In the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains, centred upon a flowing river lies the Swat valley of Pakistan. Renowned for its natural beauty and often referred to as ‘the Switzerland of Pakistan’ Swat is home to some 2,000,000 people and maintains some of the chilliest temperatures in the country.
Kanju, a small village in Swat, is home to 16,000 people, many of which work in the region's robust agriculture industry. Most men in the area find themselves working as farm hands in fields owned by local landlords, oftentimes living with their families in rental housing not far from the fields they work in. Many of these homes are too small for families with children and usually lack in both safety and sanitation.
Ikrum Ullah and his family of 11 share a two-room mud house in the village. His mother is the sole wage earner for the family, working as a local housekeeper, barely earning enough to feed and clothe her family.
Though the family is determined to rebuild their lives, the pressures of poverty and the extra strain caused by freezing conditions mean that their most urgent need is surviving the winter. With hardly enough money to feed her 10 children, Ikram’s mother found herself unable to afford any non-food items they would need to purchase for the winter.
This winter, thanks to our wonderful donors, Ikrum and his family received a winter relief pack containing: blankets, scarves, gloves, jackets, sweaters, quilts, medicine and fuel.
Ikrum: "Before receiving winter kits from the Muslim Hands team we were very worried about our condition [as] we have no money to purchase winter items to protect ourselves from the cold"
Meet Ali Muhammad: Ali studies full time in a local Muslim Hands school with his younger sister. After school, he and his 3 younger siblings attend a nearby madrassa. His mother and elder brother are the income-earners in his family, and like Ikrum and his family, they live in a mudhouse loaned to them by a local landlord.
Ali and his family were also beneficiaries of this year's winter relief program receiving warm clothes and blankets to protect them from the cold. It's his mother's hope that he will soon graduate from the Muslim Hands school where he is currently studying and go on to get a well-earning job, lifting himself and his family out of poverty. Until then, however, she says "I am worried about our current vulnerable situation and living in poverty." After receiving 2 winter emergency kits this season Ali's mother felt that "We have peace of mind and can now spend the season worry-free."
As Canadians, we know all too well what it means to deal with harsh weather conditions. This past winter alone we've set records for below-freezing temperatures and snowfall. For most of us, that meant we locked ourselves in our homes as we watched a cascade of snowfall envelop the city. As we woke the next morning we shovelled our driveways and cleared our cars of snow, making our way to work through the slush and ice. On such days we hardly pause to think about the basic items that we take for granted: warm coats, housing, stoves, heating, fresh food. These basics can be lifesavers for families at the mercy of the elements.
To our donors who opened up their hearts this winter, we want to say thank you. Your contributions meant that we were able to distribute relief packs to over 600 families in Kanju Swat, Pakistan. You helped saved lives this season and we're so grateful for your continuing support!
A word of thanks from Ali Muhammad: “I cannot tell you the depth of my happiness and joy in receiving [these] winter kits. I greet wholeheartedly the donors and all of the Muslim Hands staff who have supported us."