By Umer Raza Bhutta
Once a young man was throwing starfish in the ocean. There were hundreds of these coming to the shore. A man watching the boy doing this, could not stop asking “why are you doing this”. “You throw one and there are hundreds coming every minute. You will never be able to make the difference”. The young man while throwing another starfish back in the sea, smiled and said “I know I will never be able to throw them all back, yet I am able to make the difference in that one starfish that I have sent back to the sea”.
In Pakistan where the literacy rate is desperately low, there are many such truly self-less initiatives that are lightening the candle in the thundering wind. I happen to be a part of such initiative and have seen people developing their lives through this. One such initiative is the Adult Literacy. There are people in Pakistan who are making it happen with the help of volunteers. First time I saw this happening in 2003 at Crescent Bahuman Ltd. (a jeans manufacturing company near Faisalabad – Pakistan). I was an employee of that organization and I saw the program run through the organization management for the staff who could not read and write (the janitorial and some of the security staff). These people had never gone to school nor could they read a single simple word of Urdu. The initiator of the program claimed that after the program they will be able to read the news papers and be able to write a full length page in Urdu by themselves. The program concluded in the three months and I saw few of the eager adults to tell their success story. Later I initiated the same initiative in my next organization i.e. Serena Hotels in Faisalabad and Islamabad. The adult staffs who were great cooks, housekeepers and security guards, but circumstances never allowed them to visit the schools. Now because of their organization they were able to get time out of their work and sit in the class to actually have lessons and study. These organizations provided them an opportunity to burn a candle in themselves lying untouched, unseen and unobserved.
At the conclusion of one such program, I saw a 50-year-old housekeeping employee, standing in front of the crowd and proudly claiming that he never was able to read the salary slip he received. Now he was able to read through it and also at home could read the book of his school boy. The feeling of that newly literate man cannot be described in words. This is one of the good examples of the great work happening in Pakistan, though in bits and pieces, yet productive for a single human being. This work is like bringing someone out of the darkness of blindness. If you cannot read the Chinese language, seeing it is like seeing few straight lines in different directions. These few straight lines in different directions can have some meaning for you If you know that language. Urdu for most of us is also few straight lines. It is nothing less than blindness. Through this one little effort, we may not be able to create marked, visible difference in calculated time, yet we will be able to make the difference in the life of that one individual who is now able to read and write. Those of you who are interested to make this difference can start now.