April 17, 2020

Social Work prof sees compassion and generosity as the beautiful face of humanity

Aamir Jamal leads successful fundraiser for orphaned children and isolated families in northern Pakistan
Pakistan COVID
Pakistan COVID

Covid-19 has been difficult for everyone. Social distancing and quarantine isolation have left many feeling disconnected and sad. However, in many parts of the world the situation created by the coronavirus is a lot more desperate. For example, before the coronavirus, things were already difficult in the isolated, mountainous regions of northern Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.

The region has endured more than 40 years of war and conflict, dating back to the Soviet invasion. The decades of conflict have shattered many families, leaving many children orphaned or in single-parent homes — families where not working means not eating.

A Calgary group is doing their best to help families get through these desperate times. The Canadian Association for Children's Education in Pakistan (CACEP) is a Calgary-based group led by Faculty of Social Work professor Dr. Aamir Jamal, PhD. CACEP has been supporting children and families in the region for years, emphasizing education for women and girls in supported schools. During the pandemic, they’ve turned their attention to helping families and children survive.

“If mom can't go out to work, what's going to happen?” asks Jamal. “Who will provide food for her children? The government has imposed a lockdown, but the issue is survival. Families may not die due to COVID-19, but many will suffer due to hunger and not having basic necessities of life.”

Fifty dollars can buy a month of survival in northern Pakistan. Fifty dollars represents a month’s worth of basic provisions — flour, rice, cooking oil, and chickpeas, etc. CACEP is hoping to raise enough money to feed 500 families in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan. Jamal says the response, so far, has been amazing.

“It’s been people from all walks of life, contributing whatever they can,” he says. “We've already delivered groceries to 62 families."

You can just imagine the relief and joy for a mother who can't go out because the police aren’t letting anybody come out in the streets. Then she receives everything she needs on her doorstep for one month.

Between the GoFundMe donations and donations that have come directly to Jamal, the group has raised more than $7,000 toward their goal of $25,000. Of course, raising the money and purchasing the food is just half the problem. With a strict police lockdown, getting groceries to the families can be a real challenge. Luckily, just like in Canada, social workers in Pakistan are creative thinkers.

“Some of our team members were going to deliver the supplies to a very mountainous area in their car,” says Jamal with a chuckle. “Police enforcing the lockdown stopped them, and didn’t let them go. So, as we know, sometimes social workers will do, ah, interesting things to get the job done. It may not be honest, but they want to get it done. So they hired an ambulance, packed all the food in it, and made the deliveries. It's not exactly following the law, but they just wanted to get it done.”

For Jamal, the silver lining in the pandemic is the connection that these donations make between the two disparate communities — connections he says really benefit both sides.

“For example, I saw that one person donated $1,400. When I saw that, I had tears in my eyes,” says Jamal. "I call it the beautiful face of humanity.  So much beauty out there.  So many amazing, generous, kind, compassionate people.

"It's not just about getting money and helping people. There’s a larger, much deeper impact on both communities. We are making a global community of compassionate people. People who care about humanity and the oneness of all that is human.”

If you’d like to donate to orphans and single parent families in Pakistan, you can contribute on their GoFundMe page.


UCalgary resources on COVID-19

For the most up-to-date information about the University of Calgary's response to the spread of COVID-19, visit the UCalgary COVID-19 Response website.