By Rehan Ahmed Malik (YES 2022-2023, Pakistan, placed by World Link in Fairview Heights, IL)
I'm Rehan Ahmed Malik, and I'm an alumni from the 20th cohort of the YES program.
Me and my fellow YES alumni (Shahzeb Shaikh, Gurmeet Kumar, Hiba Mudassir, and Eshal Moloo) are passionate about giving back to the community and making a change, so we decided to do a project. Change starts from where you are, and so we decided to make a change for the better and help kids out who had been born with something they could not change–Thalassemia. They had to live with it, it’s a hindrance in their lives, they didn't deserve it, and so to make it a little easier for them, we decided to do this project.
I was inspired by my exchange year to do this project. In the U.S., people volunteer and do a lot of community service. I myself did 50+ hours of community service by helping out with festivals, at my local churches, and at events. My favorite activity was probably helping out at a local Armenian church because one of my exchange student friends was Armenian, and with time I became familiar with the people there and it got more and more fun. These activities not only helped me understand the importance of volunteering, but also that I can make a change wherever needed.
We went to the Thalassemia center in the morning to set up, and when we arrived, the kids were already there and receiving blood. We greeted them with big smiles and warm welcomes, and the children were thrilled to see all of the fun activities that had been planned for them.
Throughout the day, we met about fifty kids. We got to know a lot about their stories and how long they've been receiving blood, where they come from, etc. We even met kids who were as young as two years old. The center we went to was one of the best in Karachi, which is basically like a community care center as it was not funded by the government.
We worked tirelessly to make sure that every child had a great time. We played games with them, talked to them, cheered them up, asked them if they were doing okay, did our best to make them smile, and told them how brave they were for the situation they were in. In addition to all of the fun activities, we also gave each child a goodie pack filled with biscuits, juice boxes, and fruit. The children were delighted with their treats and couldn't stop thanking us.
During our time at the Thalassemia center, we also talked to the management and learned a lot about Thalassemia. We were able to ask questions and get answers from experts in the field. We learned how people actually get Thalassemia, and how we can prevent it from happening in the future. The management also told us about the care center and how it started. It was very inspirational, as it showed us how one person can eventually become the cause of a big positive change. At the very end, we requested the assistant manager to make a quick video explaining what Thalassemia is and what can be done to prevent it in the future. We made a quick instagram reel about it, and shared it on social media to create awareness about Thalassemia.
The project lasted for about four hours, but it was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. We left feeling fulfilled, knowing that we had made a real difference in the lives of these children.