The kids of Shaheen need your help
The Kids of Charrar Pind
Next to a dusty playground and park, at the end of an alley in the basement is Shaheen Academy. This is where we hope to inspire and motivate kids and teens to be the best version of themselves. Role models and leaders. Good citizens of Pakistan. We want to use the power of martial arts to change the lives of the poor and disadvantaged kids of Charrar Pind. We will all do this together.
I'm gonna tell you about the kids. Some come from poor but stable homes, and too many others have lives more like a stray animal than someones child.
Usman in the center
Usman is 7 years old. He doesn't attend school, wears the same pair of dirty ripped clothes and he's often barefoot. His parents don't know where he goes, and they probably don't care. They have enough problems of their own. Sometimes, he doesn't go home for days.
He hangs out with the older kids, they are already sniffing glue and using drugs. They give some to Usman too, sometimes they send him to go pick up the drugs, as a child he's less likely to be caught. Other times they send him to go beg for them, when he comes back with the money they take most of it for themselves and will give him something sweet to eat, or maybe get him high.
When Shaheen Academy opened, Usman went to go check it out. When he came down the other kids, told the instructor that they needed to kick this boy out. He lived on the street and he begged and did drugs. The teacher told the kids -
"This place was made for him," and told Usman that he was welcome any time. Usman started coming every day, away from the influence of dangerous habits and something fun to focus on and learn. He is a naturally gifted athlete doing gymnastic and parkour movements so advanced for someone so young you cannot beleive he learned them on his own. Usman may have the stuff to become a world champion. Shaheen can give him that chance.
Abu Bakr's mother was hired to clean a gym not to far from her house. Sometimes she would bring Abu Bakr who was 9 years old. He would sit on the stairs and look at the mats, the bags, the gloves. He would watch the adults train. He came day after day and just observed, he would even stay after his mother left.
His friends, some of whom who stopped going to school and roam the streets of Lahore wondered why Abu Bakr stopped hanging out with them. They wondered why he started making sure that he attended all his classes. He later told them that the teachers at the martial arts gym told him he wouldn't be allowed to come if he skipped class.
Abu Bakr knows that he needs to help kids like Usman, he knows that he needs to become a leader and a good citizen to inspire some of the other kids to be a part of the team. Abu Bakr now has a healthy social life outside of school, where he is learning lessons and taking part in healthy activities that will make him a better person as an adult.
Free meals being give out in the park next to Shaheen Academy, after an event for the kids
Usman and Abu Bakr along with countless other kids come from Charrar Pind, a slum of about 50,000 inhabitants that is surrounded by the wealthy Defense Housing Authority or DHA (You can clearly see the tiny dwellings tightly clustered in the center of this map). All of the labor and low paying jobs in DHA are filled by the people of Charrar Pind and they earn between 80 and 150 dollars per month in pay. It is in this slum that Shaheen Academy is located.
My name is Bashir Ahmad and I am a Pakistani-American, I was born in Pakistan, and raised in Virginia. I'm also an Iraq War veteran and known as "The Godfather of Pakistani MMA." In 2009 I moved to Pakistan to promote the sport of MMA, with a vision that I could use martial arts as a way to bring the best out of people, to get kids off the streets, to give discipline to youth who may otherwise end up in drugs, crime and militancy. I wanted to do something positive for Pakistan. In the process of doing so, I have been covered TIME, VICE, BBC, The NY Post, CNN and many others for my unique story of being a US Army veteran giving back to the country of his heritage.
Last year in the summer of 2015, I started Shaheen Academy. A community center in the slum of Charrar Pind Village which has a mission to create leaders for positive change from amongst the poorest and most vulnerable youth using martial arts as the vehicle for that change. In that year we have made a ton of progress, we have got the gym set up, we have gotten all the equipment we need, we have reached out to the community and have built trust with the people of Charrar Pind, we have had hundreds of kids come in to the gym. So many in fact we have had to turn many away. However, there is a long road ahead of us before we become self suffieicient and we need your help to keep the gym running for another year while we continue to let our roots grow stronger and become fully self suffiencent.
I need your help in making sure Shaheen Academy can continue operations for the next year and expand. The ultimate goal is to make Shaheen Academy self suffiencent as relying on outside donors is unpredictable. My goal, my vision and what I firmly beleive to become a reality is a community center that will last generations. However, like a newborn child Shaheen Academy needs your help before it can take care of itself.
Some of the kids of Shaheen with their instructors with a thank you party for one of our sponsors Diesel Diva
Currently we need the money for rent, salaries for staff, outreach events, sponsoring of athletes and an upgrade to the gym. Last year we raised $4,000 dollars and that kept the doors open but not much else quite frankly. The gym needs an upgrade so that we can attract paying adults (Kids will always be free) who can make the gym self sustaining. Although donations will always be a part of Shaheen Gym, the goal is to run as a non-profit business that can provide jobs and be self sufficient. Relying on donations will put the kids gym at the mercy of a yearly fundraiser. The gym has a cage and a ring but it needs about $2-3,000 dollars worth of refurbishment to make it attractive enough to get people to pay fees (we charge between 5-20 dollars depenidng upon what people can afford).
Running the gym is not much by Western standards, an average of 1,000 dollars a month will keep the doors open, and allow us the freedom to upgrade some facilities, provide educational scholarships to some students and have a reserve for helping out certain kids whose families may need help. At the moment as we are still in the early stages of development. However with your help we will continue our amazing growth!
Also, Shaheen Gym will soon fall under the banner of Azadi Youth Foundation which will be a registered NGO in Pakistan and we will be able to streamline our operations and have more trasnparency with all financial activities.
We will be putting the funds to use immiedietly.
Shaheen Gym represents my personal mission to do something positive for Pakistan. Shaheen Gym represents how people can come together and with small collective efforts by many, big things can happen. All things in this world come about by the actions of many, many caring people. One person cannot ever make anything worthwhole happen all by themselves.
Thank you so much for giving and spreading the word. I have a track record of walking the walk and making things happen and I gaurantee you that Shaheen Academy is going to be a catalyst for change in the lives of many youth.
Because of the help and support from people all around the world. Abu Bakr, one of the kids from Shaheen had an amazing opportunity to come to Singapore and attend Rich Franklin's ONE Warrior Series.
I cannot express what a monumental step this was for this young man. Traveling expands a person's consciousness and opens their horizons. It introduces one to a new culture and forms stronger bonds between people of different backgrounds.
Abu Bakr had a great time and his trip will inspire more kids from Shaheen to work hard and believe in the power of martial arts to forge the human spirit!
Shaheen Academy needs your help and support.
Shaheen Academy is a gym in a slum in Lahore, Pakistan.
This mission is to use martial arts to get kids off the streets and put a positive focus in their lives. Every kid who walks in and takes up martial arts as a lifelong pursuit is a human being that is born again and has increased their chances of being a healthy and happy human being.
I am looking towards the worldwide martial arts community and my personal friends and family to help support the running of Shaheen for one more year.
Please read more about Shaheen and my journey in this article by TIME.|
Donate whatever you can - 50, 100 or 250 dollars put a big chunk in reaching our goal this year.
For those who have donated recently, Thank You. I am grateful for your involvement.
The center is entering its 3rd year and the gym has become a fixture in Pakistani martial arts and the awareness, community involvement and individual growth of its students have continued to progress.
This year Shaheen -
*Had a volunteer, Tim Betts from the UK come to teach at the gym*
*Have begun filming for a documentary called "Kids Fight" supported by Norwegian backers*
*Had our students medal at national grappling tournaments*
*Coach Irfan competed in the IMMAF World Championships*
*Shaheen kids took part in the Inside Out Project*
As you can see the gym is becoming more established and is growing!
However, we will continue to need the support of martial arts practitioners and believers for the upcoming years.
Let's make this year the best year in Shaheen's young history!
Please share the message and donate!
Some articles about the latest Inside Out Project below!
We have a long way to go to get Shaheen Academy to where it needs to be. There will be trials along the way, however, I am firm in my faith that this gym is going to change many lives.
Let me ask you a question. Does 50,000 dollars sound like a fair price to save a child from abject poverty, hopelessness and drug use? What if that money, collected over 5 years changes the lives 100 children?
For those who have followed and contributed, even if you were to never contribute again, I ask one thing - watch this space. I mean this. Just like the faith and determination I had in making MMA burst into Pakistan, I give you my solemn oath that Shaheen gym will form the legacy for many of the children who enters it's doors. This is academy shall define a large part of who all of us are.
We have 1,855 dollars left before reaching our goal. With that remaining money I want to pay rent for the entire year, have a reserve fund for any children who need financial help, pay for some school fees of the children, and continue paying for staff.
God Bless you all. I cannot tell you the fervor and passion I have been filled with these past few days.