The blessed month of Ramadan is always the busiest time of the year for HOPE-an educational NGO in Pakistan. This year was no exception, with multiple iftaars - one of which was the annual Bhittaiabad iftaar held last Saturday, on the 2nd of June, for the students of HOPE’s informal schools. These students come from Sachal Goth, Bhittiabad and Mujahid. This year’s Bhittaiabad iftaar was sponsored by HCI, Sami Ahmed and organized by HOPE under the leadership of Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla - a child specialist in Karachi.
The venue was alive with anticipation from both excited students and busy staff member of HOPE Team Pakistan. Teachers attempted to calm the happy children long enough to seat them - that is, until the dastarkhans were spread. As the time for iftaar approached, the socialization died down as the plates of a date, pattie, samosa, chicken cutlet, banana, spring roll, and brownie were distributed, accompanied by sharbat and water to wash it all down.
As the sated students finished their iftaari, the volume steadily increased again as they resumed their delighted chatter. Sulaiman, the son of Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla - then played the piano as the cheerful children gathered around and sang along to the upbeat Dil Dil Pakistan.
The laughter and harmonic voices faded away as the children lined up in anticipation for their Eid gifts. One by one, each child was gifted a new, brightly colored, festive traditional outfit, something their families would not have been able to afford otherwise. Each child received an outfit of their exact size that was individually chosen by HOPE staff. Many also received food rations if their families were especially in need of it.
Later, the elated kids rushed around, joyously showing each other their new outfits and posing for pictures with their gifts, friends, and classmates. Teachers once again struggled to seat their students, this time for dinner, an affair with the popular favorite meal of Haleem and naan.
Exhausted but sated and delighted, the young children left with their classmates and teachers on buses late at night. But inside the venue, the work never stopped. The remarkable staff of HOPE- an NGO in Pakistan was seated in a circle around Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla, tirelessly and diligently planning the several upcoming events of the following week - including the daily distribution of biryani or iftaar boxes at HOPE schools, and of course, the noteworthy Grand Iftaar for all 1500 HOPE school students.
All the time and effort is worth it though, just to see the ecstatic smiles on the children’s faces.