Hope for the Punjab

In mid-August 2012 I once again visited the project we support in Lahore, the Dar ul-Krishma. The name means “House of Wonders”, and it is incredible indeed how this home for disabled adults is operating under the most demanding circumstances. Navigating the small streets of Yuhanabad, the suburb where the Dar ul-Krishma is located, was the easy part for my rickshaw driver. When we approached the place and the level of sewage and waste water on the street was getting deeper by the meter, he refused to go any further, fearing that his vehicle might be damaged. Taking a big leap out of the rickshaw, I made my way through the smelly sludge that surrounds the home during the monsoon season. Once I passed the gate of the compound and sat down in the kitchen with Sister Anna Maria who manages the place, her exhaustion poured out of her. Over the last two and a half days they had been constantly without electricity. To honor me as a guest they switched on their generator so that at least the ceiling fan was running – a luxury the sisters working at the place don’t dare to indulge in too frequently due to the high costs of gasoline. Since May, when the summer heat in Lahore usually kicks in with up to 45° Celsius (113° Fahrenheit), around ten inhabitants had died from heat-related incidents, mainly heart-attacks and exhaustion. The open sewage contributes to the spread of illnesses. The sisters were also worried about continuing inflation which drives up prices even for the most basic commodities. Prices of fresh fruits, for example, had risen by one third over the course of one year. Yet, a solution to the energy problem remains of course the most pressing concern. I told the sisters about our recent inquiries with several engineering firms which specialize in providing tailored, creative power solutions in Pakistan, usually combining solar power with generators and the existing power grid. We hope that one of them will make an on-site visit in the Dar ul-Krishma in October so that we can move forward in determining the precise energy need of the home. I also handed over €650 (approximately $850) in donations given by students of Balliol College, Oxford. The sisters are planning to spend it on new beds and warm clothing for the winter. Sister Anna-Maria and her colleagues showed me around in their garden where they grow as many fresh vegetables and fruits as they can – a peaceful and green oasis in this quarter of Lahore that is covered by plastic bags and other trash. As we went on to greet the residents, I recognized many familiar faces from my last visit, and they also recognized me, started to smile and to dance. What a strong expression of resilience in such challenging surroundings!

Thank you everyone for your support –

Simon (with Maria, Ekatharina, Thomas, Angela, Torsten, Alex and Lucky)

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