A Trip To Machar Colony
Yesterday Concern for Children Trust invited the press/media and journalists to cover an exhibition of art work and photographs created by the children of Macher colony. The artwork had previously been displayed in of a couple of exhibitions in different art galleries in the city but only this time the display was where it had actually come from, the Macher colony it’s self.
When the Concern for Children (CFC) Trust informed me a month or so back that they had planed for such an exhibition in one of Karachi’s largest and most thickly populated Kachi Abbadi, an illegal settlement of over 700,000 people living way below the poverty line, I had no idea what I was to witness.
But yesterday the moment we entered this thickly populated colony in a CFC van I realized that this is an absolutely new environment, a whole living city tucked under the plush and beautiful superficial layers and folds of modern housing and shopping centers almost totally invisible, completely ignored as if it is not even a part of the same Karachi we all are so familiar of.
Small houses accommodating a family of eight on average, so small that our moderately luxurious kitchen, or bathroom would actually be much bigger. A colony by the sea harbor, built with hundreds and thousands of such small houses, constructed out of cement and bricks on shallow foundations resting on the soft seaside sand, and some dangerously erect up to three stories high. The only water available for these people to drink, bath or wash is a mix of the city sewerage, and to cook a days meal dry wood is the only fuel.
The children you would see, out on the streets either sitting on a pushcart selling boiled chickpeas and tangy sauce from a small dish, a single serving is only a few spoons full, or playing in the sand roaming aimlessly in groups wearing shredded clothes, barefoot on the narrow dirt lanes, with floorings cushioned with garbage dumps and damp with sewage water. These children pushed out of their houses for the whole day long, as they can only but crumble-in to shelter from nights in their tiny homes. With a daily wage per person of Rs 200/- on average, what more can their parents afford.
In this colony CFC runs several schools and healthcare clinics. The schools are populated with mostly boys, Girls who study are in minority separate from boys. But these kids shall no way be underestimated. Their talent and creativity much pure and diverse then an average kid going to an expensive school city is clearly visible through their work of art, with strong lines, compositions with calculated curves, well balanced lines vivid colors all well balanced. Their language may be different but not offensive at all and their behavior only playful with great respect to their teachers and elders was remarkable to notice. The potential in them is no doubt enormous, and they are to make a large segment of our future society. CFC has indeed given them hope and a guideline to follow to become a responsible citizen.
But for how long can they afford to study, with financial pressure on their family building every day and age making work difficult for their parents to deal with, in time most of them quit schools for work to facilitate and contribute for the survival of their family. Sadly The nurturing of their talents come to an abrupt end at this point. Those who can continue to fight off the pressure and win over hardships are able to break the cycle and secure a better future for them selves and their family are only a few in number.
The health clinics run by CFC provide medical consultations to poor men, women and children but they are yet to win a complete trust of the majority of the people. The chlorine tablets distributed for cleaning their drinking waters are suspected to be contraceptives. Most of the childbirths are conducted by untrained midwives ( Daisz ) who have little, actually no concept of hygiene and sterilizing the equipment is out of question. The people do strongly believe in alternative medicine and even in witch craft. Sadly the medical science is looked at with skepticism in this by many in this colony.
A huge population, living right under our nose, sharing the same city, breathing the same air but we don’t share and basics of living necessities, not even clean drinking water with them. We can solve all their issues if all of us don’t just buy that one tee-shirt which we didn’t needed but we bought it just to add to our wardrobe and instead donate the money for people of this colony instead, but do we ? No because we refuse to see them, we opt to be oblivious of them, of their issues, of their misery because not to think, is the easiest way to enjoy the luxuries of a good night’s sleep.
Corrections brought forward by the CFC Trust:
” Thank you for bringing attention to the cause of development in urban slum areas. I’d just like to make a small correction, while Concern for Children Trust supports schools empowerment through it’s art program, we do not run any of the schools in the colony-they are all privately owned and run.
In addition, CFC is always looking for ways to improve the scope of health care in the community and is currently seeking funding for a training program for traditional birth attendants. ”
We thank Concern for Children Trust for the Corrections.
For more information on Concern for Children Trust and how you can help, please visit their website: http://www.concernforchildren.org.pk