This Pakistani girl left her six-figure job in Islamabad to teach children in Hunza village

Published: March 29, 2017
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The 26-year-old quit her job as software engineer and moved to G-B to empower children through education.

The 26-year-old quit her job as software engineer and moved to G-B to empower children through education.

The 26-year-old quit her job as software engineer and moved to G-B to empower children through education.

The idea of quitting your job to dedicate yourself to a cause is often romanticised and easier said than done. Especially, when the job one is quitting comes with a six-figure salary and immense career growth. It becomes even harder when the cause requires you to leave a comfortable life in Islamabad and move to Misgar, a beautiful small town without any connection to life outside it, in Gilgit-Baltistan near the Afghanistan-Pakistan-China border.

Indeed, not everyone can do it but that is what’s inspiring about Marvi Soomro, a 26-year-old who actually quit her job as a software engineer and moved to Misgar to teach school children in the valley. Her goal was simple yet powerful; she wanted to empower children and communities at large. She also knew this will be a gradual process and so her first step was to collaborate with a local school to reform education and engage children and adolescents through education and art.

b

Soomro’s story is inspirational not only because it’s unique but also because Soomro is not an educationist, a development sector professional or a policy student. Soomro is a simple girl but more mature than one would expect at the age of 26. She graduated in 2012 and joined the IT sector as an Oracle Financials Consultant. Within three to four years of joining the corporate world, Soomro saw enough career growth to make her realise that it’s a rat race and one which she never aspired to join. At her work, she took lead in projects, travelled abroad and lived in Manila but nothing seemed to fulfil her passion to do something extraordinary.

Things changed in the summer of 2016 when she got an opportunity to visit Misgar on a weeklong art residency. Misgar is a small valley with 150 houses where people live in homes made of mud and food is cooked on burning wood. Shepherds run the community and their lifestyle is simple and primitive. The valley has their own powerhouse and they generate their own electricity.

Soomro mentions how Misgar may have a primitive lifestyle but its people are warm and open. “I have never felt like an outsider and I never had to conform in any way. I continued wearing jeans and sweaters and felt as much at home and comfortable as I did in Islamabad,” she shares.

e

Misgar made Soomro fall in love with her surroundings so deeply that she extended her trip to two weeks. In all her travels up north, she had never seen a place that was so isolated. “When you get to live with such a small community, you integrate in their culture and stories beautifully. That is what Misgar became for me; a community of beautiful people and even more beautiful culture. I just felt like seven days were not enough and immediately started working on developing a program and recruiting volunteers,” Soomro recalls with excitement that shines through her eyes.

She returned to Islamabad and devised a programme called ‘Innovate. Educate. Inspire Pakistan’ (IEI Pakistan), built a curriculum and plan around the ideology of innovation, education and inspiration and recruited volunteers. Her program had two divisions – the art programme and the academic teacher programme and she recruited volunteers for them.

g

Looking for accommodation, she contacted Sehat Rahim – a member of the Misgar wildlife conservation society who ensured he would take care of the logistics when she reaches with her team. Upon her arrival with around eight volunteers, he showed them a small two-bedroom house with a gorgeous lawn with apricot and apple trees.

“I rented that hut for Rs2,500 a month, an amount that doesn’t get you a three piece suit in Islamabad. That is how simple and basic everything is in Misgar. We set up a kitchen tent in the lawn since the weather was still good and got all our stuff from Hunza,” she says.

The hut may be beautiful but it was a drastic change for Soomro. From being woken up by her mom and served breakfast on the table, she was now living miles away from home, waking up early to cook parathas and omelettes and heating buckets of water for her volunteers in an open kitchen. The transition was anything but smooth but one that brought a new challenge every day – something Soomro’s gypsy soul truly craved.

a

“There is a sensitive side to me that was really disappointed by things around. I had worked in the corporate sector for four years and I was earning good money and going up the ladder by the society’s standards. But in those four years, something constantly told me that this is not enough. Sure, I was earning good money but I was only helping the rich company become even richer. I also realised that if I wasn’t here, I could be replaced by someone and I wanted to be somewhere where my presence made a difference,” Soomro says.

Interestingly, Soomro also admits there were times when she felt like going back home. Especially when she would wash the dishes in cold water and her hands would freeze. She craved to be back in her warm and comfortable home with a heater at her disposal but by then she had fallen so much in love with children in Misgar that she knew, there was no reason for turning back any time soon.

d

One focus of Soomro’s work is to build appreciation and tolerance for diversity through arts and education. Her efforts may have begun in the small town of Misgar, which her program will continue to stay in touch with in some way or the other, she will also work on reaching out more children across the region.

The IEI Pakistan’s idea is to create a sense of inclusion through volunteer interaction, education, art for children from underdeveloped areas so they know they are as important a part of this country as any other child in the big city. The ultimate aim is to employ education as an interactive and engaging tool for long-term peace building, including creative and visual art as an effective medium for self-expression and empathy building.

f

For the children of Misgar, Soomro has opened a world of opportunities. She has taught them more than any book or curriculum ever could; she has shown them how to imagine and think; she has informed them about the world beyond Misgar. And by doing so, she has broadened their perspectives. Soomro may leave Misgar one day but her gift will live through the children she has touched.

All photos were provided by Marvi Soomro.

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Reader Comments (52)

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Mar 29, 2017 - 2:38PM

    ww and I have heard that Hunza province of Pak has the max percentage of educated. its more than 90% apparently . Girls like her are an asset indeed. Hope to visit this place one day. Recommend

  • Mohammed Mirza
    Mar 29, 2017 - 2:42PM

    Well writtenRecommend

  • Shahid
    Mar 29, 2017 - 2:49PM

    Well done young lady!Recommend

  • Ravian
    Mar 29, 2017 - 3:38PM

    Commendable action. However, the Ismailies (who live in that part of the country) are the most forward looking and educated people in this country. Teachers are available from their own community. I see a lot of kids on the streets of Islamabad who need to be at school. Would have been better had Marvi started charity at home…………… Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Mar 29, 2017 - 3:49PM

    Dear Sister

    Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students well done. Recommend

  • hassan
    Mar 29, 2017 - 6:15PM

    This is so exciting and God giftef opportunity to empower children of our area. Our sister did a great job​ . May Allah bless her.Recommend

  • Naba
    Mar 29, 2017 - 6:22PM

    How do I get in touch with this lady? I wanna help and assist her being a teacher myself with over 10 years of experience Recommend

  • Jay
    Mar 29, 2017 - 7:51PM

    @Ravian:
    So, nothing really satisfies you?Recommend

  • Nizam uddin
    Mar 29, 2017 - 8:15PM

    Indeed its a inspiring move… best wishes with you Recommend

  • Saeed Spicher
    Mar 29, 2017 - 8:18PM

    This is amazing she is doing great work.I am very happy to see these kids learning coding at the very early age,Marvi is software engineer i am sure she is teaching them coding as well. Recommend

  • naila dogar
    Mar 29, 2017 - 9:17PM

    Very well done. Really commendable!Recommend

  • ghayyas
    Mar 29, 2017 - 9:26PM

    very inspiring. good luck and best wishes to the young lady.Recommend

  • Mansoor Mustafa
    Mar 29, 2017 - 10:51PM

    This truly is heart warming and makes us proud as Pakistanis. Inspiring work which can turn this country into a heaven. Reminds me of ‘The Lost Horizon’ and sheds light on what immortality really means.Recommend

  • Mwaqar
    Mar 29, 2017 - 11:08PM

    Hats Off !!!Recommend

  • Ali Khan
    Mar 30, 2017 - 12:23AM

    So what does a six figure salary mean in Pakistani context? Is it in Rs.? If so, is it monthly or annual?Recommend

  • ijlal
    Mar 30, 2017 - 1:47AM

    @Ravian: I belong to Hunza and I do agree with your point of view. Marvis act is obviously cherishable and honorable but there is sense of awareness already due to community run schools. what we need is sense of education special female education in other regions of Pakistan. I thank you for your efforts Marvi good luck and may you get success even more. Recommend

  • Saba
    Mar 30, 2017 - 5:30AM

    @Bunny Rabbit:
    You need to first quit trolling on news sites to travel anywhereRecommend

  • Abdul Rahman Khan
    Mar 30, 2017 - 6:23AM

    Hail Fauzia Kazi.Recommend

  • Karachiwala
    Mar 30, 2017 - 9:00AM

    @Ravian – did you read the article or just saw the headline and commented out of envy?Recommend

  • Hassan
    Mar 30, 2017 - 9:18AM

    Amazing…simply amazing…no words to express my amazement and wish I muself had similar courage to drop out of the rat race..well done girl and hope all your aspirations are achieved..God bless..Recommend

  • yasir
    Mar 30, 2017 - 9:33AM

    Ms. Soomro set a great example for us to follow. This is truly inspirational story.
    Greatly appreciated. Recommend

  • TooTrue
    Mar 30, 2017 - 10:28AM

    Excellent news for a change. Well done. People should live their dreams.Recommend

  • Sexton
    Mar 30, 2017 - 11:18AM

    If only we could get people like this young women into politics,running our world correctly.Recommend

  • Mohammad
    Mar 30, 2017 - 11:22AM

    You are the lucky one, you have found a purpose in your life. Doing something great which will last for generations. Recommend

  • Azeem
    Mar 30, 2017 - 11:43AM

    Its incredibly good.Recommend

  • Muhammad Saleem
    Mar 30, 2017 - 11:44AM

    Really Inspiring move……My best wishes with you.Recommend

  • Zafar Hamid
    Mar 30, 2017 - 11:52AM

    Her desire to give up a comfortable life to.sacrice is commendable why cannot all you who commend her actions financially send her what you can spare to buy school supplies & hire teachers for the uneducated children of Islamabad there are already education help.Recommend

  • Umar Khalid Dar
    Mar 30, 2017 - 12:00PM

    Well, I do appreciate the efforts and the idea behind Ms Soomro imitative. Teaching the destitute indeed is a great thing to do. But I have two objections to the story; one that people who want to do good work normally tend to get the reward from Allah Almighty and do not give public exposure to their deeds and secondly, why she choose to go to Hunza, thousands of miles away, living among totally strange people (besides bringing into discussion concept of living without mehram) while one can find many small villages, even around Islamabad, where the standard of teaching is abysmal. I have the opportunity of visiting Hunza and I was very impressed by the standard of schools and teaching in that area working under Agha Khan. Whereas many public schools in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are sub-standard. So, I would suggest that she should try and eradicate the problems of people of Islamabad first and then increase her influence outwards, otherwise, people have the right to doubt the intentions and start calling it a public stunt.Recommend

  • Zahid Hussain
    Mar 30, 2017 - 1:02PM

    Wow amazing and inspiring. God bless youRecommend

  • Aaryan Ramzan
    Mar 30, 2017 - 1:23PM

    Kudos!!! Glad you picked Hunza where you’ll get the support and infrastructure you’ll need. Good luck and God bless. You make humanity proud. Recommend

  • Hameed
    Mar 30, 2017 - 2:01PM

    Good deed.we appreciate the work she does.Recommend

  • Karim
    Mar 30, 2017 - 2:18PM

    @Ravian: you are right. Hunza is the most educated region of Pakistan. Instead of quitting her job she should have stayed home and helped her own community.Recommend

  • Karim
    Mar 30, 2017 - 2:23PM

    @Ravian:
    You are right. Hunza is the most educated region of Pakistan. She should have stayed home and helped her own community first.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Mar 30, 2017 - 2:47PM

    BRILLIANT…..just brilliant. Recommend

  • Adil
    Mar 30, 2017 - 9:45PM

    First rticle by ET that I am very impressed with. Great gal!Recommend

  • Syed shah Hussain
    Mar 31, 2017 - 12:07AM

    Also think that if you do this in swat or any other other place where educational ratio is less than hunza.actually 95%eduction ratio existing in hunza.I have seen it to China bordersRecommend

  • Sikandar Ayub
    Mar 31, 2017 - 10:15AM

    @Bunny Rabbit:
    You are always welcome here, Hope to meet you in the valley :)Recommend

  • Sikandar Ayub
    Mar 31, 2017 - 10:18AM

    You are Always welcome here, hope to meet you in the valleyRecommend

  • mohi uddin chitrali
    Mar 31, 2017 - 2:46PM

    dear sister
    u had done fabulous work it is appreciateable .
    I’m praying for u insha Allah u will accomplish that great work u had started .
    AmeenRecommend

  • Shakeel
    Mar 31, 2017 - 9:38PM

    Great effort to serve humanity Recommend

  • TooTrue
    Apr 1, 2017 - 1:04AM

    @Umar Khalid Dar: People like you make me despair. Who gives a flip about her “mehram”? You should look for the good in people and don’t let your silly little ignorant existence color everything. Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 1, 2017 - 7:43PM

    @TooTrue:
    I quite agree. What is so scary is that Umar Khalid Dar received many likes..Recommend

  • Rehan Khan
    Apr 1, 2017 - 9:38PM

    I fully endorse the comments of @Umar Khalid Dar. Charity begins at home and lot is still to be done in Islamabad and it’s surrounding areas. She better concentrate her energies on the welfare of her own town. Though her gesture is commendable. Leaving such hefty income is that only few can do. Recommend

  • Mak
    Apr 2, 2017 - 12:24AM

    Well done. Keep it up. Alternative education is the way forward.Recommend

  • Sami
    Apr 5, 2017 - 2:54PM

    Efforts are realy appreciated-I need similar woman in Swat-My full supportRecommend

  • Amjad ali
    Apr 5, 2017 - 2:54PM

    Be HappyRecommend

  • Hamza Rafiq
    Apr 5, 2017 - 3:32PM

    She is working very well…
    Keep it up..
    A great inspiration for every one..Recommend

  • hameedvur rehman
    Apr 8, 2017 - 8:42PM

    dear I read your contribution and efforts that must be appreciable
    I hope you will be extend the program other needy areas like khuhitan battagram shangla as well as mansehra
    I m prying for you and your success and you will accomplish your objectives
    you are always well come here hope to meet you
    regards
    hameedRecommend

  • M S Shah Hunzai
    Apr 11, 2017 - 4:29PM

    nice job but she should have went to other parts of Pakistan or GB like Diamer/Astor/ Interior sindh/south Punjab etc. because Hunza is already on top regarding literacy rate in all the Pakistan over…Recommend

  • M S Shah Hunzai
    Apr 11, 2017 - 4:45PM

    nice job but why Hunza where the education is on top of all districts of pakistan over… she should have went to some villages of Punjab or interior Sindh or even other part of Gilgit baltistan like Diamer where the educational system and awareness is at its lowest.Recommend

  • Khalid Mustafa, Advocate
    May 2, 2017 - 12:44PM

    Marvi Soomro has proved her exceptional determination for the noble cause to enlighten minds of our kids. I honestly, appreciate her determination & efforts in very right direction. All the best wishes for her.Recommend

  • Aamna soomro
    Jun 9, 2017 - 11:59PM

    Wish you best of luck marvi keep it up we are with you my dear one.
    There is also need for empower to people in sindh areas Recommend

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