Over three of its existence in its various incarnations, Mashal, has, touched the lives of hundreds of needy families and has helped them rebuild their lives and prospects for the future. Most of the unnamed beneficiaries, were just lucky enough to get a few years of primary or middle school (and, later, high school education), before being withdrawn from the school by their families, because of adverse economic circumstances, family pressure or the absence of sufficient realization of the need for female education.
In recent years though, there has been greater realization of the need to educate girls not only up to matric (for which Mashal acquired the capacity more than five years ago), but also beyond that. This has manifested itself in greater enrollment each year in the Mashal School, but also in an increase in the requests for help in admissions to Colleges (which Mashal members have tried to meet by establishing a scholarship fund for outstanding students).
Some of them have had a lasting relationship with the institution and have sent written acknowledgments of the help they have received and the difference they perceive Mashal has made to their lives. Some have paid back by working with us in various capacities. In the following we have tried to capture, as far as possible, in their own words, and highlight the experience of some of the people whose life, as well as their family member’s, has been impacted by Mashal, which itself feels enriched by their experience. These beneficiaries of friends of Mashal are listed below (along with their names and thumbnail profiles of outstanding achievers) in each of the major field of our activities, viz.: Education, Medical, Vocational and Grooming.
(A) Educational Center:
In its current location at Margalla Town, Islamabad, Mashal School has been catering to the diverse and growing needs of the neighboring villages and katchi abadis. Presently, the school enrolls students (only female) from Class I to X. The school provides students with books, uniform and transport. To encourage students and their families to pursue their studies beyond the Xth grade, the School Administration and Mashal members, along with their families and friends, have established a Scholarship Fund to support Mashal graduates for getting admission in local colleges. This has helped Mashal to extend its outreach beyond its capacity.
The first beneficiaries of the initiative in 2012, were a group of five graduating students of Mashal, viz. Amna, Hadiqa, Munazza Nazar, Irum Taj and Layla Khan were admitted to Sultana Foundation College in F.A. Munazza and Irum completed their F.A and Amna and Layla did their BSc., while Amna is doing her M.A in Math at the Barani (ARID) Agricultural University, Rawalpindi.
By 2015, our graduating students were able to access more and better known Colleges in the Islamabad area. In that year, Bushra Nazar, Iqra Taj and Saba Noor were admitted to I.M.C.G., I-8/3, Islamabad and in 2016, Maria khan, daughter of Mashal’s cleaning lady, was admitted to Islamabad’s prestigious public degree college, after obtaining high marks in her high school exam at Mashal. She is an outstanding student of Math, securing 120/150 in her Matric exam. Similarly, our guard’s daughter, Ayesha, did her High School at Mashal with outstanding marks, which enabled her to get admission in Govt. Model College, F-7/2, Islamabad. Both these students are receiving stipends from Mashal’s scholarship fund. Mashal takes pride in helping both achieve their academic ambition and wishes them continued success in life.
In their own words….
Nazia Rehman, an ex-student writes: “After High School I am teaching at an Online Quran Academy, which serves many countries abroad.”
Amna Bibi writes: “After doing High School from Mashal, and F.A Allama Iqbal Open University, I am now teaching at a private school.”
Madiha Nadeem, ex Principal, Mashal, writes: “It is an honour for me to spend 6 years at Mashal as Principal. It was a great experience to work under such a dedicated group of Members are like a mother to everyone.”
Saadia Abbasi: “After finishing my High School at Rawal Town, I did my F.A from Mashal, then I was offered a teaching job in Mashal school that provided me timely financial help, enabling me to study for B.A B.Ed. exam’s privately. After completing my studies successfully, I was offered a job with a higher salary. I am very happy and grateful to Mashal Members for providing me with the opportunity to build my career.”
Uzma Safder: “Having finished my education at Mashal, I was at a loss to know how to continue my further education, as there were no colleges near Margalla town nor any transport facility to those away from my home. Fortunately, I found out there was a center nearby which offered preparatory classes for Private F.A. students. It also offered classes in typing and book-keeping. I enrolled in that center and passed my F.A exams and went to on to complete B.A and B.Ed. exams as a private candidate. Mashal was kind to offer me a job as teacher, as well as an accountant, for which I had received training at Mashal earlier. I must say that Mashal is doing a great job by providing the residents of the area, not only access to education of its children but also opportunities for employment, health services and vocational training at virtually their doorsteps.”
(B) Medical Center:
Mashal’s MC started functioning in September, 1997, in the Gosha-i-Mashal building. It now has a complement of 4 volunteer doctors, one first-aid nurse, one dispenser and on ayah. Every patient is issued a registration card and receives free medicines for which a nominal amount is sometimes charged. Facilities available at the Center include a clinical testing laboratory, ultrasonography machine and vaccination facility. Some facilities, like an operation theatre, a Mother and Child Health (MCH) Center (where babies were being delivered in 2005) have been discontinued largely because of lack of funds.
While the main beneficiaries of the services provided by the Medical Center are the people living in its neighbourhood, especially the students enrolled in Mashal School, the service staff of Mashal, including drivers, guards, ayas, nurses, also have access to its facilities. Mashal members often arrange for the treatment of those needing treatment for specific diseases, such as tuberculosis (with full arrangements). Similarly, Mashal arranged for the complete treatment of our handicrafts teacher Waheeda who was suffering from Hepatitis C at the Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad. Mashal’s students receive top priority and they regularly visit Mashal’s Medical Center for any health issues which is monitored through the health card issued to them. Students’ parents generally express their satisfaction at the medical facilities available at the Center. The Center has also provided occasionally on such issues as infertility (in one case, a woman’s husband was successfully treated instead, which resulted in the birth of children by his wife). The MC arranges eye camps for the students and employees of Mashal in collaboration with Shifa Hospital for periodic check-ups and eye tests.
Two very poignant stories of patients who receive treatment at Mashal’s MC illustrate the difference that the Center makes to the lives of those inhabiting our neighborhood.
Sughra Bibi, who lives in Katchi abadi says: “My husband is a daily wage labourer who sometimes has to stay for work at night and can’t return home. When this happens and I or any of my children are sick, it is difficult to visit the hospital, without my husband. With the opening of Mashal Center, I don’t have to wait for the husband, as we can easily walk up to Mashal to receive the necessary treatment from the doctors, as well medicines, fee of cost. That is a great help indeed and I am ever so grateful to those who thought of establishing this Center.”
Gul Bibi, resident of the same locality, has similar thoughts. She says, “I am living in the kachi abadi. My husband is a truck driver and is very busy and tired to attend to family chores as taking the children to the hospital when they are sick. For me, the existence of Mashal’s health center is a great blessing, because of its easy accessibility and immediate availably of doctors and their prompt attention to the patients often walking the extra mile. For instance, when I became pregnant they looked after me by giving vitamins and iron tablets and took full care of the baby when he was born.
(C) Vocational Training Center:
Mashal realized early in its existence, the importance of vocational training, along with education, especially for the poor. Without such training, students were unable to find productive employment and get out of the vicious cycle of poverty in which their parents were caught. Here are some of the stories of people who benefited from Mashal’s Vocational training programs.
The first of such beneficiaries is an elderly phycisally-challeneged gentleman., Mr. Javed, who was unemployed and looking for a job. According to him, “In 1985, when Mashal started its activities in Bari Imam area, I was living in a nearby village, narula, mashal’s Founder-President, the late Mrs. Shahida Azim, along with her husband, the late Gen (R.) Ejaz Azim and other members of Mashal, entrusted me with the task of running a center in that location. Being unemployed and physically challenged, I greatly welcomed the opportunity and gratefully accepted it. In my thirty-year long association with Mashal, I have seen it grow from a charitable institution trying to help children of poor families to acquire basic skills like sewing and embroidery to establishing a school from Middle to Matric, which also gives computer training. Mashal Members have been very generous in helping me lead a useful and comfortable life through their generous donations and help in kind. I pray to God that Mashal continues to expand and improve the services it provides to a poor community. May Mashal live forever.”
Waheeda Bibi: “I lived very close by Mashal’s welfare center when it opened in 1996, with its main thrust on vocational training. It opened with 12 sewing machines for giving training to the girls who received a diploma after completing the training. I was the first to be offered a job as a sewing teacher, after completing my own training. Many of our students have opened their outlets for sewing and knitting apparel, some of which is produced by women working at home. Those employed as teachers receive not only a good salary but also get paid for the work they do, besides teaching. I am very pleased and grateful for the opportunity provided by Mashal through this pioneering initiative.
Nazima Bibi: “I joined Mashal as a vocational student in 2007 and learnt cutting, sewing and knitting at Mashal vocational center. After completing my training, I was offered to work at the center for which I get paid regularly. For me this is a blessing in so many ways. As the center is so close to my home, I can walk to work easily. In addition to what I get paid regularly, I have the opportunity to make extra income if I do work at home. I feel really indebted to Mashal for these benefits.”
(D) Grooming Center:
In the modern age, the need for women to care for the upkeep of their physical health, personality and appearance, has highlighted the importance of imparting knowledge and expertise in this previously neglected field. Responding to the realization that the demand for services, such as salon and beauty parlours, is rising fast and that it was possible to cater to it in a limited field, Mashal decided to set up the Grooming Center in 2014. It has since become a well-established center catering to the needs of the surrounding area, which will hopefully dispel the feeling of exclusion in the marginalized community. Girls in the area have responded enthusiastically by taking training and setting up their own shop or working with an existing beauty parlour. This activity has provided an extra source of income and inculcated a degree of self-confidence in the new specialist as well as their clients, as reflected in the stories narrated by a few of them.
For instance, Humaira, a recent graduate writes: “I took training in Mashal Grooming Center and I am now employed in a beauty salon in Margalla town and getting a salary of rupees 20,000 per month which is a great help to me and my family.”
In 2017, four students from NUST received training at the Grooming Center.
Noreen, a 2017 trainee wrote: “I was trained in all the various techniques of grooming which helped me in getting a job at La Bella beauty parlour close to my home in Margalla Town and is a great source of income.”
Zara, a trainee of 2018, wrote: “I am very grateful to the director of Mashal Grooming Center, for helping me in getting a job at the Business and Professional Women’s Organization in Rawal Town. The center has just been established. I feel honoured and grateful that, with Mashal’s outstanding training, my talents are being well recognized in the profession.