Last night we were delighted to be able to host Helen Bingley and Jabien who came to speak to us about their work with the Abaseen Foundation. 'Abaseen' means 'Father of the rivers', a reference to the great river Indus whose source is found in the mountains where the Abaseen Foundation works in NW Pakistan.
The Abaseen Foundation seeks to make a difference to the marginalised communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhira. This part of Pakistan is to all intents and purposes 'stateless' with no welfare or education provision for the people. To the outside world, we think we know about this area and identify it with Taliban and Al Queda, but beneath this designation, lie a whole nexus of forgotten tribes and refugees from this war-torn area, many of them ophans from the conflict. In their poverty, whole families and children as young as 6 are caught up in indentured labour at the brick kilns with no hope of redemption. To give us an idea of the situation here, Helen shared with us some troubling statistics: average mortality age of 38 years old, 3% female literacy rate, and almost complete lack of medical care. Currently 67% of the children are severely malnourished with the associated effects of stunted growth and diminished cognitive function.
The Foundation is seeking to alleviate the situation with the establishment of a hospital, water pumps, education with sports and vocational training, and food. In the recent earthquake, the Foundation was able to help with co-ordinating relief to isolated villages.
Helen and Jabien helped to open our eyes to this part of the world, to the troubling realities that we are not separate from, especially in light of our involvement in the military campaign in Afganistan which has left so much dislocation. We thank them for their wonderful work and inspiring witness.