Alkhidmat works in seven areas: Disaster Management, Health Services, Orphan Care, Education, Water Supply and Sanitation, Mawakhat (Interest-free microfinance), and Community Services. Image Credit: Supplied

Alkhidmat Foundation Pakistan is beautiful humanity that functions on the principle of service that is without a break, without a personal agenda, without any consideration for a worldly reward.

They are everywhere—in the time of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, heatwaves, droughts; when humans are maimed and killed in an act of terrorism; during the COVID-19 destruction; to help when millions are suffering the effects of an institutional economic breakdown; to provide food to the underprivileged in Ramadan and whenever needed. Alkhidmat workers and volunteers are human angels who are everywhere—silently, humbly, caring, sharing, lessening pain.

Alkhidmat does not just provide short term solace. It is also focused on effecting long term changes. Programmes for welfare of orphans, free education and microfinance prepare individuals with meagres or no resources to have a solid shot at having a self-sustainable future.

Serving humankind in micro and macro ways, Alkhidmat is an inspiration to do selfless good to make ours a better, a more inclusive, a more empathetic world.

A non-profit organization, Alkhidmat works under the supervision of a central board of management.

Under the presidency of Professor Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman, Alkhidmat continues to leave its unassuming but stellar mark in the domain of social welfare. Dr Rehman, a noted ophthalmologist and philanthropist, is the serving principal of the Peshawar Medical College. Previously, he served as general secretary and later as president of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association. Countless people suffering from blindness in Pakistan and several other countries benefited from Dr Rehman’s work for the Prevention of Blindness Trust.

Alkhidmat Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman
Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman Image Credit: Supplied

Dr Rehman, having served as a member of the Central Executive Council of the Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA), was elected as its first International Relief Coordinator and secretary general. As the founding director of FIMA’s “Safe Vision Program”, his work is across twenty countries in the last six years.

For Gulf News, I asked Professor Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman a few questions:

Mehr Tarar: What is the story of the creation of AlKhidmat?

Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman: Alkhidmat Foundation Pakistan is a non-profit organization established in 1990. Its primary objective is to provide a platform for individuals in Pakistan and around the world to serve humanity for the sake of pleasing the Creator. Alkhidmat believes that the Creator desires for human beings to care for one another in times of need without discrimination.

Headquartered in Lahore, 150 Alkhidmat offices employ full-time paid staff but its one thousand strong leadership works voluntarily without receiving any honorarium. Approximately 60,000 volunteers work across the country to deliver services year-round and particularly during disasters.

Alkhidmat works in seven areas: Disaster Management, Health Services, Orphan Care, Education, Water Supply and Sanitation, Mawakhat (Interest-free microfinance), and Community Services. Each area is governed nationally by a vice president. A female vice president manages Alkhidmat’s women’s wing.

For its outstanding humanitarian work, particularly during times of crises, both within Pakistan and abroad, Alkhidmat has earned the attention and support of the Pakistani diaspora worldwide. For our burgeoning community, Alkhidmat has established registered offices in various countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Europe, and Turkey. With Alkhidmat Global, Alkhidmat plans to expand its portfolio.

What comprises Alkhidmat’s programme for the welfare of orphan children?

The Orphan Care Program is one of Alkhidmat’s flagship projects, initiated in Attock in 2006 with an orphanage named “Aghosh” (mother’s lap)—to avoid any stigma associated with orphans, allowing them to form an attachment to their new home. The organizers determined the standard of living for orphans to be at least equal to that of their own children. Sixteen years later, we are proud that these standards have been maintained at a level much higher than initially decided, alhamdulillah.

Currently, Alkhidmat operates twenty-one Aghosh homes in various cities, including one in Gaziantep, Turkey. An additional dozen homes are in the process of being established. One state-of-the-art Aghosh home, Aghosh College Murree, is modelled after renowned cadet colleges. Selected through a nationwide competitive examination, thirty-five students are annually enrolled in sixth grade. Only orphans sponsored by Alkhidmat are eligible for admission.

Alkhidmat currently supports more than 23,000 orphans and is committed to providing them with the best possible living conditions, education, and character-building opportunities.

Alkhidmat has also launched a nationwide programme for deserving orphans who reside with their mothers or other guardians. Selected after a thorough scrutiny, they are enrolled in a programme that provides them with substantial support in the form of school fees, books, stationery, uniforms, and financial aid for living expenses.

Governed separately by a national director and a vice president, the programme divides its approximately 21,000 students into clusters, each of which is overseen by a family support officer. The objective is to teach them to become productive, independent members of society with a spirit to uplift their communities and contribute to the development of their motherland.

By initiating this programme, Alkhidmat provides an opportunity for its donors to build a house in heaven in the neighbourhood of our beloved Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as promised by himself in an authentic Hadith.

Alkhidmat also has a unique programme for street children who are often seen collecting usable items from garbage. These out-of-school children serve their families with meagre earnings at the end of a tough day but unfortunately do not have a promising future. Alkhidmat’s Children Protection Centre (CPC), located at more than fifty locations in various cities, recruit such children. These children attend a CPC for a specified period daily and receive education, food, clothing, and motivation. If permitted by their parents, they are enrolled into schools for regular education. Children at our CPCs are not all orphans, but they can appear in competition entry exams for the Aghosh College.

This programme is run by highly educated individuals such as Air Marshal (retd) Farooq Habib, AVM (retd) Khudadad and Brigadier Abdul Jabbar. Strategic planning and oversight are done by a board of distinguished individuals, chaired by the renowned scholar Professor Dr Anis Ahmed, Vice Chancellor, Riphah International University, Islamabad.

At present, Alkhidmat is annually spending approximately PKR two billion on this project. The funds are donated by benevolent individuals.

Alkhidmat’s ongoing work for the victims of the devastating 2022 floods has helped countless people. What are the various aspects of Alkhidmat’s flood rehabilitation programme?

The 2022 flood was an unparalleled disaster for Pakistan, impacting thirty-three million individuals and resulting in the damage or destruction of approximately two million residences. Certain areas in Sindh and Balochistan remained underwater for several months and some are still submerged. Alkhidmat executed rescue and relief operations in all affected areas with its contingent of roughly 60,000 volunteers. Countless lives were saved through the utilization of motorboats, ropes, and divers.

Provision of potable water was a significant concern as all sources of water were contaminated, and waterborne gastrointestinal diseases were widespread. Alkhidmat supplied millions of water bottles and employed dozens of water tanks mounted on trucks to deliver clean water. Mobile filtration plants were utilized, and small filtration plants were installed at numerous contaminated water sources.

Alkhidmat provided cooked meals to millions and distributed dry food items to families.

We deployed twelve state-of-the-art mobile health units equipped with diagnostic and pharmacy facilities, manned by doctors, nurses, and paramedics. Numerous field hospitals and mother-and-child healthcare units were established in various flood-affected areas. More than one million patients received treatment through these facilities. Alkhidmat distributed hundreds of thousands of mosquito nets and mosquito repellents.

The World Health Organization assessed that 650,000 women in the flood-affected areas were pregnant. Considering the gravity of the situation and its potential consequences, Alkhidmat initiated the programme “Safe Mother, Safe Family.” All health facilities of Alkhidmat, including mobile health units, are operating on this project. Lady health workers were recruited, and numerous unskilled workers were trained by experts. A network was established that promptly began registering pregnant women and conducting antenatal check-ups. After due diligence, supplemental nutrition was provided.

This programme, launched for one year, has conducted more than 30,000 antenatal check-ups and provided necessary assistance in the form of guidance, medicines, and nutrients. Safe birthing kits were supplied for at-home deliveries. Infant nutrition kits were also provided. So far, approximately 1,500 deliveries have been conducted at the Alkhidmat health facilities.

Approximately, PKR ten billion were expended on flood relief and rescue work. The Safe Mother programme is projected to cost PKR one billion.

Tameer-e-Watan, encompassing multiple components, has been launched with an initial budget of PKR five billion. Construction of 8,000 houses is planned, and hundreds of schools and mosques are currently undergoing rehabilitation.

Small farmers affected by the floods were without the resources necessary to cultivate their lands. Alkhidmat engaged experts and initiated a programme that supplied seeds and fertilizers to 7,500 farmers who possessed up to five acres of land. This programme resulted in the cultivation of more than 40,000 acres of land that would have otherwise remained uncultivated. These lands are expected to yield produce worth PKR five-six billion.

Three thousand orphaned children from flood-affected areas have been taken under the care of Alkhidmat’s Orphan Care Program.

Alkhidmat also plans to construct at least two new hospitals and one orphanage in the affected areas. A skill training centre is being planned too.

Alkhidmat disaster management’s work is not just limited to Pakistan. How has AlKhidmat contributed to the earthquake rescue and aid efforts in Turkey and Syria?

As Alkhidmat continued to provide relief to flood victims in Pakistan, another disaster struck—the earthquake in the eastern parts of Turkey and north-western areas of Syria. Turkey declared it as a level four emergency.

Through our manager in Istanbul, we immediately coordinated with our partners in Turkey to initiate relief activities. Hundreds of Pakistani students studying in different cities, including Istanbul, were contacted. They expressed great enthusiasm and volunteered their services for the relief operation.

Alkhidmat Vice President Abdul Shakoor (former president and currently in charge of Alkhidmat Global activities) supervised the relief efforts and facilitated networking. Relief teams were dispatched to the affected areas.

On the second day, AFAD, Turkish government’s disaster management agency, contacted the Alkhidmat headquarters through TIKA to make an urgent request for search and rescue workers. Alkhidmat selected forty-seven trained SAR workers, equipped with high-tech SAR equipment for earthquakes, and sent them to Istanbul within a few hours. The Embassy of Turkey arranged their tickets and provided on-arrival visas. They flew from Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi on Turkish Airlines flights, and were received by AFAD at the Istanbul airport and transported to affected areas by a Star Alliance flight.

Our SAR team untiringly performed their activities for the next ten days, their commitment to their work endearing them to the earthquake victims and the local administration.

Alkhidmat established kitchens to supply hot food and distributed dry food packs to the affected families.

After a meeting with Lt Gen Haider Ali, Chairman NDMA Pakistan, Alkhidmat sent thousands of tents, including winterized ones, tarps, blankets and food items to Turkey and Syria. This process is ongoing.

Mr Shakoor met with some Syrian officials in Istanbul and then visited the affected areas of Syria. Alkhidmat sent a team of nine senior doctors from Pakistan to Idlib and its surrounding vicinities. After our doctors’ inspection of local hospitals, Alkhidmat decided to immediately upgrade one hospital by providing a dialysis unit. Because of unavailability of blood banks in the affected areas, Alkhidmat has decided to establish one in partnership with PIMA. A diagnostic lab will also be upgraded.

Alkhidmat is still involved with relief and rehabilitation work in Turkey and Syria. To monitor the work, we have established an office in Istanbul. It is registered as a humanitarian organization.

True to its vision of “service to humanity with integrity”, Alkhidmat is committed to serving those in need. It aims to create a compassionate society where everyone can live with dignity. This has all been possible with Allah’s grace and support of incredible volunteers and generous donors.