I am delighted to interview Rubina Shakeel…A visionary person and an amazing woman. With her unique perspective, she opted for something dramatic. She decided to teach the underprivileged how to live an independent and honorable life. She chose slum area children, beggars’ kids, young laborers for her love and care. She gathered them under her car porch for a few-hours’ school. Gradually, she turned it into Abroo Educational Welfare Organization in 2002, where she linked conventional school education, vocational training and part time work together. Let’s meet the passionate and inspirational lady who dreamt to bring change for the drowning lives.
Q: Tell us your life story. How did you think of this project?
Ans: Between 14-21 years of age, I lost both my parents. I was too afraid for me and my siblings of being made maids and servants by others. So, in the morning I used to go to my college, and in the evening I not only taught my brothers and sisters but gave tuition to other kids. This was my way of supporting ourselves.
I think, the experience was, in fact, a training from God, which led towards setting up Abroo school.
After my BA, I did a one year diploma in Computers and got a government job as a computer instructor. Later on, I went abroad for a year for further studies and training.
Q: After your education abroad, you could have joined a big branded school, but you thought of running a welfare school, why?
Ans: I continued my government job until all my siblings got settled. Afterwards, I got a lucrative job at a textile company. But for me it was something very small. It was just a job, completely meaningless to me. My actual passion was to give a respectable life to the deprived kids. So, I left it after three months to actualize my actual dream.
Q: How did your life change because of school? How life would have been different without it?
Ans: I think this is life. Life is meaningful and beautiful now. I am building lives. Unlike other stay-at-home ladies, I can’t spend my day just running after the servants. From the day one of my marriage, I decided to work, rather than remaining at home.
Q: How did your family respond to your ambitions?
Ans: In the beginning, my husband allowed. Then, the society realized that it was a great job that I was doing. They appreciated. It gave strength to my in laws and they came to my support.
I thank my sisters, who took care of my kids while I was at work.
Q: How did underprivileged parents respond to your efforts of educating their children?
Ans: They cooperated. Initially, they thought we had robbed them off their sources of income (their earning kids). But we convinced them. We had been inviting them on tea to communicate with them.
At school, we gave their kids uniforms, books, stationary, food, and vocational training. So, they cooperated with us. Now, they are happy that their children are studying as well along with their part time jobs.
Q: What problems you came across while running and expanding the school?
Ans: We have been short of finances. We started with the used or extra stationary of my kids. We began with 5,6 kids sitting in my porch. I asked my neighbors to give us their waste materials. We used to sell them to generate money for the educational expanses of these children.
When these kids came to school first, they had no idea what schooling was about. After three months they started dreaming. They said, “We want a good school, where there are chairs, lunch, Result Days, sports, field trips and so on.”
Q: How do you find these working kids when they come to you?
Ans: They are pure but resentful because of the deprivation they face and the kind of hard life they live.
Q: What is the most fascinating part of your project that you are proud of?
Ans: I am glad that my beggar students have left beggary. At Abroo school, more than 70% children work after school. We have raised their self-esteem. They are learning the art of living honorable lives.
Q: What kind of help or donation is required for your school from the society?
Ans: We will welcome any kind of community support. You may sponsor one child by paying Rs. 500/month. Send us extra clothes, food, medicines, stationary, furniture or even waste material of your homes. It will make a difference.