“You are what you do, not what you say”, was one of my mother’s favorite pieces of advice during my adolescent days. Though, overlooked as one of her casual remarks, the saying would become my prime inspiration and main motto of life.
I was raised in a family where the popular culture never allowed us to perform charitable acts on drumbeat. The notion was followed with the religious conviction that the charitable act of one hand should remain hidden from that of the other. This philosophy to serve the society with low profile affirmative action on the ground was my main inspiration to found AMAL in 2009 – which literally translates as ACTION in Arabic.
Since then, I have continued to strengthen these habits for myself and my family and give others a platform to do so as well. In AMAL’s early days, our focus was on humanitarian and disaster relief efforts at national level and small scale social welfare activities at local level. Later however, the scope of activities was broadened though the focus areas were narrowed and fine-tuned as per my life experiences, both personal as well as organizational.
My first visit to the US was a major turning point. This was when I realized what my true calling was. The innocent question of my youngest son prompted the thinking process and the consequent action. “Why don’t we throw our trash in different bins in Pakistan like they do in America?”, he sulked, putting a new lens on my eyes when we returned. The cleanliness situation on the roads and streets in Pakistan became more an eye sore. I researched on the causes and impacts of the situation with that of USA and became more and more horrified by the state of our environment and our visible inaction as a nation to prevent the irreversible damage being caused to environment.
I became very conscious of the health impacts of unclean environment. When smog emerged as a major air quality issue in Lahore a few years ago, l adopted the habit of sending my ward to school wearing a mask to save him from the air with toxic chemicals. But “Is that enough or something must be done to save the society at large and future generations from the emerging risks?” has been the most haunted question during these years.
I decided to focus all my efforts on this issue and do action in the most effective way. The tons of unsegregated waste produced in our cities, towns and countryside, which is dumped without proper treatment will soon become a major risk for sustainability of our economy, health and environment and jeopardize the global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Amal has started small actions for the bigger cause with our limited resources. We are creating awareness on the issue and training a pool of young leaders and passionate women to work for the cause of making Pakistan clean and green through transforming their living habits, employing their professional skills and abilities and performing small actions within their circle.
I don’t want to see grey skies in Spring anymore. I want our children to enjoy the same blue skies we did.