Dr. Rifat Zaidi’s photographs of flowers and wildlife, and of Paris and ancient forts, are helping to bring a new world of opportunity to girls in one of the poorest regions of Pakistan. The girls are students in the IDRF/ROF Girls Primary School, a girl’s school built in Basti Awan, a rural community on the banks of the Indus River. The school is a joint project of the Rawalpindi Medical College Overseas Foundation, a group made up of alumni from Zaidi’s medical school, and the International Development and Relief Foundation of Canada.
Printed on aluminum, which is much more durable than a standard print, Zaidi’s photographs will be on display on the first floor of the Miles Campus of LincolnHealth from Saturday, Nov. 26 through Christmas Day, Sunday, Dec. 25. All funds raised will benefit the IDRF/ROF Girls Primary School.
In a region where many people live in mud huts and eat only one or two meals a day, the school offers education, the hope of a better life for its young students and, over time, the hope of improving the whole community’s quality of life as well, Zaidi said. “It is a long-term investment,” said Zaidi, an orthopedic surgeon at Lincoln Medical Partners Orthopedics.
Founded in 2012, the school was built after Zaidi and other alumni of the Rawalpindi Medical College visited the area in 2010 to aid its recovery after devastating floods. Many homes in the area were washed away by the floodwaters. With the help of donors, including many in Lincoln County, Zaidi’s group built more than 300 brick homes to replace those lost. After that first trip, however, it was clear that the community would need more than new homes if it was to emerge from poverty.
The group chose to build a new school for girls for its next project because there were none in the area. If a girl is able to do well in her primary education in Pakistan, said Zaidi, scholarships are available for secondary education and she may be able to go on to medical school or receive other training. “It is a big leap. They were not going to have any education; now they have a chance to compete nationally and seek higher education,” he said.
There are currently 121 students in the school. Zaidi said the Rawalpindi Medical School Overseas Foundation is also using the school to funnel aid to the community, sponsoring meals, giving students shoes and socks, and also giving women sewing machines so they can start home businesses.
Six years after the school was founded, there are already signs of increased economic activity around the compound, and the school has also become a social hub, allowing women living in isolated communities to network and make connections.
With money raised from the sale of the photographs, Zaidi hopes to provide basic medical services to the mothers of the students. Currently, there are no medical services for women in the area. Additional rooms would allow female medical students to see women at the school and tend to their basic medical needs once or twice a year.
For more information about the IDRF/ROF Girls Primary School and/or to donate directly to the school, go to bit.ly/2fnf4GT.