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A plot of land in Pakistan is currently sitting quietly, unused up to this point. But, if some local students reach their goals, it will be transformed into a orphanage in the country's capital.
Students from Cheshire High School and founding members of the fundraising and awareness group ENOUGH are holding a benefit concert later this month, with the proceeds going to help create an orphanage in Islamabad, Pakistan. The "Orphanage for Opportunity" project was undertaken by members of ENOUGH and the concert, scheduled for May 23 at Cheshire Park, is a way to jump start their fundraising efforts. Since the group’s inception last year, it has held peace rallies, hosted speakers, and helped raise awareness about world issues. The group even rallied at Town Hall to support the education budget last month.
ENOUGH is an acronym for education, necessity, opportunity, understanding, giving, and helping. and all of the group's projects seemingly encompass the acronym. Mansoor Alam, a junior at CHS, said the concert is the starting point for the "Orphanage for Opportunity" project, and admitted that it was a big task to undertake.
Yet, the group, Alam believes, is prepared.
"It might sound ridiculous, but we already have a lot in place," the 16-year-old said. "We are going to Pakistan this summer to get the management team put in place."
Alam, and fellow ENOUGH member Hasher Nisar, 16, will be going to the capital of Pakistan this summer, soon after school lets out in June. For more than a month, the two young men will spend time developing the plan on-site in Islamabad. Initially, Nisar had planned to spend some time this summer living at an orphanage, experiencing life in one of the poorest areas in the world. Instead, the focus was changed to building an orphanage, and relatives in Pakistan donated land to ENOUGH's cause.
"We're just small town kids trying to help other kids around the world," explained Shayna Zanker, 17, co-president of ENOUGH. "People may doubt what we can do and they may doubt that we can be successful, but we're going to impact so many lives, it will be huge."
Alam said that, thus far, the group has raised over $10,000 in just a few weeks, not bad for a local group created and run by high school students.
One of the performers scheduled for the concert is rapper Immortal Technique, who is no stranger to benefit concerts, having recently helped raise money in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Zanker said that students around the school are excited because they know of his music and know their ticket purchase is going to a good cause.
"In Hebrew, we call it a mitzvah, or helping out and doing a good deed; that's what this show is," Zanker said. "Everyone buying a ticket is making a huge difference."
Alam said that he and Nisar would be paying their own way to Pakistan this summer and not using any of the ENOUGH money to support their research trip. They have already set up contacts with different cultural ministries in Pakistan, and Nisar said he has friends and family overseas who are willing to help with their project.
"It sounds crazy to say it, but I know we can accomplish this, I don't doubt we can do it," Nisar said. "People in Pakistan are amazed at how involved (students) are. The Western powers are blamed for their problems over there and we want to show them that we do care."
Alam said that these types of projects would help the ultimate goal of world peace. The children who will live in the orphanage created by students from America will remember the gesture 15 or 20 years from now. Over time, these acts of goodwill and kind gestures will spread and new generations will learn to exist together and love one another, Alam believes.
"When everyone grows up, they can make a big difference, too," he said. "With memories of what people have done, we can achieve world peace."
Nisar noted that people might understand that poverty exists around the world, but they don't know what it means. He said that people here will be shown to appreciate what they have.
"This is like building a bridge of hope. We are doing a good deed and, before you know it, it become contagious," Zanker added. "They will be helping us, too, whether they realize it or not."
Additionally, ENOUGH member Abuzer Rafey, 17, is going to spend a month this summer in Afghanistan volunteering at a make-shift hospital where civilians are treated for war-related injuries. He plans to document his experiences in Afghanistan to share here in the United States. He said you "never know who influences who" but Americans helping out in other parts of the world only increases the country's positive perception and "shows that we can help out and don't just try to kill you."
"We can show them that we have values and morals and that Americans aren't bad," Rafey said. "I want to improve the perception of the United States over there, while improving the Middle Eastern perception here."
"Hip Hop for Racial Harmony" takes place on May 23 at Cheshire Park, with the opening act starting at 6 p.m. Shuttle buses to Cheshire park will be available at CHS and Chapman Elementary School. To buy tickets, for more information, or to make a donation, visit the Web site www.enoughadvocacy.org.