Shaiq Nazir Khan
This year HELP Foundation completes 25 years of its existence and active service in the field of social work. The journey of these 25 years has not been easy and the learnings for us were many. In between we overcame situations like floods of 2014 when our office was submerged under water but still we mobilised ourselves quickly and delivered relief and rescue operations. And in the recent covid 19 pandemic situation we had to reinvent the way we deliver our services.
In the initial years the struggle was immense. Situation was difficult back then. Needs were high and the means were less. For the founding members led by Ms. Nighat Shafi Pandit it was like donating their time, efforts and savings from their own pockets. There was risk to life and wherever the members went they were looked at with suspicion. Doing social work, starting a welfare program for education or rehabilitation or even simply sympathising with someone distressed was fraught with consequences. In short to reach out to the needy and vulnerable was a herculean task. However, gradually there were some achievements with the establishment of a “home” for orphans at Saida Kadal, named Shehjaar. Gradually, Shehjaar became a meeting point for the distressed women, who began to come and seek assistance. There were also failures; they were well taken in the stride and the lessons were learnt to set aright the future course of action.
During these years we have remained thorough professionals in our approach. We are called as NGO in local parlance. There is a general notion that NGOs have a lot of funding and hence not entitled to receive zakah or sadqah. And these notions affect NGOs like us who are doing genuine work. There is enough sensitisation and knowledge about the ‘particular heads’ under which Zakah can be utilised and how general donations or Sadaqah can be used.
We are open to scrutiny to authorities and general public whoever is interested. The reality is that HELP Foundation requires funds to run the programs like any other organisation. We also require competent staff and have more program managerial needs. Be it following compliances, financial & program audits, bringing out annual reports etc. We do it all. Needs are first assessed on the ground and then only a program is designed.
So we have to employ competent people to do the job, whether hiring a finance or Program person. The running costs are high. Lot of thought goes into each and every program. While receiving the visitors and during interactions with people who seek our help, we deal the issue professionally and pragmatically, and properly evaluate what we can do and what we cannot. We have adopted a rights based approach while keeping our beneficiaries in mind rather than doing mere charity. However, we have the space for each and every visitor. We listen patiently and suggest solutions within our capacity. For women under distress we refer them to our trained counsellors. We empathise with our beneficiaries and stand with them in their hour of need. It can be even giving a patient hearing to what they have to say and make them feel comfortable.
Our idea is empowerment rather than making the beneficiaries dependent. With initially supporting the poor and widow-headed households, with one-off donation or support, we have gradually moved to imparting education avenues for children, vocational skills, capacity building and training of youth groups and especially women. The next step is hand holding of these trained men and women, linking their products with marketing, e commerce platforms or job-markets, so that they become economically independent, enable themselves to meet their needs in a sustained manner and contribute their role in the society in a positive manner. Besides, there are services like health camps, eye check up camps, ambulatory services, subsidised pharmacies and diagnostic lab on “no profit no loss basis”.
Ramadhan month at HELP Foundation
Ramadhan is a busy month at HELP Foundation. The atmosphere is usually vibrant, as the staff and volunteers are busy updating lists of beneficiaries, preparing the venue for distributions, issuing vouchers and assisting the old and frail to lift their packs. Food pack distribution events take place at Foundation’s offices in Srinagar, Kupwara, Budgam and through volunteers in Pulwama and other places. These distributions happen at least twice in a month.
The pack generally consists of edible oil, tea, sugar, salt, soaps and other provisions that usually last for at least one month for a family of six persons. The value of the pack is Rs. 4000 on an average. The donors can donate for as many packs or at least one according to their preferences.
These food packs are meant for poor and destitute families, who look forward towards HELP Foundation for support during the month. There are also pre-identified families and those were children or women are enrolled in programs like education or skill development. These distributions are not routine but conducted especially in Ramadhan or during winter. Thus this additional support to the families eases their burden and they can have more time with the families in peace and seek the blessings of Allah in Ramadhan. It is pertinent to mention that the information about beneficiaries is confidential and even within the organisation only the concerned staff person has the details. During the events, care is taken not to click beneficiaries in a way that will affect their dignity. Pictures taken focus on the event or the program for reporting purpose, and individual beneficiaries are not the focussed. And these pictures are taken with permission. Utmost care is taken not to reveal the identity of the beneficiaries.
Foundation broadcasts the appeal through various mediums like radio, television and newspapers. Nowadays social media is also used for the purpose. HELP Foundation also maintains a Facebook page and also has developed a website to disseminate its various programs.
Shaiq Nazir Khan, Programme Manager, HELP Foundation J&K
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.