Chadar — A revolutionising charity startup in Pakistan

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Colorful banners and warm clothes storm Pakistan’s rural landscape. Student volunteers muster generous donations for the poor. Creative learning sessions cultivate ambition among orphans. In an age of massive income disparities, gender imbalance and discrimination against minorities, Chadar demonstrates a rare commitment towards social harmony. This social startup, launched by three keen undergraduates, is quickly becoming a home to the hopes and dreams of Pakistan’s deserving poor.

Chadar is a charitable initiative catering to the underprivileged citizens of Pakistan through the provision of skill-based education and clothing, women’s rights advocacy, and poverty alleviation. It is the brainchild of two former NUST electrical engineering undergraduates, Kamil Hamad and Wajiha Ali, along with Maliha Khan, a bio-sciences student at COMSATS. Four main projects operate under Chadar: Hope, Dastaan, Street School and Street Store.

Hope uses a series of creative learning sessions to produce socially viable personalities among children, especially orphans. Dastaan follows the footsteps of Humans of New York, highlighting the life of disadvantaged Pakistanis through an online blog. Street School, on the other hand, is an educational project that extends voluntary academic support to disadvantaged children. But the heart of Chadar lies in its Street Store project, a pop-up clothing store that offers a dignified shopping experience to communities in need.

A typical Street Store begins with a donation drive. Chadar launches a comprehensive social media campaign for the general public, partnering with Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) for maximum outreach. Its COMSATS chapter conducts campus drives for clothing items and shoes, coupled with strong community participation in Bahria and DHA. Each team member must maximise public engagement, and meet the collective target of 30,000-50,000 clothing items. In the past two years, Chadar has mustered donations in excess of 30,000 for 16 Street Stores, including those in Lahore, Nun Village, Bari Imam, and the Afghan Abadi in Islamabad’s H-11. For a mobilisation strategy fuelled by student’s will alone, these figures are truly remarkable.

These donations are then put through a series of processing sessions. Members are divided into Team A and Team B, and items are carefully sorted, washed and ironed. Strong quality checks prevent dirty and defective material from reaching the packaging stage. Ultimately, clothing packets are finalised for men, women and children in a variety of sizes and textures.

The third stage involves surveying target communities. In the past two years, Chadar has carried out field studies of the local populations of Kot Lakhpat in Lahore, Christian Colony in G-8/1, Wah Cantt and Sawabi. Volunteers approach residents from door to door, determining the total number of households in the area and assigning each one of them an entry token. An additional priority is placed on the number of children per household, their respective age groups, and genders. Based on the results, a pop-up store is set up for a day, where processed clothes and accessories are put on display, and locals are formally invited.

Chadar’s use of charity to encourage interfaith harmony, self-growth and financial soundness among the less privileged is a promising step in the face of Pakistan’s socio-cultural divides

The success of these events lies in their symbolism for minorities. The 20th Street Store held at Christian Colony was aimed at reviving the Christmas spirit among locals, as parents and children joined hands in shopping for one another. 249 families of the community were served with 1700 clothing items to make their Christmas worthwhile. A crowd of minors also took part in health awareness sessions, where patience was advocated as an effective counter to littering and violent confrontations.

Thus, values of sharing, compromise, compassion and love made Christians equal stakeholders in Pakistani society. These are the same values as the power to shift perspectives, influence generations, and unlike material giveaways, never be consumed and forgotten.

The similar symbolism could be observed at Street Stores held on Labour Day, Easter, Independence Day and New Years across Pakistan. The message here is very clear: give these communities a dignified shopping experience, and watch Pakistan’s cultural fabric strengthen from within.

Another distinct feature that makes Chadar stand-out from other charity initiatives, is its emphasis on ‘choice’. Team members ensure that every disadvantaged citizen with an entry token is able to ‘choose’ his or her clothing. Rather than distributing clothes on the assumption that it must satisfy the less privileged, Chadar gives individuals the liberty to decide between black and blue, between shirts and sweaters — between satisfaction and discontent.

Projects such as Street School and Hope lend further diversity to the initiative. The former was inaugurated in Islamabad’s G-10 sector, inviting young minds to speak their minds, and avail primary level tuition in a gender-neutral environment. Under Hope, children at the Ghonsalla Orphanage rediscovered their love for expression using basic arts and crafts. Creative learning exercises helped nurture sociological imagination among young girls, whose growing self-acceptance and healthy critique of social stereotypes, revealed new academic horizons.

In conclusion, Chadar’s use of charity to encourage interfaith harmony, self-growth and financial soundness among the less privileged is a promising step in the face of Pakistan’s socio-cultural divides. As assistance is offered on the academic, financial and cultural fronts, Chadar reminds us that the right to a prosperous life is as significant for the rural masses, as it is for the privileged few.


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