When you do something solely to please the Lord, you don’t keep a count or tabs or wonder about success. You just keep on doing what you are doing, hoping He accepts it. This may be one of the reasons why I never wrote about the Orange Tree Foundation or got worried about its publicity or growing in numbers or size.
But living so far away from it, I feel it’s time I introduce the world to this baby of ours and talk about it and give it the recognition it deserves. Normally, when someone asks me, “So what exactly is Orange Tree?” My typical answer is the one I had learnt by heart over the years…” It’s a mother and child education program starting from the Montessori level. It provides equal educational opportunities to students. We give the students Montessori for a year along with regular classes to mothers for a year; after which they get admitted into mainstream schools of Karachi and the Orange Tree sponsors their education as well as provides them with reinforcement classes of what they are studying in school.”
It’s a mother and child education program starting from the Montessori level. It provides equal educational opportunities to students.
But today, I’d like to share a bit more than what I used to explain as to who we are to people. If I rewind everything back to 2011, there used to be a very small organization run by a few college students known as Jaag Meray Taalib e Ilm. They weren’t much of Taalibe Ilms since they spent most of their time in protests or in student empowering conferences or events that would just somehow help them feel that they are contributing towards the betterment of Pakistan, towards fighting the education emergency in the country. They used to call themselves ‘the crazy ones…who change things.’
They were looking for something long term, something definite and something that would contribute as a solution rather than a short term band-aid for this problem called education crisis in Pakistan. But they had no money in their pockets and no plan in mind. It was in the summer of 2011 that they met Omer Mateen Allahwala, the current General Secretary of Orange Tree Foundation. He questioned them about their aims, asked them what they wished to do and perhaps might have seen a few twinkling eyes who really thought they could change the world with their grand ideas about changing the country in a prosperous manner. He explained to them that they needed a proper plan and since they seem determined he was willing to join hands with them and help them find what they really want to do. He only insisted on one thing: whether it is improving one life or one hundred lives, you need to know who you are pleasing, your ego or your God.
After a few meetings cum mentoring sessions with him, he introduced them to the power house of a woman called Sabina Khatri (founder of the Kiran School System). It took her two hours talking about her school in Lyari and the problems she faced there to move that particular group to jitters and goose bumps. Something had to be done. She challenged those college kids if they really were determined enough to go to Lyari with her then and there and see for themselves to get a bit more inspired or see the picture clearly. It was decided that a few classes would have to be bunked for that day and off they went in a car driven by Sabina Khatri to Lyari and that day was probably a decisive day for all the members of the Orange Tree who went with her. “We are opening a similar school system…just need a name and place and teachers and a lot of other things that we had not even started to sort out in our heads.”
Three years down the road, we now have 48-forty eight students and their mothers; two apartments in the same building and countless fundraisers and exhibitions of our mothers’ handicrafts around the city;
The name Orange Tree was decided via a vote on a BBM group and then started the hunt for an apartment. It was decided that it would be in Khadda Market, close to the accommodations of most of the team members since safety of the team could not be compromised by the elders on the team. And it was easier to get volunteers to come to that side instead of an area far away. Within a month a beautiful 2-two room apartment was taken on rent; painting and setting up started. Every team member did their bit, some got a stove, some got their mother’s old crockery, some got their own mothers to teach and some raised donations to buy paint, furniture and what not. We were definitely opening a school.
Our first round of admissions was extremely difficult for us, for we did not know how to shortlist. Saying no to any parent was just impossible for us. Eventually we decided upon the kind of families we needed in order to support a student for a long term program. We also approached a lot of big factory/company owners to spread the word among their employees.
The criterion was simple:
Parents need to be passionate and committed to the cause of education
The student’s family should be Karachi based
The father must be employed and earning a minimum of Rs. 10,000
Both parents should have primary education
The child must be between 2.5-3 years of age at the time of admission
We needed committed parents who would not run off in the middle of the program at the smallest of problems. And we aimed at white collar employees who knew the worth of good education since they saw their employers achieve success with it but could not afford to put their children in good schools.
We admitted 12-twelve students in the first year; again we were not going for numbers, just aiming to do the best for these children. With a few family friends and mentors helping us out, we began our journey. Some of us quit our full time jobs, some adjusted Orange Tree timings with their work timings and some gave up their careers altogether to give time to Orange Tree. With regular classes for mothers which included subjects like Grooming, Art, Computers, English, Quran, Hadeeth, Hygiene and General Knowledge; the mothers were tested on their classes every month and had exams twice a year. Two of our team members enrolled into the London Montessori Institute to become better teachers and were guided by a Montessori Directress with twelve years of experience. The first batch was admitted into various schools in Karachi including St. Michael’s, Reflections, DHA Public School and Army Public School.
Three years down the road, we now have 48-forty eight students and their mothers; two apartments in the same building and countless fundraisers and exhibitions of our mothers’ handicrafts around the city; putting in efforts to improve the registered non-profit organization called Orange Tree Foundation. Our mission statement speaks of enabling moral, spiritual and intellectual enlightenment and of creating opportunities to improve the quality of life. With the vision to please the One and Only, we hope we can do justice with our work at this school and bring the best of opportunities for the students studying there.
For those who wish to help us, we are open for admissions and are always looking for volunteers. With limited seats each year, we need to make sure that the parents of our admitted students stay committed for at least 16 years (the child’s graduation). Parents who are committed to the cause of their child’s education and determined to strive for the best- are the ones who can face the fierce competition; let alone the adjustment that they will have to do once their children are admitted into mainstream schools.
For those who wish to help us, we are open for admissions and are always looking for volunteers.
We would appreciate if we could get help in identifying such families for admission. Hence we request you on this platform to come forward and help us find such families. Alhamdulillah, we also have a Mufti on board who is qualified from Dar ul Ifta, Darul Uloom Karachi to assist us in selecting families who are eligible for Sadaqah and Zakat.
We also accept donations, both Zakat and Sadaqah. Both accounts are separately maintained and audited. We can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 03312325828 or find us on Facebook.
Account details are as follows:
Orange Tree Foundation
Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan Limited
26th Street Branch (025)
Swift Code for international transfers: DUIBPKKA
Account No: 0167172002-Sadaqah
Account No: 0167172003-Zakat