"We are a wall of empathy, sympathy, and humanity, and like for any other wall, there was a foundation that built us up.
Fatima Asghar, the founder of Dewar-e-Ehsas, stands in front of the wall with a smile
A few years ago, back when I was still just a normal girl lying on a comfortable bed, wrapped in blankets with a heater warming my cold feet, I came across something that caught me off guard. At the time, I wished I hadn’t seen it or heard of it or become aware of it at all. I wished I had not turned on the news, but I realize now that maybe, just maybe, there was a reason for my having seen what I saw. Maybe the old man on the TV with the blue skin and cold features had died for a reason, and perhaps the cries of his family longing for his presence had a reason behind them too. The question I asked myself at the time was: why had I had to see what I had seen?
Where I had everything to protect myself from the harsh winter winds, the man on the TV had had nothing, and my saying that is not an exaggeration. The sight of him opened my eyes. For the first time, I became truly aware of my privilege, of what Allah had given me, me. I was shaken to realize that there were human beings just like me, perhaps more worthy of my privilege, suffering far worse fates than I could ever imagine.
Why was I always so ungrateful?
And so came to me the idea of a wall upon which clothes may be hung and food may be left for those in need during the winters. This was our foundation, our starting point, my starting point on the journey towards a purpose greater than myself. Maybe through this initiative, that tragedy I witnessed would never come to repeat itself. Maybe the reason I had seen it was so that I could stop it happening to someone else.
Throughout my life, I have seen many faults in our world. Of course, it was never meant to be perfect but that does not mean it cannot be better. All we have to do is face the actual roots of society’s ills. Poverty has just one root: money. That is obvious to anyone who lives in any large community. Many do not have enough to afford a proper home, meal, or even the clothes needed to cover themselves properly.
The poor don’t live, they simply survive.
And when your only goal is to survive, where does education come in? How can you build awareness of what is right and what is wrong for you? How can you know what your boundaries are? It is for this reason that a negative cultural mindset prevails and, sadly, most of the consequences are reaped by women. Girls, the victims of early marriages and other social restrictions, are not allowed further education or the option to pursue opportunities for themselves. I myself have a friend who was not allowed to pursue the same internship her brother was, despite her being more qualified for it.
Many of these girls remain unaware of the harsh realities of life, and when the time inevitably arrives for them to face those realities, they find themselves at a loss. And what kind of loss? Regrets, mental illnesses, abuse, insecurity, and never-ending fear.
To minimize such tragedy is why I chose to follow the path that led to Dewar-e-Ehsas, and I’ve never looked back. To help others is to please Allah, so what reason could I have had to doubt myself? And if you ever have the fortune to see the smiles, hear the laughter, and receive the thank yous of the little ones you’ve helped, you’ll understand why I do what I do. Providing those poor children with what they’ve never had and hearing them ask when you’ll visit them again over and over- well, the wonder of such an experience cannot be put into words. In such cases, you’ll find what you sow right in front of you.
You will have planted happiness within the heart of a child.
And when you realize that’s the case, you’ll only ask yourself what else you can do. Everything else will cease to matter."
From Afsana: We are thankful to hear from Fatima on the meaning of Dewar-e-Ehsas, and we are pleased to announce our upcoming partnership with Dewar-e-Ehsas, a project led by the youth of Pakistan committed to bringing empathy and humanity through their service in various initiatives. Please support them on their platform here and stay tuned for ways to support their organization.
Written by Muhammad Hamza Suleman of Afsana
Edited by Adil Rahim Hyder of Afsana