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Three LUMS students are doing their part to feed Pakistan's poor

Their initiative ‘Rizq’ is a much-needed bridge between the overfed and the malnourished
Published Nov 21, 2016 03:24pm

In April 2015, during a discussion on class disparity, malnutrition and hunger, university students Huzaifa Ahmed, Musa Amir and Qasim Javed came up with a simple idea: they would feed the underprivileged and malnourished by collecting food that would normally go to waste and delivering it to those who could not afford a meal.

Within a short span of time, 'Rizq' was born — and despite its founders being bogged down by academic pressures, the group wants to play its part to rid Pakistan "of the nuisances of hunger and malnutrition."

How it all began

Excited by the idea of potentially creating a vehicle for helping overlooked citizens, LUMS students Huzaifa Ahmed, Musa Amir and Qasim Javed created a public Facebook page for their initiative.

When they woke up the next morning they could not have imagined the popularity Rizq had generated with over two thousand ‘likes’ overnight. Amongst them happened to be Afrah Awan, a graphic designer who voluntarily designed their logo.

The day after their launch the trio got their first call. A resident of Jail Road had inquired about their services and was keen to donate food. Rizq was now in business. They immediately collected and distributed the food to a famished family.

Rizq has partnered with Pakistan Development Exchange (PDX). Photo: Facebook
Rizq has partnered with Pakistan Development Exchange (PDX). Photo: Facebook

From there on, there was no looking back. They committed themselves to the cause of picking up leftover food, packaging and sharing it with the undernourished and neglected.

They also developed an on-call door service to gather fresh excess food, funded by pooling in their pocket money and using their personal transport.

The balancing act

Initially it was a struggle. The students would get calls during a lecture for food collection, having to go to far-off areas for collection and distribution. They would often burn the midnight oil, trying to balance their studies and their newfound venture.

Amir expressed that the whole experience was very dynamic. They would roam the slums of Lahore, witnessing the trials of deprived families and individuals, who would show immense gratitude towards them for their service.

There were lighter moments too; Amir recalled an incident when all they got was an achar bottle, left over biscuits and candy as food donation after having to travel a great distance.

Rizq held a #MedaAftaar during Ramazan this year at Railway Station Lahore. Photo:  Facebook
Rizq held a #MedaAftaar during Ramazan this year at Railway Station Lahore. Photo: Facebook

The task of picking up, packaging and distributing food was done on a daily basis. Javed claimed that they had to let go of their personal social lives for the cause and that it was because of the immense support they generated that they were able to carry on.

A year into their endeavor they realised that it became harder to reach destinations for collection and distribution. Rizq was taking time that was normally set aside for their academics.

But the outcome of kindness is that it draws people to you. Rizq now has more than thirty volunteer workers spread across Lahore, minimising travel expenses and time delays for food collection.

Rizq can now boast extensive achievements. Barely a year into its launch, the organisation has launched a rickshaw service, aptly named ‘Rizqshaw’, that picks up food. High-end restaurants like Monal and Lal Qila have also offered to donate their surplus to the cause. Recently, they even announced a partnership with Pakistan Development Exchange (PDX).

Huzaifa, Musa and Qasim also arranged iftars in slums for interfaith groups and the transgender community as part of a CSR campaign by Kashmir Oil, last year in Ramazan.

The trio also started catering free lunch for underprivileged school children and feeding more than 200 people daily. Not satisfied, they arranged iftars in slums for interfaith groups and the transgender community as part of a CSR campaign by Kashmir Oil, last year in Ramazan.

Support has poured in not just from brands and restaurants, but also celebrity endorsements. They managed to get actor Ahsan Khan involved by extending an iftar invitation to him. The money earned was invested into Rizq logistics.

Ahsan Khan helping Rizq distribute food among the less privileged. Photo: Facebook
Ahsan Khan helping Rizq distribute food among the less privileged. Photo: Facebook

While Ahmed, Amir and Javed were busy building plans for Rizq their classmates were giving tests for internships at multi-nationals. Their sincerity and commitment to the idea helps them achieve their objective of fighting the menace of malnutrition.

Going places

The trio plans to increase the project’s reach further. An expansion to the capital city of Islamabad next month is their next target. They have already identified Muslim Colony, a slum adjacent to the diplomatic enclave, as a key location. Their partnership with PDX is leading to a more expansive foundation.

The trio from LUMS never knew that their idea could go viral online. Photo: Facebook
The trio from LUMS never knew that their idea could go viral online. Photo: Facebook

Unlike Pakistan, other countries have an extensive network of food banks and community centres that distribute food. Rizq is hoping to create an environment that solves those issues.

The trio plans to increase the project’s reach further. An expansion to the capital city of Islamabad next month is their next target.

The three graduate next year and will look to expand to other provinces. More restaurants will then have the opportunity to feed the poor rather than feeding the bins.

From the day they decided to launch their essential endeavour, after their many discussions on class disparity, till now, they realise that there needs to be a bridge. One that takes the excesses of one class and delivers necessities to another. With a goal to simply share food and share happiness, Rizq seems like it is here to stay.