When society rallies behind a cause, dreams come true
Hailing from an under-privileged background in Karachi, Fazal and Mahmood, in all likelihood, should have ended up doing odd jobs even before finishing college. But faith is seldom bogged down by limitations of society.
Studying at a prestigious university in Canada now, the story of these two Pakistani youngsters is no ordinary one.
The two young men’s journey to McGill is that of sheer determination, hard work and belief — their father’s firm belief in education, the kids’ hard work and their mentor’s determination.
In May 2013, the Humans of Karachi Facebook page posted a story of an aspiring student, helping out his dad, a fruit seller, who secured a partial scholarship for McGill University’s Materials Engineering Co-op programme but lacked funds to attend.
“My dad is a fruit seller on a street in Karachi. He made sure my brother and sister and I go to school because he believes education will improve our financial situation and also help level the playing field for many others like me,” Fazal told Khaula Jamil, curator of Humans of Karachi.
“It’s been a long journey for me from school to O’levels and A’levels from one of the most prestigious institutions in Karachi which was possible through a part merit-based scholarship and part sponsorship by a wonderful ex-teacher who believed in me.”
Khaula learned more about Fazal’s journey through Adil Soomro, a mentor and sponsor to the brothers. Initially reluctant, it took a while for Khaula to convince the duo to be photographed with their father keeping anonymity intact.
After the Humans of Karachi’s post went viral, Soomro set up a scholarship fund where strangers chipped in to help Fazal and Mahmood begin their journey in Montreal.
“My first Ramazan away from home was incredibly tough,” Mahmood tells The Express Tribune, his tone gruff with emotion. “I worried every minute about my father working on a typical summer day in Karachi during the holy month.”
Hapless that he could not lend a hand from miles away, Mahmood figured out a way to help. Despite a heavy load of study for the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science programme at McGill, he made time to take up two jobs — and makes enough to contribute in his sister’s education. A full-time student with two part-time jobs, Mahmood still managed to bag Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Award.
In a world where people risk their lives for five minutes of social media fame, the duo’s decision to stay anonymous stems from their experience throughout academic life in Pakistan.
“People look at you differently,” Fazal reminisces about his school days. While some classmates were welcoming, others were not open to befriending the son of a fruit seller.
Moving to Canada, however, levelled the play field. “For the first time in my life I did not feel out-of-place, I felt normal,” the 23-year-old tells The Express Tribune. “My background did not matter. I was just a regular student.”
Even during gloomy days, Fazal finds light at the end of the tunnel life sometimes throws him in. “I go through comments on Humans of Karachi post,” smiles Fazal. “There are so many people who want to see me succeed. I don’t want to let them down.”
“The post made my father’s dream come true,” Fazal continues. “I would like to thank everyone who believed and supported me.”
Already a social media sensation, inspiring people, the brothers feel there is a long way to go before they reveal their identity. “I have not achieved anything yet,” Fazal explains. “Going to university is not proof of success. I want to reach a point where I am able to make an impact in the lives of those in similar situations”
“Once I am in a position to help others, I think my story will matter more,” Fazal insists. “Adil Bhai started the cycle from me, I want to continue it.”
“I am determined to pay it forward one day so that I can see the joy education brings to the faces of those who are in my situation.”
Mahmood reiterates the thought. “I want to give my parents a better life, help my sister finish school.” Like his brother, the 22-year-old aims to encourage youth from less-privileged background to pursue their dreams.
“I want to be successful then tell kids: If I can do it, so can you!” Fazal says confidently.
From primary school to university, the boys have always looked up to Soomro — who, while speaking to The Express Tribune, emphasised the importance of education to change lives. He firmly believes that if we as a group, community and a nation come together, quality education will not be out of reach for even the poorest of society. “We can make it happen,” says Soomro.
While Fazal is set to start his final year, Mahmood will begin his 3rd year at the university. Soomro is currently running a fund raiser for the brothers to finish college. To find out more please visit their Launch Good page or send an email at [email protected]