NGO CARE Pakistan is the third ever charity partner of the London Mela
In a first for the London Mela, an Asian Non-Governmental Organisation will be the official partner for the festival, CARE Pakistan. The Mela has traditionally been the biggest event for the South-Asian community in England, attracting up to 80,000 people every year to its doors. CARE Pakistan is the third ever charity partner of the London Mela, following only Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation in previous years of the event.
CARE is Pakistan’s largest educational NGO and vital given the current climate in Pakistan, where an educational crisis is taking place. In Pakistan, 21% of school children do not receive an education, a right guaranteed in the country’s constitution. Education has not only become an issue for underprivileged children but cuts across gender lines as well. Over half of all women in Pakistan are illiterate, with this number increasing to over two-thirds in rural areas. The problem is exacerbated by the Pakistani government’s complete abandonment of the education system in its country.
Given the global technological advancements of the last 10 years, it is staggering to examine the Pakistani government’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2013), which found not a single state school that featured a working computer. This is where CARE has excelled in providing opportunities for young children to thrive and attain the level of education they deserve by right. Since its inception in 1988 following devastating floods in Punjab, CARE has set up 247 schools in Pakistan and is educating over 170,000 underprivileged children. This is possible due to the unique low-cost model CARE has in place. By taking ownership of existing (empty) government buildings and making huge savings on construction costs, CARE can educate a child for as little as £1 per child per month.
However, there is still significant work to be done. CARE’s aim is to reach 1 million underprivileged children by 2018. The organisation’s presence at this year’s Mela affords an opportunity for people in the UK to find out more about how they can play their part in making this a reality, as CARE’s Head of Development Fatima Anwar explains:
“I think the truth is that there are many British Asians who want to contribute back home. Often these good intentions materialise in the form of a school or hospital built in one’s village of origin for example. My message to those people sincerely wishing to benefit their community, and humanity as a whole, is that the same money will ultimately go further if given to CARE. A school can be adopted in a donor’s name. The difference is simply that, through CARE, the donor is guaranteed that their unique low-cost model means that the same money can be used to educate more children and at the very highest standards”.
As the pioneer partnership of its kind, CARE Pakistan’s collaboration with the London Mela holds both symbolic and practical value according to England’s first British-born Pakistani cricketer and CARE Ambassador Wasim Khan MBE;
“CARE’s presence at the London Mela is representative of the unique synergy between being British, and being Asian. CARE Pakistan is the optimal channel through which those British Asians wishing to contribute back home can make the greatest impact. Not only is this because it is dedicated to addressing the root cause of many of the problems affecting our countries of origin but because it is able to do this for the greatest value for money and with the most impressive results possible. The Mela is a wonderful opportunity for the British Asian community to make the most of a family day out, where they can learn about and participate in this worthwhile cause”.
CARE’s involvement at the Mela centres on the implementation of this community-based approach. CARE will play host to the ‘Magic Mela’ families’ area of the event, a space inspired by young people that incorporates arts and crafts, story-telling, music-making and other fantastic ideas to get the entire family involved. CARE has driven the development of this space through arts activities for children, a t-shirt designing contest, and a raffle with unique prizes, that will tempt arts lovers and sports lovers alike, even featuring a six-month supply of Amira gourmet basmati rice for the whole family!