While some of us strive to be as compassionate as possible – a kind word here, a helping hand there, perhaps a smile at a stranger passing by – others aim to encourage acts of compassion in others, perhaps through campaigns in schools, discussions in homes, teachings in places of worship. We often find ourselves limited in our reach and the kindness we can bestow. So, to develop an entire compassionate village would be taking compassion to a whole new level and not to mention an extraordinary feat in itself – something Naween Mangi has managed to achieve through the collaboration of the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust and the people of Khairo Dero.
Khairo Dero is a village near the city of Larkana in the province of Sindh. Like many other villages in Pakistan, Khairo Dero lacked the basic facilities which most urbanites take for granted, such as clean drinking water, electricity, basic healthcare, infrastructure and other necessities.
Naween Mangi, a financial journalist, set up a trust – the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust, a nonprofit organization – in the memory of her late maternal grandfather, Mr. Ali Hasan Mangi, a philanthropist, businessman and politician. She took the initiative of developing and transforming Khairo Dero through compassion; highlighting the principal that lies at the heart of all religions: to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Keeping in mind this golden rule, Khairo Dero has now become the first compassionate village in the world.
What is most commendable about this effort is the fact that development also targets the mindsets of people. Very strategically, in every phase of progress, the psyche of the villagers has been kept in mind and issues have been addressed accordingly. This is where true compassion lies, as it provides sustainable development in the lives of the villagers.
The first phase of development focused on providing clean drinking water, which was nearly 80 to 100 feet below ground. To tackle this situation, hand pumps were installed in 150 households, followed by a water purification unit. The villagers were asked to provide food and shelter for the workers who came to install the hand pumps. This way the villagers learnt that they would have to put in some effort in order to get what they want, rather than expecting free gifts or favors; they were taught to be self sufficient.
The next phase focused on sanitation. The Orangi pilot project helped design a wastewater treatment unit to handle sewage. As waste used to be collected in a pond, it would flood into people’s homes when it rained. Now, the water is purified by the villagers and, due to its fertile nature, used for irrigation and farming.
The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is running the primary school, which was set up (funded) by Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust (AHMMT). One government school is run by AHMMT through an adoption program. These schools have been managed with the right teachers and the right structure. For higher education, funds are provided to interested students. Moreover, an adult literacy program has been introduced that initially only attracted women, but has now managed to grab the attention of men as well.
Khairo Dero does not yet have sufficient hospitals, but volunteers in the village take patients to nearby cities for treatment. Serious patients are taken to Karachi for treatment.
Khairo Dero is a work in progress. Despite the work already carried out and the compassion that villagers show towards each other, there is still room for improvement, especially in the mindsets and behaviours of the villagers. Recently, a small park was built to tackle the issue of lack of compassion in the children of the village. As children are the building blocks society, it was decided that compassion should be taught in schools and the local community centre. One of the initiatives includes a journal maintained by the coordinator at the community center. There are sessions where children relate their acts that are recorded.
Naween Mangi deserves great credit for setting up the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust, and taking this initiative of creating a model village based on compassion for the people of Khairo Dero. She believes in improving the lives of people as a whole. While NGOs usually provide certain facilities in different impoverished areas, they tend to neglect the other deeper issues. In Khairo Dero, however, Naween plans on tackling the deeper issues of the village and their root causes as well, ultimately making the villagers self-reliant, content and, ultimately, compassionate.
Naween often talks about feeling overjoyed when she saw a grown man holding a pencil for the first time in his life and drawing a line. She also quoted a lady in the village who was really satisfied with her progress in life and believed that she had reached great heights of success which couldn’t be compared to the greatest of rulers of our times.
Real compassion lies in practicing compassion as well as encouraging others to act compassionately and making a mark on the world; much akin to a tree which benefits all those who seek its shade or wish to enjoy its fruits. Naween’s act of compassion has not only changed her life, but has also managed to involve countless others to show compassion in painting a whole village with the colours of compassion.