As a person, I am one who always aims to seek a chance to give myself to others. I believe that we are here in this world in order to be kind, loving, caring, not forgetting also the explorations of new sides of the earth. We are most certainly not made to live alone and we can’t dismiss all the people around us. So this is why my friends and I decided to go for a voluntary work experience in Pakistan🇵🇰 There were a lot of obstacles involved before embarking on this journey, but in one way or another we managed to get all the documents needed in order to make this journey possible.
It was a very long journey to arrive to Pakistan, as it involved a 4 hour flight to Istanbul, then around 5 hours to Lahore. Once we set foot in Lahore, you could already feel the difference, even though it was 5 o’ clock in the morning. The most obvious thing you could feel was the congested air: filled with pollution from the many cars and motorcycles on the road. There was also a lot of dirt and rubbish all over! There were no public rubbish bins anywhere in sight and no one seemed to care about the environment around them.
I was super exhausted, so much so that I actually felt kind of dizzy! In fact, all of us rested. After that much needed rest, we explored the town a little bit and got to know the priest who was going to take care of us during our three week stay. Our real work started from the next day. We were all quite busy: the doctors took care of the medical camps where they tried to treat any medical issues (unfortunately, this was not always possible), the nurses gave first aid courses to the people of some of the local villages nearby and also to the Sisters of Mother Teresa, the rest of us gave lessons in either Biology, Chemistry or English (myself).
The people in Pakistan are a mixture of adjectives! During the medical camps some of the patients were impatient and expected that we give them medicine for every problem they had, which could not be the case either due to not having a particular medicine, or because there was no medicine which could actually help them, or even because merely starting on some medicine for a short time was not going to help the person in any way.
During the medical camps
There were also so many people who were welcoming, so very welcoming. Their smiles were so addictive, just one look at their face, and you feel a smile popping up on yours too! 🙂 They were thankful and grateful for all the little things we did with them. You could feel that they appreciated our efforts and time; it’s a nice feeling knowing that your work was appreciated.
Village people greeting us to their town ❤️
There were many times where after long hours treating the patients in the medical camps, one of the families who the doctors would have treated, would invite us over to their house for some chai (tea), and warm delicious chapati 🤩 (if you never tasted one, you should totally do so, especially when it’s warm). Here is a wikipedia link for your convenience: Chapati. Whenever we had this opportunity, we were treated very well. (They first served the food and drinks to us, then they would eat later.)
During our stay, we also had the opportunity to visit some different areas around Lahore. On the first Sunday we visited the Bashahi Mosque, which was absolutely mesmerising to see. The wall structure, the details which surrounded the enclosed building were a true beauty. I could not stop looking at the marvellous columns and its grandeur. Within the mosque, there were beautiful gardens and fountains which lit up as soon as it was night time. Trust me boys and girls, it’s worth a visit ❤️🕌 and also, side promotion (tehehe) here is a link of a photo I put up on my instagram account: Photo
We went to Murree for one night, which are mountains, approximately almost 10 hours drive away from Lahore. It was very refreshing being there, actually seeing greenery around us and feeling the fresh crispy air.
We also went to Kasur, which is an area where we witnessed a new modern kind of slavery. In this town, people are forced to work by making bricks for long hours in hope that they will manage to pay off their debts. As you can imagine, sadly, they don’t get treated very well. Those who are more fortunate and conscious of the situation cannot do anything about it, because the respective authorities of Pakistan pretend not to know about these situations.
My friend Giulia and I also had the opportunity to attend a wedding function. In Pakistan they organise a lot of wedding ceremonies before the actual wedding takes place. We were both lucky enough to get invited to one of these ceremonies in the groom’s house. It was a lovely opportunity to get a true taste of their culture. For this ceremony, all the family members and relatives are encouraged to attend in order for them to draw on the groom’s hand. Every dot next to the central circle on the groom’s hand were drawn by the ones closest to him ☺️
The destination I personally found most exciting was the border between India and Pakistan known as the Wagah Border. At this border, they organise these parades which occur every day at the same time. The same parade takes place also on the side of India. It was very interesting to watch this parade and experience the excitement from both of the sides!
Their language (Urdu or Panjabi) is not an easy one, and it was hard to pick up at first. However, by means of their facial expressions and gestures, it’s amazing how much you could understand. You could feel the pain that they were going through and you could imagine what that was like for them. After a few days, we started saying some words here and there, and their response was great!
Myself, my thoughts and my input:
My input for this experience was teaching English to some school aged children. This was not an easy task being that their language is very different to English, but somehow through the patient translators I managed to go over some basic topics with the students. I honestly wished that I had more time to go over more topics because some of the children were really happy with my lessons!
From the start, I was gearing up in order for this experience to be a meaningful one. I wanted to make the most of it so I aimed to take in the experience to the full! And that’s what I did, and I don’t regret it, because every day, I was smiling. I was smiling because notwithstanding the conceptions and misconceptions about Pakistan, I was happy to be there; happy to be wearing their clothes, to integrate with culture, to taste their food, to witness what difficulties they go through.
I have come to a realisation that all in all, the Westerns are very fortunate, if not too fortunate at times. We have so much, and yet many of the times, we are very unhappy, stressed and ungrateful. Yet these people have less and they are most of the times, happier than us. It made me think how unrealistic our happiness can be. We need to work towards being happier with the little, and more simple things in life more often, as these are the things that usually last more.
Also, one other thing which struck me is their faith in God. Now a side note which I did not mention; Christians in Pakistan are a minority, so it is very difficult to practice their faith. Nonetheless the people we met, expressed their gratitude to God and always prayed to God to lead them to a better way. They also showed great respect to the eldest priest of the formation who had spent at least 20 years living and working for a greater good in Pakistan.
Although it was financially and logistically difficult to go there, I would like to spend a longer period in Pakistan and hopefully be able to make a more meaningful difference!
Shukriya (thank you) Pakistan ❤️🇵🇰