The displayed photo is from Izhar Foundation (Johar Town) where I interned through Dream To Education For All, taken during a session on Importance of Cleanliness

I would be lying if I said I never wanted a certificate when I volunteered in an underprivileged teaching program for the first time. Let’s just admit it; we all want an impressive CV to go along our university applications. However, every time I interned and worked with young smiling faces, it made me feel a little better about my own life.

When I was younger, I used to dream of becoming a teacher. I’m not sure if it was because I wanted someone to look up to me or because I loved the idea of addressing kids and using a board marker. Several people detest the idea of going out during vacations and working in the scorching heat because they just want to sit in their air conditioned rooms and catch up on all the TV shows they have missed, but they don’t know what fun they have been missing (you’ll turn into couch potatoes, I’m warning you).

They haven’t seen shining eyes of students when they’re sharing their future goals (I have seen future pilots, doctors and even maulvis!) They haven’t seen the exuberant smiles that are ready to welcome you every time you enter the classroom. They don’t know how cute those happy-go-lucky students look when they mess up their art work and paint themselves instead of the paper.

They don’t know how it feels when a student calls you his/her favorite teacher and is excited to take a picture with you. (One of my students once cried because she wasn’t standing right next to me in the group photo. I felt guilty but special, promise). Determined to tell the stories of their gallantry, sometimes these kids will often amuse volunteers by saying things like, “sir aap jese do do larkoun ko main akaila maar leta hoon, main badmash hoon.” They don’t know how blessed one feels to work with them.

I have seen so much potential in these children. It’s honestly mind boggling when you hear them sharing their dreams, their fantasies. I’m telling you, they’ll make our country proud if their talents are rightly polished. They need our attention, our help. It saddened me when I used to see girls missing out school days because they were told to take care of their younger brothers at home. It infuriated me when I once saw a teacher sending my students to bring water from her house while they missed my class. I internally cried when one of the students stopped coming to the class and we later found that he has started working in the school’s canteen with his father. I was enraged when a teacher pulled one of my female students out of the class because she wanted someone to take care of her child.

When I started volunteering in social work projects, I started counting my own blessings. I still remember other interns talking about a child who didn’t know what white color was. To explain it to him, an intern referred to white as the color of one’s house’s walls when the student responded by saying that his walls are not painted. I remember looking at them sitting on the floor in those congested class rooms and hoping for all this hard work to be worth it.

My volunteer work has been so much more than receiving a mere certificate. It has given me endless ecstasy. For instance one day when I was stressing out over my result a lot and two of my students randomly called me to tell me that they miss me, I knew I had done something good in life. After all, it’s the choti choti khushiyaan that matter and keep you going. I feel like I have left an impact on students. I have given something to them that they can remember.

I remember indulging in a discussion about gender equality once, with students from grade 3 and 4. Umer, one of the naughtiest students in the class was convinced that girls can’t do all the jobs boys can. Ganging up with the girls, I convinced him that we can and we will. Agreeing to our point at the end, he said he’s now okay with her mother working outside home if she wants to. He still wanted to end it with a joke and said, “Larkiyaan one wheeling tou nahi kar sakti na” at which we all giggled. I was amazed at how my female students were more confident than the male ones. They have big dreams and thanks to their parents who are getting them educated.

Do something good. Do something for others and trust me, you’ll always feel a little better. Here’s a short list of few places you can intern at this summer to understand how it feels:

Dream to Education for All

DEA is an NGO founded by a group of friends, now studying at LUMS. They have summer camps in their own Qadam Community School (Green Town) as well as in other low cost private schools where interns are interviewed and selected for teaching subjects like Writing and Communication, Math, Science, Arts, English and Urdu. They have pre-designed modules to guide the interns about the course line. Amazing team and super amazing kids who might just entertain you with songs like Kaali Kaali Ainkaan during their break time! See their page.   

Alif Laila Book Bus Society

Alif Laila is a library located in Gulberg. Volunteers indulge in storytelling sessions and arts/crafts with underprivileged kids from nearby areas.

The Citizen’s Foundation

TCF has 3-4 pickup points across the city and they take you to their schools on their own conveyance. Volunteer here and you’ll be greeted by a hundred smiling faces every day. Their two week internship program is based on activities related to English, dramatics and sports. They’re starting their program in July this time.

Parbat Foundation

They have a few different programs like Saturdays at SOS and another internship at Hope Uplift Foundation (a shelter home for orphan girls). Working with these kids will be a life changing experience. Check their Facebook page.

There are other places where you can intern and help students with arts/crafts and different playful activities like Gulistaan-e-Saeeda (founded by Justice Nasira Iqbal), Tauqeer Foundation School, Lahore School of Intellectuals and Al-Shafiq Foundation. You’ll meet a lot of selfie aficionados over there too.

Go make this summer memorable!