The Citizens Foundation wraps up a raucous summer camps across the city


Meiryum Ali July 09, 2010

KARACHI: Paper butterflies are being painstakingly covered in glitter. Elsewhere a student is giggling over a game of hopscotch. Someone is singing Shakira’s World Cup anthem. If it weren’t for the constant smell of fish and shrimp permeating the entire building, it could have been any school in Karachi. But this one happened to be the Cowasjee campus at Mauripur for The Citizens Foundation where the flurry of activity marked the end of summer camp.

More than 3,000 TCF students and 300 volunteers in 29 schools across the country took part in the three-week programme from June 21 to July 9. Activities included board games and interactive reading and writing sessions. For Ahsan Rabbani, one of the founders, the closing ceremony on Friday was highly personal: “Looking back at how we started out gives me an immense satisfaction. Machar Colony, the Cowasjee campus, was our 33rd school and now we have 660 schools in 68 cities…it’s a great feeling.”

The ceremony was more of a show and tell of both student talent and what they learnt during summer camp. One of the highlights was “Critical Thinking” introduced to the camp to stretch each child’s imagination. Using the central idea of a tree, students linked each new perspective to a colour: white to initial reaction i.e.: “It has green leaves”, red for fruit, black for disadvantages, green for beauty etc. A short skit titled, “Load shedding sey tang” was also enacted much to the delight of the 60 adults present. The volunteers, aged 16 to 20 year, also tried instilling some pop culture into the children. One group of girls sang “Waka waka” by Shakira. “We didn’t come up with it, they did!” insisted Rijah, an enthusiastic volunteer. “They’re huge supporters of the World Cup.” Each of the volunteers had developed a close bond with their assigned group of children, apparent by their playful interaction: a volunteer could mock scold a student, but always amid giggles and grins from the surrounding children.

For Alizeh Amer each child was special: “You can instantly tell which one is sharper than the rest, who’s reserved, who likes being the class clown.” Fabiha Fatima was taken aback by their enthusiasm. “They always ask, can we take our stuff home? What will we do tomorrow?”

Fatima Zehra, the deputy manager of marketing at TCF, has seen many a volunteer-student bon develop. “Each TCF campus is created with the community in mind, so that even the woman at the cateen is called ‘Mohallaley ki khala’,” she said. “Nearly 700,000 people live here in Machhar Colony. It doesn’t matter whether there is unrest, or if they belong to different sects and ethnicities - each child is guaranteed a safe and high quality education.”  Muhammad Bilal has been a perennial favourite. “I’m good at studying, I tell jokes, that’s why they all like me,” he said, grinning. “I’m going to be a ‘fauji’ or a cricketer when I grow up.” Looking around the classroom, he repeats what each student present has said: “I like summer camp. Maza ata hai!” REPORTING BY MEIRYUM ALI

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2010.

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