Sponsorship for health rehabilitation in Lahore (2019)
Doing it all again on the Transatlantic Way cycle from 6 June 2019
Last year, I was humbled by all the support received for a wonderful health rehabilitation project in Pakistan that is very close to my heart. As I cycled the Transatlantic Way last June, thoughts were with my good friend Mehmood and many others who receive timely, quality support from Babu George, Fr Liam and others involved through this project.
Since, then, in December, Mehmood passed away, a stark reminder of the detrimental impact a life of poverty has on one's health. His passing leaves a huge void for family and close friends. And questions around what more can be done to create wider, systemtic changes for the benefit of so many of our brothers and sisters around the world who struggle to make ends meet. In many ways, long-distance, endurance cycling is a good analogy for the persistence and timeframes required to bring about such changes.
In the shorter term, it is great to be able to support a project like this one that endeavours to fill the immediate gap for some people for now. It is a small initiative involving the cooperation of Fr Liam, Babu George, Dr Afzol and others, but it makes a massive difference in the lives of individuals having difficulty accessing or affording good quality health care.
And so here we go again this year, to do this wonderfully taxing 2,500km cycle and to yet again appeal for your wonderfully generous support...
Two of the life-giving examples from the past year, made possible with your support
Nasreen is about 18 years old and from a village near Kasur. About eight years ago, her mother died and her father was not well, being a heart patient. A small spot appeared on her leg below the knee, which she took no notice of but it continued to grow and get worse, eventually becoming infected. Then a former patient told her family about the work of this project. Following a thorough checkup Dr.Afzal informed them it was cancerous and the bone was affected. Nasreen and her family were devastated to learn that amputation would be necessary. Also, she was so run-down she needed five units of blood before the operation could take place. Six months later she was able to have a prosthetic leg fitted and is now moving around freely. She went back to school and is now a student of class 10, doing science, and has big dreams of going on to full-time study.
Maqsood is a brick-kiln worker from a village near Hafizabad. About two years ago he was crossing the rail-line with his donkey and cart as a train approached. He misjudged the crossing and was struck by the train. His leg was badly fractured. After two unsuccessful operations in different hospitals, he was left destitute and moved to live with his brother. His wife and children left and went to stay with other extended family members. Maqsood then heard about George’s work in this project from another patient and made contact. His leg was badly deformed. Dr. Afzal had to do two operations, inserting plates to support the fracture. He is now confident of making a full recovery and has moved back home with his wife and children.
More updates to follow soon, but here's a recap from last year's overview...
Sponsorship for health rehabilitation in Lahore (2018)
From 7 June 2018, I’ll be joining the TransAtlanticWay
cycling race and hope to raise funds for a small but fantastic health project. It’s a 2,300km, solo, unsupported, single-stage cycling race from Dublin to Kinsale, via Derry and the Wild Atlantic Way!
I started training for this event in October 2017, and that very month a good friend of mine in Lahore, Mehmood (pictured at the back below), had his right leg amputated from the knee down.
Mehmood used to cycle everywhere, including over an hour to work each morning at 3.30am to undertake cleaning duties in a secondary school before it opened each day. I remember him as someone who was always strong and fit, but poverty, low-budget diet and diabetes have changed all that. Decent medical care is available in Pakistan but is costly and well beyond the normal means of someone like Mehmood. Fortunately he could draw upon the healthcare accompaniment support of a small but effective health project run by Babu George and Fr Liam in Lahore and was fitted with a prosthetic leg to restore some mobility.
It would be great if we could raise a Euro or two for every kilometre I’ll cycle in the event to support this small but powerful project. It has helped countless people like my good friend Mehmood over the years and, with support, can continue to help countless more.An inspiring, hands on health project
Twenty years ago I had the good fortune to work with and live among some very inspiring people in Pakistan. Two such people are Fr Liam O’Callaghan from Waterford, and Babu George Taj from Chah Miran. Over the past 20 years, they have provided practical healthcare support to individuals from among the poorest communities in Lahore, helping as many as 500 people each year.
Part of the support involves having funds to cover medical costs. However, the real key is in the relationships of trust that have been built with local healthcare professionals. In essence, the project covers treatment, medicines, transport costs, etc. and then complementary healthcare is provided by trusted medical professionals at the Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation for the Disabled (PSRD) orthopaedic hospital and some other local hospitals. Every Euro therefore goes a long way, and is concentrated on those who need it most. The needs are extensive, but the focus remains on those who normally couldn’t even pay for a visit to a decent doctor.
One of those supported, Sunny Shaukat is pictured above (centre), with his father (right) and Babu George (left). Both of Sunny’s legs had been badly affected by polio since birth. Since 2012, with support from this project, he has had 8 operations with Dr. Afzal in PSRD and it’s amazing to see the progress.“The rich stay healthy, and the sick stay poor”
Accessing good healthcare is an issue for many, but particularly for those living on or below the poverty line. Just to put this in context, when I lived and worked in Pakistan 20 years ago, I’d spend $0.65 on 3 good meals each day, nothing fancy, just good healthy food. Many of my friends and neighbours on the other hand were struggling with wages of just $1.50 per day to feed their family and manage all the other household bills.
So when someone in the house got sick, there was nothing in reserve to pay for a good doctor or the necessary medicines. In fact, attempts to address issues of prolonged ill-health often resulted in a downward spiral into poverty for the entire household. As the U2 song goes, “The rich stay healthy, and the sick stay poor”.
There are much bigger issues to address to change this cycle of poverty. A lot is happening in many countries like Pakistan to turn these things around for the better. But that all takes time. I’ve seen first-hand how quickly things can change for people living on the margins, and am inspired by the dedication of people like Fr Liam and Babu George who strive for longer-term change, while also providing some focussed, practical help to those who have no safety net to fall back on in the meantime.Any support you can give to help keep this work going will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
(Pictured above, M.Aslam with Babu George and Fr Liam).