Special Report on The Lotus School (Pakistan)
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa previously (NWFP- North West Frontier Province) has seen many conquerors, traders and settlers from times immemorial who entered the Indian subcontinent through the historic Khyber Pass. A true gateway to the East, the pass has echoed with the advance of such great adventurers as Alexander the Great, Mehmood Ghaznavi, Muhammad Ghory and Babar. Stretching from the Hindukush mountains in the northwest to the Derajat Basin in the south, the mainly rocky terrain gives way to unexpected belts of green valleys. Some of the most breathtaking scenery is to be enjoyed in the valleys of Swat, Gilgit, Kalash and Hunza. It's hard to imagine that this area of outstanding beauty only makes the news as the most troubled place on the planet.
However, in 2010 monsoon floods devastated vast areas of Pakistan. 1500 people were killed and some 25 million people lost their homes. A state of emergency was declared, the hardest hit were the poor who lived in the flood prone areas, the nation was facing unprecedented levels of human suffering, International aid agencies struggled to cope in its aftermath.
ActionOverseas responded to the disaster using its Emergency Relief Fund, consultation was made with the people of the country who cried out to rescue the children. This desperate plea resulted in the launch of 'Operation Lotus,' a bold plan to provide education for 100 children living in the flood affected city of Charsadda (City of Lotus). The project was immensely risky given that the area suffered from high levels of terrorism from Islamic fundamentalists and a widespread hostility to anything Christian.
Operation Lotus began without a school building, school teachers or any adequate resources. Pastor Andrew Jenkins secured the help of a head teacher from Faisalabad. Initially, three teachers were recruited along with non teaching staff. A building was secured and flyers distributed within a local
community. The children started to arrive and in September 2011 the school was in full swing. The school runs with continued training, support and a planned curriculum. Reports are sent every three months to monitor progress, review plans and provide an excellent standard of education for the children, Pastor Andrew heads up this vital connection.
Since that epic beginning the school has now transferred to a new site (in March 2012), which offers much better facilities. A further two teachers have also been employed, one of whom has to teach Islamic Studies to comply with National Law. The short term aims of the Lotus School are to gain Government Registration, introduce a school uniform and secure funds that can take it forward beyond the initial 5 year plan which ActionOverseas, along with the French and Belgium Apostolic Church initially agreed to fund. The area would be described as 'dirt poor' and most of the parents cannot not afford to educate their children so future funding is important to keep the Lotus School in operation.
ActionOverseas places a high priority on this mission and is under no illusion regarding the daily risks the children, staff and school building face from the Taliban. The economy of Pakistan is in meltdown and electricity in Charsadda can be off for days on end. In a recent visit Andrew purchased and fitted a powerful generator to ensure the lights stay on in this dark area.
The fact that this school exists and continues to exist is nothing short of a miracle, however one of the characteristics of the Lotus flower is its ability to strive through difficulties and show beauty and light from the murky darkness at the bottom of the pond. It's stem is virtually unbreakable. The school it seems is aptly named.
Your prayers however are still needed for the children and staff along with the team Pastor Andrew leads that supports them. Specific prayers for the school to make good progress and that the parents see the benefit and begin to contribute financially to its existence are particularly needed. The benefits extend far beyond education, in that the children are taught Biblical values from committed Christian teachers.
It is interesting to note that six years ago mission work abroad focused on work through resident missionaries, today there is a children's home and a school both within the same continent extending the message of the Gospel.