No pain no gain

Running B10KRunning the 10K this weekend was a memorable experience. It’s amazing how much we can push our bodies. For someone who hardly runs, it was a painful but rewarding experience. FTCF continues to impress with it’s support for education in Pakistan and yet continues to be our favourite charity to support.

I agree with Anthony Robins when he says that “the secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.”

Thank you!

We asked for help and many of you have responded with generosity. Adeel underwent the bone marrow transplant on May 14th in Singapore and will be discharged from the hospital on 26th May Inshallah. The operation was successful but as with any transplant the body can reject it anytime within the first 3 months of the operation. Adeel will be kept under observation for this time before his transplant can be declared successful.

The family needed instant support when they almost lost hope. Thanks to all of you, the campaign which Atiya Bilal started in Pakistan successfully raised almost 1 million rupees from all corners of the world within a matter of days.

Adeel’s father sends special prayers for helping them at a time when they had no hope. May God bless you all for your support. Amen

Our interview in CHUP

Asim and I were interviewed about our Kili trek by Kalsoom Lakhani, editor of the blog CHUP, CHanging Up Pakistan. Below we’ve copied the text of the interview.

The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is a not-for-profit organization that provides education opportunities for underpriveleged families in Pakistan. As of 2009, TCF hasestablished 600 purpose-built school units nationwide with an enrollment of 80,000 students. TCF also encourages female enrollment and boasts a 50% female ratio on almost every campus. From October 16-25, 2009, Friends of The Citizens Foundation, a UK-based organization that fundraises for TCF schools in Pakistan, organized a trek of Mount Kilimanjaro, in which participants raised money and awareness about the organization’s work in Pakistan. The team as a whole raised nearly £80,000 – enough money to run nine TCF schools in Pakistan for a year, educating approximately 1350 underprivileged children. Below, CHUP talks toTamreez Inam and Asim Khan [click to see their blog], a married couple who completed the trek in October and raised nearly £6000 for TCF:

Q: The Kilimanjaro Trek was such a unique fundraising idea developed by Friends of The Citizens Foundation (FTCF), and participants ended up raising nearly £80,000 for TCF schools in Pakistan. How did you get involved with the project and what inspired you to do it?

Tamreez: I had gotten in touch with FTCF because I was interested in finding out more about TCF’s work in Pakistan. As a side conversation, the trek came up. I thought it was such an exciting opportunity and for such a great cause, so I thought “why not?” I decided I would probably only do it if Asim would be willing. To my surprise, it hardly took any convincing before he jumped in as well! It was later we realized what we had gotten ourselves into when we had to start fundraising and training! But it was the adventure of a lifetime and I’m so glad we did it.

Our greatest inspiration was the work of TCF in Pakistan. Their schools are run to the highest standards, competing with elite private schools. For example, the high school pass rate of TCF students is 99% compared to the national average of 60%! They hire only female teachers to ensure high ratios of female enrollment in their schools.Some of the schools have evening shifts for children who work during the day to supplement the family income. The organization maintains high levels of professionalism, transparency and financial accountability. So what really inspired me was their professionalism combined with their ethos that caters to the poorest segments of Pakistani society in very innovative ways.

Q: How did you prepare mentally and physically for the trek?

T: Mentally, I don’t think it really sunk in until we were in Africa, but we tried our best to read up as much as we could before we went. We spoke to people who had already done the trek. I read online blogs of people’s experiences and their tips for making it through the grueling six days of the trek.

Coincidentally, we also read Three Cups of Tea which is American mountaineer and humanitarian Greg Mortenson’s incredibly inspiring story of his commitment to building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan’s remotest areas. That story really inspired both of us and it was an added coincidence that Greg climbed Kili at the age of 11 and spent the first 12 years of his life in the town of Moshi (our base camp for the trek)!

However, nothing could have prepared me for summit night (on the final day for the summit climb, we had to trek eight hours through the night in temperatures that went down to -22 C°). The last hour of the climb, I was crying from exhaustion and the biting cold. I was absolutely convinced that I had frostbite and when I returned, my fingers and toes would have to be chopped off! It’s surprising that I still didn’t give up and kept going. The fact that we were doing it in a big group and saw others who kept climbing, motivated us as well. Also, Asim and I kept pushing each other through the night and somehow when one of us would feel particularly weak or tired or cold, the other would get a surge of protective energy!

Physically, we trained for about three months prior to the trek. We would go to the gym a few times a week and also went on long walks. However, the main change was that we started living a more active lifestyle. Gradually, we saw our stamina improve. However, during the trek we realized we should have trained a lot more! For others who want to go on the trek, I would advise doing aerobics and definitely do a few climbs and treks in the months prior to Kilimanjaro.

Asim: Looking back, I wish we had done a lot more training than what we did. I personally felt mentally strong from the very beginning; the cause itself was a huge motivation and when the funds started flowing into our JustGiving page, we felt more and more into it.

Q: Given that you and Asim raised nearly £6000, how did you go about fundraising for the trek? What kinds of responses did you receive?

Asim & Tamreez: Most of our fundraising was online through our JustGiving page. We sent email reminders to friends and family who passed on the link to others. We also organized a bake sale and a Pakistani handicrafts sale, both of which got really good responses.

The month of Ramadan came during our fundraising as well and as we all know, we’re all particularly generous during that month, so that helped too! We made sure TCF was eligible for zakat and that we paid for all the costs of the travel and expenses ourselves. That assured people that their money would be going directly to the organization and not funding our trip in any way.

More than anything, we were impressed by the generosity of strangers or those who had just met us and found out about the cause. Friends we hadn’t spoken to in ages were some of the first people to donate. Friends of friends came forward and donated anonymously. Family members donated anonymously! It was quite touching. Honestly, the whole experience of fundraising from May to October really strengthened my belief in humanity.

Q: About 25 other people were also climbing for TCF – what was the dynamic like among the group and how did that evolve as the trek went on?

A & T: We were very lucky that we had an amazing group and that we all got along well. Everyone was really nice and friendly and they all believed in the cause. We would laugh and joke and motivate each other to keep going. The scenery was breathtaking throughout the trip and we would stop for photos which led to many memorable moments.

There were about 13 people who joined us from Singapore for the trek and there was a friendly rivalry that developed between the UK group and those from Singapore. As the trek went along, we all started looking out for each other and helping those who weren’t feeling well. It’s quite interesting that when taken away from your usual surroundings and sharing tents and camp toilets with people, you open up and trust each other a lot more than you normally would!

We had about 60 local porters and guides on the trek who were absolutely amazing. They would be singing and laughing and teaching us Swahili words and phrases.

The organizers from the tour operator, Action Challenge from the UK, who came with us were all really great people as well. They made sure we remained on schedule but still had fun. We had a representative from TCF, Hina Suleman, undertaking the trek with us. She was absolutely wonderful. Despite being as tired as the rest of us, she would still make sure everyone was doing well at the end of the day and even on days when she wasn’t feeling well herself, she would still be motivating and taking care of others!

Q: What was the most memorable experience about the trek itself?

T: I think the people we met made it very memorable for us. Honestly, if we hadn’t somehow all gelled, we might have been miserable through the ten days of the trip. Climbing and trekking isn’t easy and add to that altitude sickness, dehydration and hypothermia and you could have a potentially very miserable time ahead of you. But like I said, given we all got along so well, we really enjoyed ourselves and knowing that others were going through similar experiences, it really kept us motivated.

A: Each day of the trip was unique. We experienced almost all climatic zones, from tropical weather in Moshi to extremely cold conditions on the summit. We saw thousands of unique plants in the rainforest. It was amazing to see the tree line disappearing behind us. Reaching the summit was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. But the most memorable experience for me was our daily conversations with the local porters. Each one of them had life story of his own to tell. It not only gave us great insight into the local language and culture, but we learned a lot about the plight of a porter. They have a very tough lifestyle and some are forced into it due to their circumstances. From their strife to earn a day to day living to their determination to achieve the best for themselves and their families; it was an eye opening reminder for me.

Q: Do you think creative initiatives like the Kilimanjaro Trek can help not just raise funds but raise awareness about the work of NGOs in Pakistan? How necessary are charities like FTCF in leveraging support for local NGOs?

T: Oh absolutely! Friends of The Citizens Foundation, a UK registered charity and independent from TCF, serves as TCF’s fundraising arm in the UK. Similarly, TCF-USA does the same for it in America. These organizations go a long way in building support for the TCF and creating awareness about the cause. They are one of the most transparent, professional and efficient organizations I have ever come across. Working with them is a pleasure. So in a sense, they restore your faith in Pakistani organizations and those working for Pakistan. Also, because they genuinely care and translate it into actual work on the ground, I think they serve as great ambassadors for not just the NGOs, but our country in general.

A: It’s definitely a great way to raise awareness and hence more funds. It worked in our case. So many people we approached never heard of this charity before and that included Pakistanis. FTCF organized a similar trek to K2 base camp a couple of years ago and that team raised a similar amount too. FTCF no doubt is doing great job in raising awareness in this region. It is one of the biggest fundraising wings of TCF.

If you would like to learn more about The Citizens Foundation, visit their website. If Asim and Tamreez’s story inspires you, you can donate via their JustGiving page, or if you’d like to donate directly to TCF, please visit their websiteTCF-USA, or FTCF.

Our fundraising packs a punch!!

In the final leg of our fundraising for FTCF before the trek, we have saved the best for last. We have one signed boxing glove from Amir Khan, WBA Light Welterweight Boxing Champion of the World, that we will be giving away through a raffle draw! All you have to do is buy a raffle draw ticket worth £10 that makes you eligible to win.

Please see the poster below for more details:

Amir Khan Glove Raffle

All proceeds are directly going to FTCF. Considering it just takes £6 to educate a child per month, each entry to the draw will go a long way in making a difference to a child’s life.

Please contribute as much as possible and pass on the message to your friends and family.

16 days to go

Wow! Can you believe it? Just 16 days left!

How are we doing?

P1050892The morale is high; we are gearing up for the challenge of our life time (says Asim). I’m nervous and scared but also excited (says Tamreez). Yesterday we met our Kilimanjaro fellow trekkers at a dinner and we hit it off really well with the group. Also present at the dinner was Riaz, a person who had trekked Kili two years ago for FTCF, and it was good to get our random queries answered (“no there would be no shower facilities for 7 days of the trek”, “avoid using the public toilets”, “eat even if you don’t feel like it”). Talking to him we were reassured and excited as this sort of advice we don’t really get in guidebooks e.g. he told us to  pack with us lots of M&Ms or other sugary snacks (aka little doses of happiness that keep you going!), books and board games for the evenings because we would have plenty of free time to kill with not much entertainment around us. From within the group it was decided that we would bring boggle, articulate…and of course the Pakistani fav: LUDO!!

From all that he told us, the most inspiring to know was that while physical fitness is important, even more important is your mental state. According to Riaz, most people who didn’t make it to the peak had given up before their bodies had really given up. P1050910

Although our exercise routine hasn’t been very regular (Facebook par status kya daal diya ke we’re going to the gym in Ramzan, nazar hee lag gayi! woh din aur aaj ka din siraf aik dafa gym gaye!) but we have been trying our best to at least be as active as we can. For example, if we have to go someplace close-by we try walking it there. In the past two weeks, we had one proper gym session, a hectic day or two running around everywhere – be it for work or visiting friends and a few walks here and there. This Sunday we went for an all day touristy trip to Oxford with Fatima (we walked almost all day)—not sure how that would compare to Kilimanjaro but it counts as a practice session, right Fati?

As our friend N pointed out to us today, we have taken the Tesco slogan to heart, whether it’s fundraising or training, and believe that “every little helps”!

What’s left to do?

We promised FTCF that we will raise £6500 for them. We have managed a whopping £5183 (thanks to you all) but are still about £1317 short of our target.

Other trip related requirements that we still have to meet are:

  • Vaccinations (Yellow Fever for both of us & Hepatitis A/B for Asim)
  • Malaria Tablets
  • Remaining trekking equipment – sleeping bags, head torches, trekking poles, Tamreez’s jacket, water bottles and tons of snacks and little things such as a first aid kit
  • Lots of exercise – We will rest the last 3 or 4 days.

How can you help?

By sending us motivational messages (please start by leaving a comment here RIGHT NOW!). Reminding us to exercise (we really need to!). And by helping us in not just meeting but surpassing our fundraising target:

At the end of the day, the only reason we’re doing this is because we believe education is the future of Pakistan and that TCF is one of the best organizations out there when it comes to providing poor children with quality education. This is our small way of making a difference and hope that you would help us in achieving our goal!

You can make a difference

£1682 more to meet the target. FTCF can educate two children from KG to Matric (11 years of education) in just £1692. Please help us raise this amount!

Donate Now –

Your donations can make a difference in the following ways:

Educate two children / month £12
Educate-a-child / year £77
Educate a child from KG to Matric (11 yrs) £846
Sponsor textbooks of a classroom (1 year) £77
Sponsor uniforms of a classroom (1 year) £77
Support a primary school (1 year) £8,800
Support a secondary school (1 year) £14,615


“O believers, never shall you attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you cherish yourselves; and whatever you spend – verily, God has full knowledge thereof”. – Quran (3:92)

“If a human dies, then his good deeds stop except for three: a Sadaqa Jariah (continuous charity), a beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him”. – Muhammad PBUH

Kilimanjaro update

We wanted to give you some updates on our preparations for the Kilimanjaro trek as well as more details on the actual trek itself.

As you know, we are doing this trek in support of Friends of the Citizens Foundation a UK registered charity that funds the education of underprivileged children in Pakistan. We are leaving London for Tanzania on 15th October 2009 inshallah. The duration of the trip is 10 days out of which we will be camping outdoors for 6 days and trekking 5-6 hours everyday. The final summit climb begins midnight of the 6th day and will be the hardest as we will be trekking all through the night to reach Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro’s highest point, at sunrise iA!

We have been physically training for the trek by working out at least 4-5 days a week for 30-60 mins (a combination of outdoor walks and gym treadmill on incline). Those of you who know me (Tamreez) know that I NEVER go to the gym, but for the last month I’ve been going regularly and you know what, I’m getting the hang of it! :D To be honest, it is very difficult to maintain the training schedule in Ramadan but we’ve been trying to work out the last hour before iftaar so we don’t collapse of dehydration! There are days when one of us is feeling particularly lazy or tired, but that’s when we’ve been (literally) pushing each other! I am proud to say we’ve both become excellent slave drivers!

Shopping for equipment and gear has been exciting. We’ve bought our rucksacks, boots, trekking poles, jackets and clothing. Left on the list are sleeping bags, head torches etc. We also began our vaccination program yesterday and my arm is aching from the needles poked into it. Typhoid, tetanus, hep A & B, diphtheria…ouch! Also got some advice on altitude sickness, malaria and yellow fever. Finally, we need to book our travel insurance– apparently, we need one that provides helicopter rescue in case of emergency on the mountain! Scary stuff!

On the fundraising front, we had set ourselves a combined target of £6500 out of which we are pleased to announce we’ve raised £4473.10 to date or 69% of the total.Fundraising at BP's Stockley Park office A big thank you to all our friends who made this possible! With just one month to go, we are very close to meeting our target but time is running out! We need your support to raise the amount. As an additional note, we wanted to let you know FTCF is eligible for Zakat funds and all the money donated on our justgiving page will go directly to the charity and NOT towards funding our trip in ANY WAY. We are paying the costs ourselves. So please open your hearts (and your purse strings!) in this blessed month of Ramadan and donate generously to support our cause!

Thanks for all your support!

Kilimanjaro Trek 2009!

From 16-25th October this year, we are climbing Kilimanjaro “The Roof of Africa” (the highest peak in the continent) to support education in Pakistan!

We believe that education is the key to solving many of the problems we face in Pakistan today ranging from economic development, women’s rights to intolerance and terrorism.

We will be fundraising for Friends of The Citizens Foundation (FTCF) which have built 600 schools in urban slums and rural areas of Pakistan providing quality education to undeprivileged children. TCF is the most organized, professional and dedicated education charity we have come across and we urge all our friends and family to help us in raising funds for their amazing cause!

Here are some facts about TCF that we found not only impressive but absolutely inspiring:

– Almost all children at TCF schools come from the poorest segements of society (urban slums and extremely poor rural communities).

– Some of these children actually work during the day to supplement the family income and are offered evening shifts.

– 50% of the children in their schools are girls! In a country with apalling rates of female literacy, this will have a major impact in eduating the next generation of women.

– Books, uniforms, meals and not to mention a quality education by trained teachers are provided at highly subsidized rates (the fees, sometimes as little as 0.1p per month, are charged just to encourage ownership and responsibility).

– The schools have extremely high retention rates and the pass rate of their high school students is 99% (compared to the national average of about 60%). Of these, 73% have gone on to college.

– FTCF has a College Placement program and provides college scholarships to their brightest students. Recently two young women have become their first students to be accepted to a Medical College and Karachi’s top Business College (IBA) with scholarships.

Donating through Justgiving is quick, easy and totally secure. It’s also the most efficient way to sponsor us. FTCF gets your money faster and, if you’re a UK taxpayer, Justgiving makes sure 25% in Gift Aid, plus a 3% supplement, are added to your donation.

So please sponsor us now and support this great initiative in Pakistan!


Asim and Tamreez