condition of these children constrained her to play her role.  “This job is hazardous to health so once I tried to stop a girl from doing it but to my surprise she told me I know it is really damaging to our lungs but what are we going to eat if we don't do it?”

Sadia’s journey for providing proper educational opportunities for these children had never been easy. “Letters to government officials and NGOs was all I was doing day and night.” But nothing proved fruitful un-till she met a group of volunteers through social media who were wiling to aid and administer her. “We started off by renting a room in the same area but then a bigger problem arrived which we never pondered upon,” Sadia along with her team went door to door but not even a single sole was ready to send their children to school for free. The problem lied in the fact that if they agree to send their children to school, who will bring the food home? While facing this dilemma, some of the volunteers suggested a very appropriate solution that benefitted both the families and the children. Through conducting charity events and donating money from their pocket money and salaries, the team gathered enough funds to sponsor at least 30 children. “We plan of continuing it as this is our major source for generating money. Lately we have been approached by TV channels so we are hoping to spread our message on a wider scale.” Currently she and her team have gathered enough funds to build a small school and are able to sponsor 80 children now.  Believing in the immense potential of the children, Sadia ensures that her young brigade is geared to multitask between their education and obligations towards society, as her motto is to be the change you want to see.

Courtesy: Revolution Flame

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