Engineering social help

After setting up one of the best managed orphanages in Kashmir, Dr Rouf Mohi-ud-Din Malik is now exploring alternatives to orphanages. Shazia Khan narrates the story of a dental surgeon known more for his social work.  
In the summer of 2000, Dr Rouf Mohi-ud-Din Malik, a dental surgeon at a Srinagar hospital was treating a patient with jaw bone injury. The trauma of the youth moved him. Even more traumatic was the wailing of women whose husbands died in the hospital.
“There were frequent bomb blasts. Victims were brought to hospital in deplorable condition,” says Malik.
The accompanied anxiousness gave rise to new ideas. Malik decided to help people far beyond his profession.
“I strongly felt to play a role more than a doctor for them,” says Malik.
A resident of Bandipora town in north Kashmir, Malik had joined the hospital after completing his studies from north India.
While Malik’s doctor friends were helping the victims recover, his attention shifted to families of persons killed. There were men dying, leaving behind helpless families.  
With some friends, Malik went on to establish the J&K Yateem Foundation.  It was not an easy task. Kashmir was not home to orphanages before the armed conflict that erupted in nineties. Mothers and relatives were reluctant to hand over children to them.
“At times they (relatives) would doubt our credentials and we would be helpless,” said Malik.  With persistence he gained their trust.
Then they visited mosques and well off people to secure donations.
Slowly the institution grew. In 2003 it received FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) permission to receive donations from abroad.  
However, it was just the beginning. Malik was planning to go a long way ahead. Soon he gave up his government job to devote full time to social work. To highlight the problems of orphans and widows, Malik would campaign through talk shows, seminars, and discussions at mosques and mohallas.
To keep management of Yateem Foundation transparent, he invited donors to office to assess the records and see the functioning.
“The idea worked well. The Foundation received donation of Rs 6 lakh in first year, Rs 10-12 lakhs in second year, 24 in third, 45-46 in fourth and in fifth year donation touched 80 lakh,” says Malik. “At present it is more than a crore.”
By the time, however, Malik realised the loopholes of an orphanage.
“Orphanages are not justified,” says Malik. “As per requirements of orphanage, we are able to pick up one or two from the scores, what about the others.”
“They (children) are uprooted from their natural moorings and put into an alien environment of urbanisation. These homes snatch their childhood rights and confine them to the orphanage. They get sleep disorders and become so dependent,” Malik emphasises.
Malik believes that orphanages turn potential self reliant persons into dependents.
“Today, there are several orphanages in valley, tomorrow there will be widow houses and old age homes etc. These won’t solve our problems, instead they add to them. We need permanent solutions,” says Malik.
Trying to find answers to these pressing questions, Malik left the Foundation to set up a resource cum rights centre – Koshish – in 2007.
One of the major impediments for social work in Kashmir is the lack of reliable date on human rights violations, disappearances, killings, widows and orphans.
Malik says that Koshish is not restricted like the Yateem Foundation. It, instead documents social issues like human rights violations, female foeticide, education, underprivileged families and child labour.
It has established non-formal schools to help uneducated children. Acting as an introducer between the donor and beneficiary, Koshish encourages direct contacts between the two.
Koshish also raises awareness about different welfare programmes sponsored by government or non-government organisations. It shares survey reports with concerned organisations, which can then extend help accordingly.
For his efforts Malik was honoured recently with the CNN-IBN Reliance Award, a tribute given to real heroes.

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