Alamgir Welfare Trust Kamela Department

On 16th September, at 3:00pm I visited Alamgir Welfare Trust Rashan Service department, known as the “Kamela Department”. It was a bright sunny day; the sky was in a delicate shade of blue and there was a slight warmth noticeable all around in the air. I stepped out of the car, and took a deep breath and started walking towards the main entrance of the building. I asked one of the security guards to guide me where the Kamela Department; he directed me towards the right of the building that had a brown door on which a board was hinged which said “Alamgir Trust KAMELA Department” written in bold. As I stepped in, I realized that the Rashan Department was situated at lower ground area of the building. It was a basement that had an old rusty staircase which had almost 12 to 13 steps. The staircase had cracks and pan spit on most of the tiles. As I went down, I observed that the basement was huge and spacious. The left of the basement was covered with piles of multi-colored sacks and brown cartons that were placed over each other in form of a tower. The right of the basement had a small cabin where two men were sitting and chatting and at the center of the basement there were altogether three workers that were carrying out multiple tasks. Two of the workers were managing a cluster of clothes that were spread all over the ground. The third one was sitting at a desk. Two posters were attached to the front of table, one of which said, ‘Registration Desk’ and the other one had rules and regulations written on it in Urdu. It said, “to register please bring your CNIC copy and passport size picture”. There was a computer placed on the desk on which the worker was entering some data.

Meanwhile, I was accompanied by two men Hassan Khan and Mohsin Sahab. Hassan was a young man who was dressed up in pale yellow kurta shalwar; whereas, Mohsin Sahab was an old age man with a long white and grey beard. He was wearing white shalwar kameez and a black waist coat. All three of us exchanged greetings and then I introduced my purpose of coming which was to study the Rashan System at Alamgir Trust. Hassan took the initiative and asked me to come along with him and Mohsin Sahab to their cabin where they will brief me about the system and its working. I headed towards their cabin. It was a small air-conditioned room which was much more pleasant and bright than the outside basement. Cabin walls were off white in colour; one of the walls had a soft board on which yearly calendar and a lot of post its were pinned. There was a long desk that was fixed along the wall with a set of two computers placed on it. The left wall had a window and almost 6 shelves that were carved out inside the wall. The shelves were full of blue and black coloured file with each having a label and a year number.

As soon as, the three of us settled down Mohsin Sahab began to address “Do you know for how long the trust have been providing Rashan to the needy? It’s been more than 29 years and there has been no such time we have ever heard a complaint from our customer. All of this began when our head Rehan Sahab started offering a glass of water and bread to a poor that used to come every afternoon at his place. From that point, the initiative of having a Rashan system started, to provide poor with food and monthly grocery.”

I acknowledged and said, “That’s absolutely brilliant Sir! The way Alamgir have been supporting its community. But can you tell me more about how the system works over here, how you distribute Rashan on daily basis to almost 40 to 50 people per day?”

Mohsin Rehab replied while stroking his beard “Out of a total 2 Arab annual budget, 87 Lakh was allocated to this department especially for Ramadan. Extensive work is carried out in Ramadan and all year round. Where our computer workers create Almost 5000 tokens per month with each token having the name of the customer and his is printed on it. The customer will show their token at the Alamgir Rashan registration desk and then collects the Rashan.”

After a pause, he continued saying “There are two sorts of token, 50 rupees token that includes basic food necessity items such as rice, wheat, lentils, oil, spices, salt and sugar. Whereas, the other one is 100 rupees token which is our special package with juices, drinks, ketchup, spaghettis, chips and further food items. Wait let me show you.”

Mohsin Sahab directed himself to Hassan who was entering data in an excel sheet while using one of the computers. Mohsin Sahab interrupted Hasan and asked him to show me the two types of token. Hasan opened a draw which was full of yellow and blue tokens; he took out four of them and showed me. The tokens were round in shape, with each of them having a Alamgir Trust logo and a name and ID printed on it. Yellow one represented the basic food package and the blue one represented special food package. The tokens also had an expiry date along with a small note printed on it that said that the token can only be used once in a month and it will get expired after a month. Seeing this, I inquired Hasan about when are the tokens issued each month. “ Each token is issued and given to the customer on the 3rd of the month and the token is applicable only for a month, for next month the customer has to come again on the 1st and get himself registered for the next month Rashan” Hassan replied in a Sindhi accent.

While I was inquiring Hasan bhai, Mohsin Sahab came up with a shopper and started placing all its contents on the desk and implied “Look these are the things that are a part of our basic package; we have got all things that are necessary for a family to survive. The quantity of all the food items are measured every time and are then packed into cartons.” He further added on “Some of the food items are bought by our trust such as the spices, rice, whereas, lentils and oil are given to us by our donors.”

Lentils in the basic food package.

Lentils in the basic food package.

He reached out to the drawer and took out a receipt. Mohsin Sahab rejoined “This is the per month quantity of food items that we order from our contractor and see this list… see over here. This includes the names of all our donors that donate us twice even thrice in a month. Maximum number of donations that we receive are in the month of Ramadan. Where we distribute Aftar and Sehri boxes among the needy, food distribution in the month of Ramadan is one of the main highlight of this trust where almost 5000 people perform the ritual of Sehri and Aftar with us on the same dastarkhuwan”.

I questioned “Sir, how does it feel to support hundreds and thousands of families all year round?” Mohsin Sahab divulged while stroking his beard “It feels great, I have been handling Alamgir Kamela Department over the past 28 years and it’s not just my job to provide food to the poor, but I feel like it’s my obligation. Mujhe Allah ne chunna hai is kaam ke liye (I have been choosen by God to perform this task). It has never overburdened me but has always made me feel satisfied, peaceful that I have done something for humanity. It feels like I have formed a relation with these people- ek rishta” he emphasized, “With these people to provide them with food I feel that in this way. I’m close to my community, my brothers and my sisters.”

I could see tears in his eyes while saying this and I could feel how emotional he got. He quickly wiped the tears from his eyes when a worker from the outside came and said, “Mohsin bhai! Shamim Sahiba is here to collect her Rashan.”

Mohsin Sahab asked him to tell her to wait and asked me to accompany him to the outside so that he can show me how the food packages are formed. I went outside and noticed Mohsin Sahab picked up a carton and started placing rice, flour, milk, dates, juices, sugar, salt and some spices. Later, he sealed the box with tape and labelled the box with a number 20 and handed over it to the lady. While, the lady was filling out a sheet of paper which was the receipt which was used as a proof that she has received her Rashan. I went towards the lady and asked her if she can talk to me about herself and the Rashan service over here. I observed that the lady was middle aged women who was wearing black coloured abaya and a blue coloured scarf on her head. We both greeted each other and I asked her if she can introduce herself to me.

“I’m Shamim Rana, I live in Bufferzone area and work as maid over there” the lady responded in a punjabi accent. I further inquired her about how she came here and got to know about Alamgir. She answered “I’m a widow. My husband died in a field accident near Malir. From that time, I live alone with my 4 children since my in-laws kicked me out of their house after my husband’s death.”

She continued “teen larkiyan aur ek larka hai mera. I work for my children so that I can support them but my income of 5 to 6000 isn’t enough to give them a quality life. My baji told me about Alamgir Trust in whose house. I came here and told Mohsin bhai that I’m needy and since that time this trust have been catering my and my children’s food needs.” Shamim lowered her voice while narrating her story. The expression on her face displayed her emotions of how thankful she was to the trust. I asked Shamim if she ever faced any problem with Alamgir Rashan Service.

People here are very considerate and supportive. Only one thing that test me is the long waiting on every 3rd of the month there is huge line of people waiting for their number to come. There is a is a waiting of almost 2 to 3 hours. I stand in line since 8am to sometimes 10 or 11am so that my turn can come.” I interrupted “Can you recall any incident of yours in the waiting line?”

She answered, “One time there was an incident when I got into a fight with a woman over here, who was disrupting the order of the line by pushing all the women in front of her.” Shamim named her as ‘churail’. She continued narrating the incident “Churail thi wo, haq mar rahi thi wo mera agaye line mae ghus kar. Magar mae ne bhi usey ghusnay nahi dia” (she was taking my place in the line but I didn’t let her do that). While, Shamim was telling her story I observed that there were several times when she lowered her scarf and made sure that her forehead was covered properly by it. I inquired Shamim if I could take her picture but she refused since she said that was a widow and it makes her uncomfortable if any of her family member see this. I respected what she said and waved Shamim good bye and presented my gratitude for letting me talk to her.

After this, I proceeded towards Mohsin Sahab who was guiding a two of the workers. These two workers were the same whom I had seen before when I entered in the basement. The workers were separating male and female cloths from a shopper. I inquired Mohsin Sahab about this. He said “Along with food we often distribute clothes among people who need it. Such as two weeks ago we distributed clothes among the needy at the time of Eid these clothes have been donated by people voluntarily. Our worker over here separates the clothes to see if they are in a condition to be given, then these clothes are washed, ironed and are packed to be distributed”.

I thought I should accompany these workers so that I can closely observe the task they were performing; therefore, I sat down on the floor and started separating the clothes with them. I observed that most of the clothes were in a good condition most of them were summer clothes while few were winter clothes. While I was placing the clothes in the shoppers Mohsin Sahab called and said, “These are all the donations that we got last night … look this includes spaghetti, ketchup, drinks, water bottles, tissue rolls, milk cartons and chips, since we have these in a great amount we will distribute these along with our basic food packet”. Soon the center of the basement was filled with food cartons, that Mohsin Sahab had listed before. Seeing this two of the workers stepped forwarded and started unpacking the cartons. I observed that all the workers were young- they all looked like as they were in their early 20’s; who were energetic in their work of loading and unloading cartons and making packages. The workers were dressed up in white, pale yellow and blue Kurta Shalwar. Three of them had a dark complexion; whereas, one of them was fair and looked like a Pathan. Most of them were literate enough as they were easily reading out English and Urdu from the food checklist. All the workers had a small booklet in which they kept on cross checking the food items and ensured that all the content that was on the list was in the cartons too.

Moreover, I observed that the workers were quite familiar with the computer technology as well. As, two of the workers Hassan and the one who was at the registration desk were entering data on computers. This made me question Mohsin Sahab about the literacy of the workers and whether the trust was working on the self-development of workers as well. Mohsin Sahab answered “Yes! along with our customers the trust is very much motivated to help its workers too. Most of the workers who came here were not familiar with reading and writing but the trust helped them get educated by conducting educational workshops for them in which they were trained in reading and writing. Most of them have also been trained in computer managing skills through these workshops.”

After hearing, this I felt quite satisfied by Mohsin Sahab explanation; therefore, without further inquiring him I proceeded towards the packaging area. Over here two workers were carrying out the task of making the food packages. One of them took a food item from the shelf and then placed it in the carton. I observed that there were 16 shelves on one of the walls of the basement with each having a food item displayed inform of piles. The first one was filled with lentils (such as Moong Masoor and Arhaar daal), the other one was filled with rice and flour packages and the next two had oil bottles and milk, juice, tea, ketchup, sugar, salt and biscuit boxes placed in an order. I saw that while the worker was placing items in the boxes he also wrote the quantity of the food item as well. Such as, he wrote 2 kg’s on a pack of moong masoor daal. While the other worker sealed each carton with tape and marked a number on the carton such as 22, 23, 24 to keep track of the number of cartons made per day.

I asked one of the workers if I can prepare few cartons too. He gave me a nod and directed me to grab each item that is placed on the shelf and bring it to him. I went to the shelf and grabbed a pack of every item that was instructed to me. While, doing this I also wrote items quantity and then I placed it in the carton and shopper that was available. I inquired the worker of how long has he been working here he answered that it’s been two years. I further questioned him that has he ever felt that this job wasn’t enough for him- the pay or the work place.

While placing hands in his greasy hair the worker replied, “This job is everything that I wanted. I wanted to work for people; although I myself is not rich but helping people and seeing them smile whenever they get these cartons. That satisfaction you get by this is incomparable to any other job. We are respected here and that’s all what I need.” This was the thing that I had observed in all the workers that each worker in the basement from men was at the registration desk, to the ones who were separating clothes, to the two workers who were packing the food to Mohsin Sahab and Hassan Khan. All of them were enthusiastic towards their work. Despite, the immense heat that was there at the basement and the dark atmosphere in which they were working none of them seemed irritated, exhausted or dissatisfied by their work. But, they all were cooperative towards each other, towards the customers. The happiness of helping mankind in every possible way they can kept them motivated towards working for the trust. I observed that all the work in the Rashan Department was performed in a quite systematic order. With each task being divided equally among all workers. There was effective communication top-up and bottom down in the whole basement which resulted in a Kamela department to be a very proactive department, tailoring its services according to the needs and demands of the beneficiaries and the benefactors.