My parents have always been telling me since my childhood that every night before sleeping, think whether you have done something good for someone. I held on to this little piece of advice by them and this has been the stimulating factor for many of the things that I have done in life,” says Mehnaz Nadeem. She started off her career as an educationist and worked as a kindergarten and primary teacher for almost 20 years. Today, she is doing great work as a humanitarian in the capacity of the president of the OAKS Karachi chapter, the alumni group of Kinnaird College, Lahore. “There are two main projects we have been undertaking. Our main project is National Institute of Child Healthcare. We have also been working to upgrade their laboratory and recently we adopted their neo natal ward as well. Our second project is saving Thar. We are not only constructing new wells with partnership with Hisar foundation but we also rehabilitate wells. In Thar, we have also started ‘gift a goat project’ which aims to facilitate the people of Thar by providing them with livelihood,” Mehnaz explains.
Of course serving such great causes comes with various challenges, beginning with raising the funds to their disbursement on the right projects. Mehnaz adds that as far as the Saving Thar project is concerned, travelling all the way to Thar from Karachi was not easy and that was not an easy decision for OAKS, Karachi chapter. Once they had decided that is indeed the cause they want to work for, they opted for a particular district called Chachrho which has not received any attention or aid as it is a ‘difficult’ district as far as wells are concerned, since the wells in the area are very deep. “We did not get any support from the government, which led us to making a partnership with Hisar Foundation. Over a span of 2.5 years we have rehabilitated almost 90 wells and constructed 46 new wells. Under our gift a goat project in the same area, 500 goats have been distributed among the families in Chachrho,” says Mehnaz. With the help of donors, friends and some private sector sponsors, the OAKS Karachi chapter has been doing all this for the underprivileged communities and more. “You’ll be surprised that some of the donors have even adopted villages,” says Mehnaz with excitement in her eyes “that means going even bigger – we have done some work in areas of education and installed solar panels as well and hope to do more on these lines. I’m glad that we have at least brought the plight and negligence in those areas under the limelight and hope that other donors and sponsors will join hands with us to uplift the forgotten and ignored parts of the country.”
Mehnaz’s inspiration lies in her mother, who she grew up watching work voluntarily for the Behbud Association in Lahore. “I always thought if she can do it, managing kids and everything, why can’t I?” she says. With the support, guidance and valuable advice from her husband at every step, Mehnaz continued to pursue her aspirations. “When I started my career, my kids were small and I thought that teaching was the best way to satisfy my thirst to do something, yet not neglect my home and children. Now that all my children are either working or are college going, I have the time and this is the best way of channelling my time in a positive direction. It’s so rewarding giving back to society because we are all the privileged and blessed ones. If you show people the right path and if you are able to deliver, there are so many people who want to contribute, either monetarily or by chipping in their physical effort. Especially when it comes to providing water, people consider it sadqa-e-jaariah and never hesitate to help,” explains Mehnaz with a sense of gratefulness.
Where helping people is her true passion, Mehnaz is a firm believer in the fact that a woman must give herself some time as well. She is regular with her exercise and finds spending time with family and friends very relaxing. “I love to read books and watch a movie occasionally,” she says. As far as her Miracle Moment is concerned she says every time she, with her organisation, is able to construct an additional well it brings immense joy to her. She relates an incident which mirrors the philanthropic spirit of the people of our country. “A friend of mine visited Chachrho and when she saw the living conditions and people without even a pair of slippers under their possession, she sent a WhatsApp message to a couple of friends that said ‘Donate a Slipper’ – and within 2 days, she received 2000 pairs of slippers for the people of Thar!” Indeed, the Miracle Journey of Mehnaz Nadeem makes us pause and think for a moment – if we are blessed with so many bounties, it is incumbent upon us to use what we have to bring a smile on someone else’s face. Without a doubt, true satisfaction lies in helping others.