Immense need for charity and social work in Pakistan

Immense need for charity and social work in Pakistan

  • FEF doing its best to combat malnutrition menace
  • Will support 5000 children in next five years

Interview with Mr Naveed Gilani – Founder, Fortify Education Foundation

Profile:

Pakistan’s nutritional status of children is very poor that adversely impacts their physical and mental health. This poverty of nutrition manifests with the delay in their physical growth, their motor development, low intellectual quotient, deficient social skills and even behavioral issues. Fortify Education Foundation (FEF) was formed to combat this malnutrition menace by providing nutrition to underprivileged children in schools. Starting its operations in February 2020, FEF instituted its School Meal Program (SMP) at a school in Orangi, Karachi where 280 children come to study. SMP provides freshly cooked meal to the children on every school day. Recently, we have added another school in the same vicinity to our network in September 2021 as per our plan to continually expand.

FEF was formed by Naveed Gilani who carried the idea of starting the meal program to like minded, respected, and accomplished Pakistanis who then came together for the cause of Pakistani children to protect their and their country’s future. Together they formed the board and FEF was registered. Naveed is an engineer by education and training, graduating in 1980 with a master’s degree in engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in USA. After having worked for over 40 years in various organization across the world he has now hung up his career gloves and set out to work for the youth of Pakistan.

PAGE: Could you tell us about the idea of the formation of this charity?

Naveed Gilani: It was an old Harvard Business School’s case study from 2007 that brought to fore the menace of hunger in classroom. It was an illustration of the remarkable work that was being done by a Foundation in India to combat this threatening issue.

The case study triggered the thought that there ought to be something similar for the disadvantaged children in schools in Pakistan. At the time in 2018, I was living in Dubai and during one of my visits to Karachi I discussed it with Commodore Rashidullah Sheikh, a friend who had been, and still is, actively involved in education related social initiatives. At the time we agreed to take this thought forward but nothing much came of it since I was living out of Pakistan and he had his plate full with his work. When I relocated back to Karachi in 2019, we rekindled the idea, discussed it with other like minded individuals – who joined in, and we set out to make this dream into a reality.

Pasban-e-millat is the school that Rashidullah supports in Orangi Town in Karachi. We agreed that we would start our program with this school as the population there is severely disadvantaged in terms of their income levels and their living conditions. In February 2020 we bought the cooking equipment and started our program from a makeshift kitchen at the school. Soon after we constructed a formal kitchen on site which has the capacity to provide meals to other schools in the area as well. From here we provide meals on every school day to Pasban-e-Millat school and now at a government run school which is located nearby.

PAGE: How many underprivileged children are beneficiaries and which areas do they belong to?

Naveed Gilani: Currently the School Meal Program by FEF is able to provide nutritious school meals to 2 schools, both located in Orangi Town Karachi. The total number of children we provide the meals to is 481, out of which 283 children are studying at Pasban-e-Millat School, and 198 children study at Government Boys Primary School.

PAGE: Your views about the charity work in Pakistan:

Naveed Gilani: Pakistan is a developing country with an extremely low pace of development. Poverty ratio is quite high and over 55 million people are below the poverty line. In 2020, as estimated by World Bank, over 2 million people have additionally fallen below the already swollen poverty bomb. Therefore, there is huge need for charity and social uplift work, be it health, education, modern day slavery, water resources, you name it and there is lot of good work that needs to be done. Practically all aspects of human quality continue to fall behind. While government is severely lagging in delivering, the private social enterprise is doing its best to fill the vacuum and they are doing a decent job. There still is huge potential to do much more than what is being done already. Not everyone is able to actively participate in the social initiatives and a lot of those who cannot do try and make up their share by giving generously. Herein lays the saving grace for Pakistan – the giving. We at FEF are trying to play our part one meal at a time, hoping that the present generation’s mind is developed through nourishment so that the future of this country doesn’t look as bleak as it seems.

PAGE: What changes could we witness in your organization five years down the line?

Naveed Gilani: Our School Meal Program (SMP) was started in February 2020 which makes us an infant in our journey to include every school going child across Pakistan in our program. For future to shape up as we plan, depends heavily on the funds we raise. Aiming high, we would like to support 5000 children in the next 5 years. We feel that in the coming years our change trajectory will definitely be steep that will be a mix of the following:

a) Increasing our reach to as many children as we can to reach our goal of including every disadvantaged child, while remaining realistically optimistic.

b) While increasing the number of beneficiary children we will also be increasing our depth by reaching out to remote areas that are usually left on the wayside.

c) Continuously improving the nutritional value of the meals delivered and improving the cost of meal delivered per child, despite the skyrocketing inflation.

d) Building the organizational capacity of FEF to enable it to deliver far and wide. This is most critical.

e) All the above requires funding so building our capacity to raise funds from local as well as international donors.

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