Oh what a rocky road this one was.
Right after my events in June, I got a call from someone well known in the NGO circles, Ms. Sabina Khatri, founder of the Kiran Foundation which aids abused women and children from underprivileged sectors; guiding them and helping them get back on their feet via education. She wanted to work with me to do an art project that involved her students. She had some really lofty ideas with which I was onboard and we began our planning phase.
I have this small fear that being #unconditionallygenerous will allow people to use me. And it is not unfounded. Before I plunge into how incredibly this project unfolded, I just want to spend a moment talking about that. See, I feel like Kiran Foundation didn’t reciprocate that generosity. They had these huge ideas and I know the kind of contacts NGOs have, but they completely relied on me to secure funding and execute every aspect of the project. Then there were certain aspects I had already explained I won’t be handling since it was a matter to be handled by their internal team, and guess what? The team was absent. Including the founder herself. So while I was there, sitting on the floor teaching students 2 weeks after my acute pancreatitis surgery, while my stitches hadn’t even healed, Sabina Khatri couldn’t even drop in let alone organize stuff because her son was getting married in JANUARY. The project took place in December FYI. And to top it all off, there was not a thank you to be found for all the grueling effort I put in.
Now, the thank you is not why i did it at all. And I am sooooo proud and happy of the way this project turned out. Those above are merely observations and reflections pointing out a fundamental flaw in how humanitarian work is sometimes done. Why do it if you can’t be part of wholeheartedly. Why do it if it makes you too petty to acknowledge hardwork and lift other people up? My whole objective for doing it is to encourage and inspire the people around me and help them grow. So, thanks or no thanks, I will continue to be right on #unconditionallygenerous <– a hashtag I created before The Untold Edition to explain how I feel.
So the project itself. The videos aren’t quite complete yet, but I have lots and lots of pictures of the event. I’ll post a video later in a separate blogpost.
The project was intended to be a two day workshop at DCTO, a school in Lyaari. Lyaari is a place in Karachi that was essentially a warzone a few years back. It is the place that most karachiites dismiss without even talking about. It is the place where an average Karachiite would not wander. It is the place that gave my sponsors, Toyota Central Motors, pause and they asked me if I was truly serious about going there.
The idea was that a group of artists would guide the students to complete work in a certain medium. We had Khalid Soomro working alongside Jabeen Qadri and two more volunteers for acrylics. We had Aliya Fahad from Indus Valley school of art and architecture working alongside volunteer Ramsha to teach chalk and charcoal. I aided the watercolor students. Their paintings were framed and exhibited in the school. The idea was to take these artists to see the gorgeous school in the middle of a broken down, crime-filled and neglected area. The idea was to exhibit paintings there so people would overcome their fear of the locality and actually come there to see the work created by these students.
But, as usual, when the project began, it expanded to SO MUCH MORE than that. Amazing people like humanitarian Varah Mussavvir, who began the Crafter’s Expo in Pakistan, joined in and showed up to work with me. Toyota Central Motors were so inspired by the idea that they did not just fund it, they also brought the international Toyota Dream Car Contest team to Lyaari. They spoke to the students and inspired them and gave them the chance to create a car completely out of their imagination to be considered for the international prize which would allow them to visit the Toyota team and factories in Japan!! This was really thrilling for the students and I feel really glad that I could connect Toyota to a school they had previously been wary of.
So ultimately, we bonded with 30 students, guiding them through a therapeutic process of speaking through art. We displayed and sold the work at the school. And while all this was very exciting, the undertones remain sobering because we realized the extent of hardship these kids go through on a daily basis is something we can never relate to or even remotely understand. Case in point: one child’s painting consisted of a rope hanging on a wooden pole beside an overturned stool. That’s it. and when we probed, it turned out that that day when he came to class, his life had been so overwhelmingly troubled that this is what he had been considering. I’m glad that he spoke that truth out through art and that it helped him get the help he needed. But the overall impact of the project on me was intense and thought provoking alongside all the usual excitement and inherent reward.