After the Pakistan earthquake: Your money gives new hope

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Two years ago the people of Peterborough backed an Evening Telegraph and city council campaign to raise money to help the earthquake stricken-area of Pakistan. Earlier this year, the £30,000 raised in the city was used to build a primary school for children in the remote villages of Soka, Hath Mera and Tungli, whose school was destroyed.

Two years ago the people of Peterborough backed an Evening Telegraph and city council campaign to raise money to help the earthquake stricken-area of Pakistan. Earlier this year, the 30,000 raised in the city was used to build a primary school for children in the remote villages of Soka, Hath Mera and Tungli, whose school was destroyed.ET Columnist Raz Jabbin Went to visit CBS Mungun School and health centre in the Kaghan Valley.

Many of you may remember the scenes that beamed through our televisions of the terrible earthquake in Pakistan two years ago.

It prompted people around the world to raise money for the tens of thousands who had lost their lives, and millions whose homes were destroyed.

You might also remember that The Evening Telegraph and Peterborough City Council also immediately launched an appeal to raise funds to help those affected.

Residents from the city and nearby villages were quick to dig deep.

Today, I feel privileged at being able to share first hand my experience of a visit to the school we, the people of Peterborough, helped build.

I was introduced and escorted to the school by education co-ordinator Nadia Shah, a representative of the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) which was instrumental in helping find the location where a school was most needed.

Before heading out to the school I spoke to Nadia who told me how such projects are planned.

She explained that the programme has a "self help community approach" which means rather than just going into a village and building a school, they begin by telling people from the village what the plans are and asking them to contribute to the developments in any way they can.

She said: "What you have to remember is people who live in such remote villages like these are often quite vulnerable and could feel threatened by people with money coming in and making changes to their village, so we ask the villagers to take ownership and responsibility for the development of the school."

This is also one of the reasons why a committee is put together, made up of three men – one of whom donated land for the school to be built – and three women.

Their role is to raise awareness among the village of what the plans are and the importance of education for their children.

I was driven through a village called Tungli Soka Mungan, in Mansehra, an area affected by the earthquake. There was little there apart from trees and goats. Then the unbuilt bumpy road ends and you are met with a picture of hope in the shape of a small but promising school.

Outside there is a sign which mentions the "Peterborough Committee" (although they're missing a "B" on the sign) and as you walk through the gates there is a little playground with swings and a slide.

In the school there are three classrooms. Girls and boys are taught separately so one is used as the boys' classroom and the other is for the girls. The community is also hoping to use the third room as a classroom but at the moment it does not yet have the money to employ another teacher.

Choosing the teachers is also done through the self-help community. The potential teacher will need to have lived in the village and will put their name forward if they feel they are suitable for the role and the final decision is made by people of the committee.

However, to raise the money to employ another teacher is a different story. The process is a lengthy one and is referred to as "collection of matching grant" which requires the community to raise 40,000 rupees which will be matched by the Government.At the moment they have only been able to raise 10,000Rs and have asked for more time in which to raise the 30,000Rs.

I then met one of the teachers, Mr Banaris Khan, who when the school first opened, had taken the initiative to go from door to door motivating people of his village to send their children to school.

As he introduced me to his classroom (which was the boys' classroom) I was welcomed with clapping and singing which brought a lump to my throat. It was quite emotional.

The children seemed excited to meet someone from England.

"So does anyone know where Peterborough is?" I asked in Punjabi.

I was quite surprised when all the hands shot up. "Miss, is it in London?"

"Eeermm, not exactly." As I watched all the little hands slowly go back down, I made an attempt to explain where Peterborough was and that there was more to England than just London.

It was a similar experience in the girls' classroom. The most significant difference was that most of the girls there were going to school for the first time. The reason is their brothers were given priority for being educated.

After distributing to the children stationary sent by Peterborough City Council, I asked them if there was something that we could give them what would they ask for.

There was no mention of Nike trainers or tickets to the Spice Girl reunion. What most of them wanted was a school uniform, or a school bag.

Just as I thought my visit had come to an end I was told the children's parents were waiting to see me.

I was escorted to the room that is being used as the health centre where I met the mothers.

Again feeling extremely overwhelmed, I began by explaining that I had been sent on behalf of The Evening Telegraph and the city council, who with the help of the Peterborough community had raised the money needed to build the school.

I asked them how they felt about the school. They said words could not express how grateful they were that their children, especially their daughters, were being given the opportunity to be educated.

The women also spoke of having benefited from the health centre which provides basic health care.

Nadia explained that none of the infants had received post-natal vaccinations.

She said: "The health worker stressed the importance of it and since then 20 children were given with post-natal vaccinations."

The centre was also the venue for a health day in June when villagers were vaccinated against hepatitis, tetanus and measles and children were given polio drops. There is still no doctor nearby, Ms Kauser, the female health worker, pointed out.I was than escorted into the third potential classroom where the men from the community had sat patiently waiting.

I was happy to have the opportunity to ask them how they felt about letting their daughters go to school for the first time.

Again, unanimously,0 they spoke about how they have abandoned the idea that women should not be educated or that it is less important to consider a woman's education and felt equally happy that their daughters, as well as their sons, were being educated.

The Mungan community really appreciate the efforts that went into providing their children with a school.

Having been there and knowing just how much, I can honestly say those of you who contributed to the earthquake appeal have truly changed and touched their lives.