Dr. Rifat Zaidi’s photograph of flowers and wildlife, of Paris and ancient forts, are helping to bring a new world of opportunity to girls in one of the poorest regions of Pakistan.
The girls are students in the IDRF/ROF Project, a girl’s school built in Basti Awan, a rural community on the banks of the Indus River. The school is a joint project of the Rawalpindi Medical College Overseas Foundation, a group made up of alumni from Dr. Zaidi’s medical school, and the International Development and Relief Foundation of Canada.
In a region where many people live in mud huts and eat one or two meals a day, the school offers education, the hope of a better life for its young students and, over time, of improving the whole community’s quality of life as well, said Dr. Zaidi.
“It is a long-term investment,” said Dr. Zaidi, an orthopaedic surgeon at Lincoln Medical Partners Orthopaedics.
Printed on aluminum, which is much more durable than a standard print, the photographs will be on display on the first floor of the Miles Campus of LincolnHealth from November 26 through Christmas. All funds raised will benefit the IDRF/ROF School.
Founded in 2012, the school was built after Dr. Zaidi and other alumni of the Rawalpindi Medical College visited the area in 2010 to aid its recovery after devastating floods.
Many homes in the area were washed away by the flood waters. With the help of donors, including many in Lincoln County, Dr. Zaidi’s group built more than 300 brick homes to replace those lost.
After that first trip, however, it was clear that the community would need more than new homes if it was to emerge from poverty.
The group chose to build a new girl’s school for their next project because there were none in the area. If a girl is able to do well in her primary education in Pakistan, Dr. Zaidi said scholarships are available for secondary education and she may be able to go on to medical school or receive other training.
“It is a big leap. They were not going to have any education, now they have a chance to compete nationally and seek higher education,” he said.
There are currently 121 students in the school, and Dr. Zaidi said the Rawalpindi Medical School Overseas Foundation is also using the school to funnel aid to the community, sponsoring meals, giving students shoes and socks and also giving women sewing machines so they can start home businesses.
Six years after the school was founded, there are already signs of increased economic activity around the compound, and the school has also become a social hub, allowing women living in isolated communities to network and make connections.
With money raised from the sale of the photographs, Dr. Zaidi hopes to provide basic medical services to the mothers of the students. Currently, there are no medical services for women in the area. The additional rooms would allow female medical students to see women at the school and tend to their basic medical needs once or twice a year.
For more information about the IDRF/ROF Girls Primary School or to donate directly to the school, go to: http://rmcof.com/rmcof-projects/idrfrof-girls-primary-school/.