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Friendship International

Friendship International

Not often does one stand back and see things as they truly are, particularly when they are caught up in the whimsical chaos amidst life’s day to day dealings, especially in a place like Pakistan, where it seems that chaos is second nature at times. But every now and then we sit silent, in pure observation of our environment and ask, “How does that work?”  Then, we are usually taken aback by the realisations and intricacy of how things actually function. For instance, you have dinner served to you. That food was prepared in a kitchen, that kitchen is full of instruments which are made in a factory, where materials were sourced from a metal mine, or a plastic factory where its material was sourced from an crude oil-field… then there are the farmers who’ve grown the crops, sent them to the processing factories, have them canned, or cleaned or modified etc. – the process seems never ending. All so you can have a meal to enjoy for just 10 minutes and your body just a few hours, before the digestion process is complete and the whole thing starts again, at least three times a day. The procedure of getting fed and kept healthy flabbergasts me.

I sat on a hill after the earthquake in Kashmir of October 2005 and wondered how on earth that injured girl, that orphaned boy, those now-homeless families were going to get a glass of water and some food when all those processes, which had usually brought it to them every day, had ceased to be functionable. How on earth, amidst this chaos, would they manage something that we – in the rest of the un-ravaged world – took for granted?  Who would help her? She probably never thought that thousands of miles away there was someone who thought of all these things, that someone’s compassion overwhelmed him so much that if he didn’t at least try to do something, he’d never look himself in the mirror again with a clear, human conscious.

To know Azam Durrani is to know kindness. It is to know a man who has accepted the karmic events of his life and bestowed him a selfless heart with enough good manners on how to impart and appropriate it willingly: a local entrepreneur success story to benevolent emissary. From Karachi’s 80s-crazed popular Dolphin Restaurant, which dominated the culinary scene for 18 years – sitting ambassadors, high commissioners, presidents, politicians, dignitaries and superstars alike; fashion designing for ‘Ideas’ fashion boutique promoting Gul Ahmad textile fabrics; a factory outlet for Nina Industries; and the continuation of ‘Bed and Bath’ home textiles; to becoming the Pakistan Head of ‘Friendship International’. Amongst other extraordinary achievements, Azam still finds it difficult to sleep. Not that he hasn’t done what he set out to do four years ago, but because there is still so much more that needs to be done and until the government is able to take over the emissary works of such people and NGOs, rest is not on the agenda.

Friendship International – Pakistan (FI) is a humanitarian organisation based in Luxembourg, which became the self-realised project of Azam, having initiating procedures on grounds of compassion to establish a Pakistani branch after the October 2005 earthquake, providing fundamental necessities and medical care to victims and people in dire need.

Azam realised the requirement for establishing an arrangement after the shove of emergency relief would dissipate from the area, for basic primary healthcare that would be straightforward and effectual. “From experience, we know that no other development intervention is possible when one suffers. Our attempt is to ease suffering,” states Azam.

Friendship International started the first fully-equipped mobile clinic funded by Carrefour, France (The Carrefour-Friendship Mobile Dispensary) and supported by a base, Static Clinic in Muzaffarabad. It has since evolved to reach some of the country’s poorest and most disadvantaged communities, bringing their plight to the world’s eyes and ears. The principal of Friendship International-Pakistan is based on the experience of FI in Bangladesh, which has had a healthy and lasting partnership with Unilever over the past eight years with the Lifebuoy Friendship Hospital Project. The Friendship team’s involvement is based on empathy, profound understanding, compassion and proletariat experience, knotted together with modern technology.
Come May of 2009, Friendship International inaugurated its second project in Pakistan in Abbottabad: the ‘Lifebuoy-Friendship Clinic’. Azam describes this project as a primary healthcare facility which will be serving patients on site and also be travelling to nearby villages with inaccessibility to basic healthcare facilities. The local partners for this project being the OAKDF and the sponsor, Unilever Pakistan. To date, the ‘Lifebuoy-Friendship Clinic’ has over 5000 patients with an average of 100 patients a day from  Abbottabad, Sirla, Paswall, Banjgali and Darra.

Unassuming of his achievements or the impact his initiative has made on people in distress, Azam takes no stride and displays humility and modesty when describing how this static clinic provides medical services such as consultations, pathology, referral linkages and an ambulance. “This is connected with the remote unaddressed hillside villages through weekly satellite clinics, carrying doctors and paramedics to different prescheduled locations. Local paramedical village workers will undergo training and guidance to continue services in their villages,” articulates Azam. When the recent Swat Valley IDP crisis arose in Pakistan, Friendship International moved immediately to serve those in desperate and direct relief on site at the IDP camps in Mardan, without any concern of the threat of terrorism or being caught up in the conflict. “There was no question of leaving until the crisis was over and the IDPs could safely return home,” says Azam. “We ended up staying almost two months.” The FI team, consisting of male and female doctors, lady health workers, paramedics and volunteers, travelled daily with its fully-equipped mobile dispensary to various camps in Mardan and Nowshera. “Each day, we would provide consultation and treatment to over 350 patients and continue follow-up visits on alternate days.” Their achievements served more than 12,000 IDPs, treating illnesses such as acute diarrheal disease, scabies, impetigo, fungal infection, urinary tract infections, bronchopneumonia and dysentery amongst hundreds of other complaints.

Amongst supplying critical care in times of emergency and need, Friendship International had conducted a health awareness camp at a local children’s school in Muzaffarabad AJK in mid 2009, facilitating basic health and hygiene awareness to both students and teachers alike. FI is continually working on its out-reach programme and, with the help of local supporters and friends, is able to expand its network and help the people of the vicinity and further reaching areas.

“The project is structured, keeping in total focus with the needs of the area with regards to health issues, the geography of the region and the social, economic and communications requirements.” Azam is passionate to add that until government services become fully rebuilt and available, FI will continue to extend its support. After spending time with Azam Durrani, skimming through pictures and hearing the testimonies of people, it becomes evident that nothing is in vain, nothing is for nothing and FI is one of those truly dedicated international NGOs powered by humanism and good will, backed by the passion of people serving to make a difference. That it is not politically, religiously or commercially motivated, but moved to be an active participant in the betterment of the world in which we all share. That its mandate is to toil in incorporating environmental and human rights in all of its programmes and efforts and that if it wasn’t for people like Azam Durrani, this world might as well be left a hopeless place to live.

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