Volunteering to make a difference

Students organise Independence Day celebrations at SOS Children’s Village.

Aroosa Shaukat August 15, 2011

LAHORE: An Independence Day ceremony was organised for the 150 children housed at the SOS Children’s Village on August 14. The ceremony was held at the village’s auditorium, especially decorated for the purpose. Some 60 student volunteers celebrated the Independence Day with the children.

Minahil Imran, a student at the Lahore Grammar School’s Defence campus, who is a volunteer at the SOS Village, came up with the idea of organising the independence celebrations for the children. The 16-year-old organiser told The Express Tribune that it was the first time she had volunteered at the village. She said she had pitched the idea to other volunteers to celebrate the national spirit among the children.

The evening started off with musical performances by children, followed by a play based on select events that led to the emergence of Pakistan in 1947.

The children were entertained through magic shows, puppet shows and musical performances by some underground musical groups.

Almas Butt, the SOS Village administrator, appreciated the effort of the young volunteers that he said had brought smiles to the children’s faces. The volunteers belong to various schools and have joined the village for the duration of summer vacations. “A volunteer each is assigned to a child at the village so that they better relate and acquaint to them,” she said.

She said getting student volunteers had never been a problem. “During the vacations many schools send us their volunteers. There are times when we have more volunteers than the children.”

She said that the number of volunteers tended to peak in June and gradually decreased towards the end of the summer break.

She said that this summer had started with 80 volunteers in June, but the number was down to 60.

“Every year, the volunteers throw a party for the children near the end of the session. This allows the children and the volunteers to celebrate the bond they had developed over the vacations.”

The event was sponsored by Usaama Babar, one of the founding members of the Universal Student’s Body (USB), which has chapters in Islamabad, Karachi, and Dubai and its headquarters in Lahore. Babar told The Express Tribune that the USB aimed at creating youth awareness.

“Every week, USB volunteers help out at the Yateem Khaana. We generate money through event management. Our tickets sell like hot cakes,” he said. He said that USB did not seek donations from organisations or individuals and generated their own funds.

The SOS Villages provide shelter and a support structure to orphans and abandoned children to nurture and enable them to lead independent lives. The first such village was inaugurated in Lahore in 1977. The SOS Village have 20 or so homes with a ‘mother’ each who provides care for six to seven children.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.