The Rural Education and Development (READ) Foundation is a non-profit organization that was established in 1995. It operates 390 schools and colleges with enrollment of 112,000 students and 6,000 teachers. It is managed by a highly qualified board of directors with head offices located in Islamabad.
The READ Foundation’s motto is “helping society through quality value-based education”. The Foundation’s students have excelled in all board exams. The program to provide education to orphans thru sponsorship has been highly-successful thus far, having served more than 10,000 orphans to achieve a high-quality education.
There are approximately 800 orphans under the system who still require sponsorship. HOPE Charitable Foundation Canada has focused to provide quality education and health to orphans and under-privileged children.
In 2018, after vetting it through ICNA Relief Canada it partnered with READ Foundation to sponsor 50 students for all expenses of education. In 2019, the number was increased to 75 and it is growing. It was foundation desire to visit the schools and meet the orphans and their families to gain a first-hand understanding of their living conditions and ambitions. Our foundation representative undertook this trip in February 2020. The following is a brief description of the visit.
Monday February 24th, Our representative arrived in Islamabad and received by Mr. Afzaal Ahmed, General Manger Institutional Fund Raising. We drove on the Grand Trunk road, built by the Mughuls, going through many cities and villages and finally exiting into Azad Jummu Kashmir (AJK). We kept driving through villages and finally after driving for about 3.5 hours we reached our first destination, READ Foundation College in Bhimber. Bhimber is a very small rural town. The college is a state-of-the art building and provides education up to F.Sc. (grade 12). It is a very clean and well-equipped facility with plenty of play area, however, the school’s library, labs etc need to be updated.
We were greeted at the gate by the Principal Mr. Safdar Shafi and Mr. Taffel Zafar and students. It was examination time and the students were busy writing their exams. We were taken out to the round of the school and met a few teachers. We were impressed with the quality and cleanliness of the premises. Later on, we sat down in the open play area with the Principal and teachers and had a detailed Q&A session and we were served tea and snacks.
There are 15 orphans in Bhimber who our foundation support. They invited 7 students to meet with us. They were Ms. Hurain Arif, Kashif Noor, Ms. Noor ul Ain, Ms. Ayisha Arif, Ms. Ayesha Begum, Ms. Mahnoor Arif, Ms. Hanifa Shahid. The student were overly excited to meet us, we had very a informative talk with them for about 45 minutes or so. We distributed candies, colouring books, pencils, and books to them. We were greatly impressed by their attitude and their desires to succeed in life by education. After meeting the orphans, we went to the Principal’s office and had more closing discussions.
Later in the day we went to visit the mother and siblings of Ayesha Begum at her house in a nearby village. Her house was a one-bedroom dwelling with a kitchen and small courtyard. It was a touching experience, we stayed there for about 45 minutes talking casually about their life and about my family life etc. The mother offered her blessings and prayed for me and family.
We then drove for another 40 minutes to go to the Regional Office of Bhimber where we had lunch and prayers.
Our next visit to a nearby village Pothi where we visited another READ Foundation School. It has enrolled approximately 200 students from the prep stage to grade 5. This building is rented and it has 4 small classrooms and an open-air classroom in the schoolyard. This school building must be replaced with a new building to make better premises. To build a new school it will cost about CDN$190,000. We spend about an hour at the school mingling with students and teachers and it was a gratifying experience.
After visiting the school we went to visit the home of one of our sponsored orphans Usman Shakeel and Falak Shakeel, colouring books, pencils and other books and some monetary gift was given to their mother. We stayed there for about 40 minutes and were offered an orange drink and had good talk about their life in a very small dwelling. it was a greatly touched moment by their challenges in life, we were impressed by the high ambitions of the students and their desire to continue education and become professional. May Allah help them in their desires to succeed in life. Ameen! again mother of Orphans prayed for me and my family.
We left Pothi for Mirpur at about 4:30 pm. It was about 90 minutes drive going through various villages and towns and it was a great experience to see a wedding party and guests and also ran into a funeral procession where just about the whole village came out to support.
Tuesday February 25th. We had an early breakfast and left the hotel at 8:30 am to visit READ Foundation College and School at Mirpur. We met the principal of the college Mr. Aamir Mustaq. We had a detailed discussion with him about their curriculum, exams, results etc. They hold four exams per year and all the results are tabled in each students record. He showed us the results of many orphans who we support. We randomly picked up a record of one student, and it was outstanding. The school had a break after the exam but they were able to get all 10 students who we support. In the courtyard we had a good conversation with all of them and they were also very happy to meet me. We went on the round of the school and in the court yard one class of Prep kids were practicing for a play and singing. It was very exciting to watch them and the confidence they expressed. We spent about two hours there.
After Mirpur we left for Bahring a small town about 90 minutes drive from Mirpur going through valleys, villages and open land. We arrived at RFS at Bahring. It is a fine building and is a ICNA Relief Project. we were given a red carpet treatment by the students, staff and Principal Aasia Rafique. This school has 350 students up to grade 8. We went to all classes and mingled with the students. After the visit we sat down with 3 orphans that we support. They were Alisha Naveed, Nimra Zahid and Mahnoor Shehzadi. They were from grade 3 to 6. We had a very informative session with them for about an hour. One of them wanted to be scientist, one a teacher and the third a doctor. We gave them all the encouragement that I could to work hard and focus on their ambitions. It was a very emotional touching moment, after talking to them and knowing their great ambitions.
Later on we went to visit Mahnoor Shehzadi’s house in the nearby area and met her mother. We had a very casual talk and we encouraged the mother to allow Mahnoor achieve her dreams. She was fully supportive. In her one bedroom house where we sat there were all kinds of pots and pans which she had received at her wedding. They were never used as her husband died not much after the wedding.
After visit to Bahring we headed to visit READ Foundation Middle School at Mallot. It was over an hour drive going through villages, dirt road and crossing a canal by car. The canal was almost dry at this time. We finally reached this fine school in the village. It was built last year by ICNA Relief Canada. We were greeted by the Principal Mr. Shahid Afzal and his staff. School was over but kids were asked to stay a little longer to meet us. We had a great discussion with the Principal and he offered lunch which was prepared by the family of the staff. This school building is in top shape and the play area is well maintained. We did mingle with the students and it was very exciting. We have one student Ms. Wajiha Sakoor at this school that we support.
We next went to visit mother of Wajiha at her house. It was again a very small dwelling and we stayed at her place for about 45 minutes. I found them very content and friendly. Again I offered all the encouragement to the mother and Wajiha. Wajiha has a older sister completing her grade 8 and would like to go to the school at Bahring. After leaving Mallot we headed to Islamabad.
Wednesday February 26th. We went to visit Raazi Hospital in Islamabad, we were greeted by the CMO of the hospital Dr. Iftikhar Burney. We were given a presentation on the hospital activities and their expansion program. The meeting was chaired by the CMO, a few doctors and the hospital Pharmacist.
This hospital is a ICNA Relief project and is non-profit facility which offers free medical services to those who can’t afford. It is reasonably well-established offering quality medical care in a very safe and clean environment. We were was impressed by the facility and quality of medical and other staff. They are looking for funding a Cardiac Metabolic Center, CT Scan machine, blood bank and lab, Renal Dialysis Facility, fully equipped ambulance and another operating theater. The approximate cost of the project is CDN $ 730,000.
Our next visit was to Aghosh Orphanage in Murree, when we arrived at the Orphanage we were greeted by their Principal Mr. Azam Khan. This facility is state of the art boarding school. The objective of this complex is to select brightest orphan students from all over Pakistan and offer them highest quality education from grade 7 to 12. They are expanding the facility to accommodate 200 students. It was their winter break and there were no students. The cost of education and residence for each student come out to be about $ 260 per month. The institution is looking for support.
Thursday February 27th. We went to the head office of the READ Foundation in Islamabad. We had detailed discussions with officers in charge of different program of the organization. We inquire and had discussion about the leadership development program, library, availability of computers and IT learning. The institution is working on all these areas and will identify their requirements to be addressed.
During these four days trip we travelled over 800 Km going thru highways, dirt roads, valleys, small villages, and towns. Overall Hope Charitable Foundation feels that this visit was worthwhile to see students, meet orphans, their family, schools, teachers, and staff of READ Foundation. It was observed that READ Foundation is well organized and manage their operational finances well that includes all activities of education, record keeping, parent teachers interview etc.
We would recommend anyone interested in supporting education to partner with READ Foundation and see the results of the outcome of support. We have recommended that greater emphasis shall be in providing physical education for the student in sports area and upgrade the facility such as basketball and squash, in addition to computer classes in every school, good library and focus on leadership development.
Regarding Razzi Hospital in Islamabad we had a positive view of their hospital and support for the needy. Any health donation for them will be ideal which can be identified with individual name recognition.
We would like to raising funds for a new school in Pothi. The project cost is under Cdn$ 200,000.