Agahi Center – Umeed School
The Ali Akbar Shah Goth is a marginalized community of Ibrahim Hyderi. The community is full of diverse cultures living within it including Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pakhtoon and even the migrant cultures like the Burmese and Bengali. The majority of the community here are fishermen working under the elite ship owners of Ibrahim Hyderi – hence the community is looked down upon by the other smaller groups and communities of this town. The quality of education within Ali Akbar Shah Goth is very low, and hardly anyone pays attention to their development, even though the particular colony is one of the largest from all fifty two colonies of Ibrahim Hyderi.
However within the community itself there are various cultural clashes. One small area of Ali Akbar Shah Goth – known as Bengali Para, is home to the Bengali, Burmese & Afghan migrants in Karachi. All other cultures unite in one particular aspect, and that is to bash and abandon the migrants. The Bengali para is sadly an inception of marginalization. This community is shunned out by the entire of Ali Akbar Shah Goth, which is already under-looked by the people of Ibrahim Hyderi. Furthermore it is needless to say that Ibrahim Hyderi is in itself considered to be a marginalized no-go area for the rest of the city.
With such drastic situations five participants from Ali Akbar Shah Goth, Abdul Majid, Muhammad Qasim, Muahmmad Tahir, Sajid Usmani, Subhan and Uzair, residing within the neighborhood of Bengali Para came to attend the Azme Naujawan program. These participants had seen how the Chattai School had managed to empower, inspire and involve the community into development. Sadly, with an extremist action the Chattai School was burned down and the last ray of hope had been put down. With igniting the candle of hope again, these participants came to register themselves in aspiration of equipping themselves with the tools required to aid their community to development.
During the community mapping activity at Azme Naujawan Ibrahim Hyderi Youth Center, A participant – Qasim opened up to the problems of his community. He himself belonged to the abandoned migrant Bengali Community of Bengali Para – Ali Akbar Shah Goth, Ibrhaim Hyderi. He narrated how he felt about being victimized by the police, lack of job and growth opportunities, and by the larger community of Ali Akbar Shah Goth and Ibrahim Hyderi. Qasim narrated the entire story of what he personally has gone through due to this marginalization in a poem he had written. The sad reality and intensity of the matter had all participants and even the training team quite. It was evident that violence in Ibrahim Hyderi was not only physical, but through mental torture of shunning minorities, especially migrant communities out of opportunities and emotionally bullying these communities through taunts and harsh labels.
This got the attention of another participant from Ali Akbar Shah Goth – Sajid Usmani. Sajid was an aspiring journalist and social worker hoping to make a difference within his community, promoting equality and ending racism – as he had explained within his pre-interview for selection at Azme Naujawan. He was the first to break the silence in the room and admit to the reality of his community. He stood up for his batch mate and consoled him, while also announcing that he knows where to begin his problem identification using his community map, that was sketched out during the activity.
Sajid & Qasim partnered to make a Social Action Project group especially for Ali Akbar Shah Goth. They gathered with them interested participants of Azme Naujawan, Abdul Majid, Subhan, Uzair and Muhammad Tahir, who were also from the community of Ali Akbar Shah Goth. They took back the tools of problem identification and community mapping back to their community and started identifying key issues of their communities – especially related to the migrant community within Bengali Para. The consistent efforts of using the ‘But Why’ technique the final problem was drafted. Participants of this youth group had finally identified they key element of marginalization for the migrants. They concluded that the migrant community within Pakistan was not given the right to a National Identification.
Due to these communities not having a National Identification – they were shunned out of the right of being Pakistani, even though they were born within this country, city, town, district, area, colony and community. This way the constitution of the country did not recognize their rights, allowing them to be boycotted out of educational opportunities, which in turn results in them also being left out of better working and earning opportunities leaving them underprivileged, underpaid, and under served as the lowest economic class community. The after effects of this leaves them no choice but either to become thieves or become vulnerable targets to violent extremist groups. This becomes an uncontrollable cycle of constant insensitivity which has the potential to become a national threat.
To counter this – the team decided to start conducting small awareness workshops with the name of “Agahi” – The sessions started within a small open community ground belonging to a Jamia Masjid e Firdous founded by a small community trust by the name of Umeed Welfare Trust. The awareness sessions were simplified replications of Azme Naujawan Workshops – using modules of Identity Formation after discussion with project officer Zohair Allibhoy, Empathy & Compassion after discussion with Lead Trainer Khaleek Kohistani, Cultural Awareness & Global Citizenship after mentorship from Co Trainer Mairaj Ahmed Sheikh, and finally Problem Solving & Decision Making after mentorship with program coordinator Fahim Shad. These small sessions were hosted by Sajid Usmani, while the team supported in arrangements, invitations, mobilization and logistics.
The community was moved by these small workshops and pushed Sajid to take up the hall with the small ground to form a permanent center that continues this work. Sajid and the group stated that they were not eligible to talk to the management of the Mosque or the trust. To counter this, the community build a four people committee and with consent of the group added Sajid Usmani within this committee. This committee was built for the sole purpose of forming, managing and continuing the Agahi Workshops – and a formal request was made to the management of the mosque to dedicate the empty hall for these workshops.
A formal meeting was called in by the head of Umeed Welfare Trust upon this request. He heard the entire discussion and reasoning of conducting the workshops and upon observing the result within four workshops, donated the empty hall to form the “Agahi Center” in Bengali Para, Ali Akbar Shah Goth. He stated that this will be the first of its kind informal learning center to develop community harmony and peace, despite of culture, cast and creed. He further motivated the team to do more for the community and prayed for the community to take ownership of their people.
Sajid and the team now had a task and a request to put forth with the community entirely. The requested the community to contribute through cash or in-kind support in order to make this center a reality. Some donated in small cash, while others donated resources like a few chairs, small table and small carpets to cover the floor. To the groups astonishment the community in total raised a fund of about twenty two thousand rupees for the Agahi Center to become a reality.
Finally on December 28, 2019 the Agahi Center was formally inaugurated by the head of the Umeed Welfare Trust and Jamia Masjid Ul Firdous’s Leader. Nearly 18 young children and their mothers were involved within the inauguration activity. The Leader of the trust spoke about compassion, consideration and connectivity of cultures, people and communities. He spoke highly about the idea and stated over and over again that every religion, culture and community teaches and requires peace for prosperity and in order to do so, knowledge is the key. He continued to state the importance of knowledge and how Pakistan can become a developed nation through compassion.
The beautiful inauguration also allowed some fun activities for the attendees – like a quiz show from the prior conducted workshops, a theater play by the Azme Naujawan Youth Group Haath Nahi Baat Uthao, a small magic show and even a gift distribution ceremony for everyone who had given the correct answers. This formulated a beautiful opening ceremony for the Agahi Center which continues on.
The Agahi Center now has a consistent number of eighty five participants who attend the workshops and learning courses there. The Agahi center has also hosted multiple other community engagement sessions including, a warm clothes drive for people of Bengali Para who couldn’t afford clothes within the harsh winters during early January, and also a cooking competition for community women to promote their skills, talents promoting them to start small food delivery startups which can help them earn better for their families.
The success of Agahi Center promoted the Umeed Welfare Trust and the Jamia Masjid Ul Firdous to also dedicate the building right next to the mosque, above the Agahi Center for formal education. This building was initially kept for a madrassa, however looking upon the success of the awareness, the management decided to open a formal School there, known as Umeed School, which though runs on the Trust Fund, has been given to Sajid to supervise and properly run. All the students within the school and Agahi Center are both from migrated communities and other cultures. Sajid states that raising them as friends and teaching compassion and care for each other will lead to a drastic change of building acceptance within our society – also aid the marginalized migrants to lead a better and emotionally stabilized life, making them less vulnerable to extremist groups and violence.