KHEL: A Playground for Karachi’s Invisible Children

Tahera Hasan, director of the Imkaan foundation and Advocate high court is being a saint to the people of Machar Colony. Machar Colony also called the Muhammadi colony is Karachi’s largest slum. It covers an area of approximately 4.5 Kilometers. It is a place where around one million people reside, most of them are Bengali or Burmese origin. Their main source of income is shrimp peeling and fishing. The name Machar is derived from ‘Machera’ (a fisherman).

To see People living in such an inhabitable environment- where there is a stench, rotten fruits and garbage all over- is a harrowing experience. Such areas need reforms. Tahera has the guts to do something about it. Imkaan was founded and registered in 2012 as an NGO which has the mission to help street children. They believe that every child has the right, not only to live but flourish. Imkaan has the mission to fight infanticide and child abandonment across Pakistan.

Tahera Hassan, while talking to Bilal Lakhani, Managing Editor Extraordinary Pakistan, narrates her story. She begins with the fact that before doing any project it is important to do some research and know the ground realities. Their idea was to come to the field, ask questions and gather some data. They realized that a lot of work needs to be done there. They also took help from the local community.

To begin with, they set up a mother and child healthcare unit. The local midwife used to charge 5000 and a ‘lawn ka jora’ for a boy and Rs2000 to deliver a girl. Imkaan foundation charge Rs1500 in their unit to deliver a baby.

In this colony, each family has about 9 to 10 children. They only have a single room to live in. It is for the parents to decide which of their child will go to school. The ones who have been abandoned the right of education are left to play on streets or work in factories to earn some money for their families. They hardly earn Rs50 per hour or Rs200 a day. The weird fact is that these kids aged around 5 years Gamble on streets. They use anything from a toy to a food item or anything they have to barter. Tahera describes how children bring their gambling equipment when they are new to their Khel Ghar

Khel is an initiative where children are adopted and are provided with facilities of education and learning. The mission is to let these children coming from adverse circumstances have the right to live, prosper and grow. Working with stakeholders and local community Khel has managed to provide these kids not only regular learning classes but also an arts and crafts component where they learn on regular basis. There is also a gymnastics field for kids. They asked parent’s permission to let the girls have this amazing facility and opportunity for gymnastics.

Tahera is extremely happy and emotional when she finds that Imkaan has brought a change in the life of these children. She recalls how at first these children used violent and abusive language and were discriminative to each other as they belong to two different communities; Pathan and Bengalis. The same children now work together with respect and love. She knows that they will go out and will be on their own but she believes that they will come out as responsible and respectable citizens with whatever they have learned at Khel.