In a country where a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line, and millions of children who should be enlightening themselves with knowledge spend their childhood working in shabby workshops, it’s not surprising that people aspire to improve the condition of the country or their particular surroundings. One such example is Project Topi, a student-run organization that works for the uplift of the remote village of Topi where Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI) is situated. The organization is independently run by the students of GIKI, with Dr. Tariq Saeed as the faculty adviser.

Created in the Fall 2000 as a group of just a few to help the needy students of Topi, Project Topi now comprises of more than fifty volunteer members. In the past ten years, Project Topi has expanded itself from a helper of the people of Topi to one of the larger student-run welfare societies in Pakistani universities. We have worked on several projects at the provincial and national level, thus extending our horizons beyond Topi.

Project Topi organizes several events throughout the academic year. Despite other activities of the organization, our main focus remains on helping the students of Topi village. We host a call for volunteers every year, and those who volunteer give an hour of  free tutoring to the students in Topi schools, including the Topi High School, Hamlet High School and GIKI School. Several deserving students are also given financial aids and scholarships each year to help them complete their education.

As is the case with the most of the underdeveloped villages in Pakistan, Topi also has inadequate health care facilities. A majority of the villagers are financially weak and cannot afford even basic life saving drugs and treatments.  Project Topi has been actively participating in providing health care to the people in the region by organizing Blood Donation Camps and Free Medical Camps in collaboration with reputed NGOs, such as Jamila Sultana Foundation, Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Fatimid Foundation, and Al-Khidmat Foundation. On several occasions, Project Topic has also raised funds to help pay medical bills for workers and staff members of the Institute and their families.

Project Topi has worked tirelessly during nationwide disasters, such as the Earth Quake of October 2005, the thought of which still makes us shiver, and the massive outflow of Internally Displaced People of Swat. Last year when the unfortunate floods swept through the country causing catastrophic loss of property and life, Project Topi stood up to the challenge despite meager resources at its disposal. With the help of Drs. Tariq Saeed and Siraj ul Haq, faculty members at the GIK Institute, several relief camps were organized in the affected areas. To raise funds for these camps, members of Project Topi team went door to door to students, faculty members, and alumni of GIKI, and their own families and friends. Within a few weeks, we raised around 1 million Rupees. With these funds, and other donations received by Project Topi in the form of clothes, cash, medicine, food and stationary items, the organization started relief work in Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. Food items such as flour, oil, sugar, tea, and clean drinking water were provided to over two hundred families living in the relief camps around Charsadda.  In addition, around one thousand school bags with stationary items and books were distributed among the children of the area so they could resume their academic activities. A medical camp was also organized with the help of GIKI’s medical team at a village near Charsadda. Sewn clothes, small gifts and little cash envelopes were also distributed among several families as eidi on the occasion of Eid.

Believing in the principle of teaching people how to catch fish rather than just providing it, following the devastating floods, Project Topi helped several small businessmen, shopkeepers and other daily-wagers to resume their business activities and start supporting their families again. A group comprising of electricians, a taxi driver, a milkman, a crockery store owner, and a fruit-seller was among the many helped through a micro-finance scheme. This was a joint effort of Project Topi and software consultancy firm Enablistic.

Project Topi will continue to work to provide development assistance, health care and education to the people in and around GIK Institute. It is true that one should not flaunt and brag about helping the needy. But, it is also important to let people inside and outside of GIKI know about the efforts that members of Project Topi are making in order to revive the sense of helping others. Our hope is that our efforts to provide opportunities to the people of the under-developed area around our Institute will inspire others to do the same in their communities.

To learn more and stay updated on the activities of Project Topi, email us at projecttopi@giki.edu.pk or follow us on Facebook.

Kaleem Ahmed is a undergraduate Senior at the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology, majoring in Computer Science (Software Engineering). He is also the outgoing General Secretary of Project Topi. If you would like to spread the word about your student organization involved in philanthropic work in Pakistan, please email us at editors@nextstepforward.net.

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