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How Young Pakistanis Help Themselves

Posted on Oct 23, 2014

By Nudrat Kamal

  Suhaee Abro, co-founder of the performing arts group Nritaal, hopes to make dance more acceptable in Pakistani society. Noor Fareed

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Editor’s note: This piece by Nudrat Kamal is the second in a three-part series about the unique challenges and opportunities that Pakistani youth are facing that were written for the Global Voices: Truthdig Women Reporting project (click here for more information about Global Voices). The other two stories, an article by Zubeida Mustafa and an interview by Kamal, can be found here and here, respectively. Click here for a photo album featuring images of people mentioned in this story, or view them in the slide show on Page 2.

The challenges that Pakistan’s young people face today are significant and pervasive, and can be addressed only through sweeping systemic changes. Notwithstanding these challenges, many young people are defying great odds to become conscientious and engaged members of society. They are innovative in devising activities for themselves.

Karachi, a city of 18 million, is often plagued by violence and crime. Yet these young people have found effective platforms—self-created or provided by sponsors—for initiatives to tackle their numerous problems.

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First Response Initiative of Pakistan (FRIP)

The idea of FRIP was born in 2010 at the scene of a bomb blast. Dr. Jahanzeb Effendi—then a medical student—was a horrified witness to the devastation and human suffering that followed. What shook him more was the amateurish response of rescue workers, security forces and volunteers to the emergency. They had no idea how to give assistance to the injured. Effendi, who was 23 at the time, decided to get trained as a first responder so that he could help people in such situations.

He mobilized his fellow students and established an organization dedicated to training people in basic life-saving techniques in emergencies. FRIP conducts first response training for medical students and young doctors, who then in turn teach the techniques to personnel from various security agencies. FRIP has specifically tailored its comprehensive training course to indigenous trauma needs. The group also organizes free-of-charge awareness campaigns.

“The average Pakistani knows absolutely nothing about first aid and some of the practices adopted actually hurt the trauma victim,” said Dr. Nadir Haider, who joined FRIP as a medical student.

Today, FRIP has a membership of about 100 medical students and doctors, all trained first responders. Effendi is satisfied with FRIP’s progress and explained how 30 youth from the low-income area of Moach Goth who were also trained are now responsible for helping victims of trauma in their violence-riddled neighborhood.

Funding is still a challenge. Haider insisted that “life-saving knowledge should be available to everyone free of charge.” Hence these young men and women are volunteering their services without any compensation and the equipment they use has been donated by Indus Hospital.

Haider describes youth as the phase of life in which a person has the energy and the passion to help the community. “The future of health care in Pakistan is entirely dependent on young doctors and the choices they make,” he said.

The Karachi Walla

Karachi’s charming culture has been under threat for years. Violence and instability are its biggest enemies. Elders reminisce about the city’s glorious past of which the younger generation has little awareness. Yet young Karachiites have not given up on the city. Farooq Soomro was 29 when he took it on himself to unearth the city’s hidden gems five years ago. He would conduct walking tours around the city’s many scenic locations.

Soomro launched this adventure when he realized he didn’t really know the city where he was born. He looked to the Internet to explore it but was disappointed by the lack of information to satisfy his quest. Knowing about The Delhi Walla, a website that has helped many Indians discover the incredible city of Delhi, Soomro wanted something similar for Karachi. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, Soomro began putting up photos of the places in the city that he discovered during his many excursions.

When his blog The Karachi Walla took off, he met many other Karachiites like him who wished to know their city better. By popular demand, Soomro began organizing walking tours around the city. “Initially my clients were mainly tourists,” he explained. “But now a lot of Karachi youngsters have shown a keen interest in finding out more about their city.”

Soomro takes people to see lesser-known places in Karachi, such as the community houses of the Goan Christians, Sikh gurdwaras and Masonic lodges. He credits social networks and online platforms such as Instagram and Flickr for reigniting an interest in Karachi, especially in the city’s young people.

Soomro believes that the youth view Karachi from a fresh perspective. “While older people long for the city of yore, we [young people] are pragmatic and see the city in a new light, embracing its decaying beauty unconditionally,” he said.

 


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