Bushra Farooqui continues to ‘inspire with the love of mountains’
By: Sulman Ali
There are unsung heroes who have paid their debt to their homeland Pakistan; Bushra Siddique is definitely one of them. The mountaineer and trekker, who had climbed, trekked and visited the Himalayas and Karokaram Range numerous times, decided to give back the warmth and hospitality the region had given her. She decided to give it through the wealth of education. The adventurer did pass away on August 30, 2015 but the mission started by her still continues in the remote areas of Gilgit, Baltistan under the name of Inspire Initiative.
I came to know about this initiative while searching for heroes of Pakistan. After contacting the current head of Inspire Initiative and sister of Bushra, Aisha Farooqui agreed to give an interview about this great effort. “Bushra Farooqui has been working with schools in this region since 2009 but in 2014 it was given a formal structure under Inspire Initiative Ltd. registered as a NGO in Gilgit-Baltistan. The motivation behind running a primary school in this beautiful mountainous region is the collective love of mountains, trekking and child education” she said.
She further told me that the program was started in the remote valley of Baltistan with the help of three other sponsors from the UK. A small school that consists of 60 girls from Basha Valley was supported through primary education by utilising the school premises of a boys primary school in the area. “This humble beginning grew into supporting 360 girls in 3 years time,” she said proudly. On a query about how this organization works, she answered, “We work with local communities to establish local schools, hire teachers and to get help to get children enrolled. The overall support consists of teacher salaries and professional development, school supplies and materials, uniforms, school maintenance and development. Above all we try our best to ensure a child-friendly learning environment.”
While answering the question about the major motivation behind this initiative, Aisha told me that their main aim is to provide quality education to children who cannot afford to go to school at all. “The Inspire Sadpara Primary School today provides primary education to 140 children both girls and boys between the ages of 4 to 14 years. These are children from Sadpara village in Baltistan who cannot even afford the nominal fee of the government school. Their parents earn their livelihood by farming and raising cattle. Most of these children leave their education at a very early age to support their parents in earning the daily bread and butter.
“Our secondary aim is to promote the beautiful mountainous of the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan by organising awareness building talk sessions and participating in charity treks in Pakistan and other countries.”
While discussing the financial assistance and support she told me that their work depends on the generosity of the supporters. “We’ve received overwhelming support in the first two years of inception from friends, family and other sponsors but there still remains much to be done to ensure that every child has the chance to receive primary education. There is no government support,” she said.
“In Pakistan with a total population of 180+ million, there are millions added to the population each year. Only half will have access to any formal education, the remaining will perhaps never see the inside of a school.”
About the future plans of the program she explained that along with Sadpara Village School, they have a school in Milpan Village and the total count of students has reached 180 for the age group of 4 to 14. “Furthermore we have established the sponsorship with Gilgit based Agha Khan Foundation and Citizen Foundation to further make the organization more structured and work more streamlined.”
“After the tragic death of Bushra we have officially changed the name to Bushra-Inspire Initiative with the motto ‘Inspire- with the love of mountains’”
There are some individuals who leave the legacy not only for their closer ones but for the society, for the coming generations and for the unprivileged. Bushra Farooqui was definitely one of them. She gave her birth country a mission which will give benefits to numerous children. It is a small initiative but highly appreciable. The missions like these needs support of all of us to thrive and to flourish. We have to support it, for Bushra, for Pakistan.
The article originally published in THE NATION on Dec 31, 2015