Report on Nigel Paterson’s single-day visits in Lahore
I was in Pakistan for the first time, pursuing a lengthy quest to try and help Christians establish a sustainable school in a town about 150 miles from Lahore. Anser and Kashi very kindly gave me hospitality in Lahore at the start and end of my visit. In my only full weekday in Lahore, Anser took me to seven projects and to visit a medical student who is sponsored by Starfish Asia.
My main overall impression was the sheer variety of the different educational projects in which Starfish Asia is involved. Despite having over 40 years of experience in British-based education and training, I learned a lot from Anser’s insights, observation skills and peaceful cheerfulness. It brought home to me that being the Director of Starfish Asia is rather like being a home missionary.
I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the girls in Abba Home, an orphanage and school for 30 girls. These girls are either parentless or they have only one living parent who does not want them. They are now parented and loved by Ashraf and Wilma Naheed. As the father of two grown-up daughters myself, it tugged on my heartstrings to absorb the collective return look from these eager and thoroughly engaged characters as we stood before them.
Another specialist project that we visited was the Ananias Rehabilitation Centre, a blind school for girls. There were 8 girls there, with two blind teachers who are ex-students. Various parents are keeping their daughter at home at the moment because of fears of another violent attack being made in the area.
The Talents School is one of those schools where you sense within seconds that you have just stepped on board a particularly well-run ship. The building must have been built for domestic purposes and now houses a school for about 250 pupils. There are classes fitted into every imaginable space, including on an upstairs veranda and in an upstairs kitchen.
Darul Hikmat School was where we spent some quality time talking to the headteacher Mrs Maryam Sharfraz, who came across as a seasoned educator. This elegant, purpose-built school was assembled with foreign vision and money, and has some grand history of delivering education over the past 25 years. Starfish Asia pays for the presence of over 100 pupils there.
Agape House is a school for children with special needs. This loving little project is very much the result of one woman’s vision. One disabled little girl had done some fantastic artwork that adorns the rooms, illustrating how special needs can overlap remarkably with special abilities. The school is set within a community of about 200,000 (poor) Christians. Driving around the area was sobering, as I associate Christian presence with added evidence of orderliness and material success, and this was the opposite.
Dean Public School was started and is still run by Naeem Dean. The school is the result of his vision for a school where children would not be eliminated from school because of non-payment of their (even very small) fees. Starfish Asia have helped to pay for essential building work on the premises.
Ghouri Wisdom School is a fairly large school run by a second-generation couple called Jahanzaib and Fouzia. Anser and I had a memorable time hearing from a class of Year 11s (final year) what career they each hope to pursue. Becoming a doctor was the most common aspiration among them, and becoming an engineer (not further defined) came second.
In the afternoon we visited, in her home, a diligent 3rd-year medical student called Mehak Mushtaq who is sponsored by Starfish Asia. Her medical studies are proving even harder than she had expected. We had yet another power cut while with her, illustrating what a hot and dark place a home like hers can rapidly become while the student is trying to study.
In the course of our travels, we also drove past the Catholic and Anglican churches that recently had suicide bomber attacks at their gates, thwarted by personal bravery and divinely ordered circumstances from killing much larger numbers of people than the attacks actually achieved. The whole Christian community have been unsettled by these events.
Something else for us to pray about is for more Pakistani Christians to catch the vision for supporting the work of Starfish Asia. It is easy for more materially successful Christians in countries where foreign aid comes in from the outside to be rather slow to catch the vision for taking on responsibility to help support the charitable work being done in their own country.
More Photos of Starfish Pakistan: