January issue 2013
Small Steps, Big Changes
Nixor College alumnus and currently a student at McGill University, Montreal, Omer Basheer Juma could have opted to take his mounting desire to help those in need to any one of the many existing philanthropic organisations or NGOs engaged in such pursuits. But he felt there was nothing specific out there for him.
Eventually, however, in his search for something meaningful to do, he became increasingly aware of the plight of one group of particularly needy people. So many children in our society do not have proper homes, healthcare or education — and many of them do not even have families. “It is those children, orphans that I wanted to help,” says Juma.
So he launched an NGO under the name of ‘Adopt an Orphanage.’
It was a rocky start. Juma wanted all his friends and alumni of Nixor College to enlist in his proposed scheme. But in its initial stages, only 18 of a student body of 1100 students at Nixor College registered to join Adopt an Orphanage which, according to Juma, was “very demoralising.” Furthermore, finances were hard to come by. And, he concedes, his own naivetÃ© and undeveloped communication skills did not help matters.
But Juma‘s passion for the project and perseverance paid off. Juma created the Child Sponsorship Programme through which people could ‘adopt’ a child by paying an annual fee of Rs 46,000 and become sponsor parents. The sum covered all the expenses for one child for a year. The sponsorship programme has done so well, that even though Adopt an Orphanage is registered as a recognised NGO, Juma has never felt the need to solicit monetary help from the government.
Other help was also forthcoming. A paint company from Lahore provided the paint to help in the renovation of the building housing the orphanage, so the children had a cheerful place to live in. Clothes drives proved successful with many readily donating clothes for the children. An in house education system was devised for the 130 residents of the orphanage and bi-annual health camps organised to tend to their medical needs. On one occasion, low-cost dental treatments were provided to over 40 children who were in dire need of treatment.
And then having taken care of the basics, Juma decided to focus on what he saw as integral to a well-balanced childhood: forms of entertainment. So he organised a winter carnival for the children, a trip to the PIA planetarium, an iftari party in Ramzan and a water carnival, among other fun events.
Juma’s right hand through the process of establishing his NGO, he says, was his friend Faizan Kapadia.
With a solid team in place, Juma was able to delegate responsibilities and leave his project in the hands of the team he could trust entirely while abroad in college. He remains in constant touch with them sharing information, suggesting doing some long-distance orchestrating of events or planning for the future. As the venture has evolved, new plans have been set in motion. His team has contacted the TCF schools in the city to collaborate with them to provide the children at the orphanage with a good education and vocational training. And on the cards for him when he graduates from McGill: a proper purpose-built orphanage that will provide the children who inhabit it with every possible necessity — and beyond.
Along the journey he has taken, Juma has some favourite memories. One of them is the time the youngsters from the orphanage asked him if he had ever seen or sat in a plane, if it is actually as big as it seems and how it flies. This is when he decided to take the children to visit the PIA planetarium. Another special moment for Juma was when a student from Bangladesh contacted him and lauded him for doing such a noble task and told him that he was his inspiration to start an Adopt an Orphanage in Bangladesh.