A local boy deriving from a poor background believed in the power of his dreams ever since he was a child. There was a strange spark in him, which kept him going despite the financial struggles he faced being the son of a shepherd. Starting his education in a dilapidated government school in a village.
This ordinary boy studied his early early education in a basic government school. He then went on to study grades 3-4 in a local sub standard school. Then to his luck, he was given a chance to gain an education at the then-prime Minister’s school, ‘Sharif Educational Complex’ on scholarship till O-level. He achieved the highest results in the school’s history and as a result, he was given a scholarship for his A-levels at Lahore Grammar School, where he aced all the academic and extra curricular subjects. He gained a partial scholarship for for his university degree. By gaining a partial scholarship and gathering finances over two years, he began his journey in pursuing an electrical engineering degree at the University of Central Punjab, Lahore.
It was back in those days in the year 2010, when an idea changed his life forever. The Fatmid Foundation’s representatives visited his university on a basic practise of an awareness campaign in regards with thalassemia. Sometimes, it is a little thought that can connect to someone’s mind and heart, and that is exactly what happened at the time, which initiated the idea in the mind of the students for running their own awareness drive on thalassemia in their university.
The journey of JZT (Jehad For Zero Thalassemia) started and Ghulam Dastgir, who is now a full-time teacher says “It really took off. I remember a lot of students at the university wanting to donate blood, whilst others wanted to raise money for kids battling with Thalassemia. It was meaningful work and it resonated with all of us.”
From a small group of friends with very limited resources, a dream launched to visualise a battle against thalassemia.
Thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder in which the body produces an abnormal form of haemoglobin is vividly present in Pakistan with more than 100,000 thalassemia major patients. Almost 6500 inflicted are born each year, and there is a major lack of awareness in the society which is affected by this disease. The fundamental difficulty faced by Dastgir and his team involved conveying the message out to families that their daughters must be tested before marriage to rule out the chance of being a carrier. Families would take this offensively and feel disrespected. It is vital that carriers of thalassemia minor do not have biological children together, however very few people are concerned about this fact.
So, JZT was formed with the purpose to create awareness about this disease and the crucial need of getting premarital testing. This foundation is also managing their free blood donor database all over Pakistan. They have accomplished to arrange more than 50,000 blood bags over a decade. They have built a vast network to reach out to people even in Fata, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.
From a small group of peers to a network of over 7000 volunteers, JZT is serving the affected people all over Pakistan with utmost courage and humanity. Totally funded by its alumni and the generous volunteers, JZT has been able to launch the first ever ambulance service in Fata to provide free pick and drop services to the thalassemia patients. The organization has a child adoption program named “Each one Ease one” in which the volunteers have adopted over 500 kids, and their blood, medication and in some cases, the educational expenses are managed by the foundation. This programme has benefitted numerous families, who were suffering alone. Now, JZT is a part of their journey. Recognising the efforts of the JZT, Punjab Thalassemia Prevention Programme (PIPP), has signed MOU with JZT for free extended family screening all over Punjab.
Today, on World Thalassemia Day, I would like to acknowledge the sincerest efforts of JZT and its force. A story of passion with perseverance, Dastgir is a great example for any person who thinks they are not capable enough of doing something big in their life. All you need is a goal and the right measures to steer your ambitions in the right directions. It also gives a very beautiful message that one doesn’t always need money to be rich. His profound investments for the sake of humanity are his assets and the respect, blessings and prayers that he has earned, amount to the best wealth in the world.
While he wishes for a thalassemia-free Pakistan, he knows there is a long way to go. The man behind the idea of JZT, Dastgir, is an inspiration for all the youth out there. He showcases the power of true determination, self-belief and channelizing your energies for the betterment of your country. We all want our county to prosper, but very few people will actually step ahead to bring about a change. Let us all pray and hope for a healthy, disease-free Pakistan.
The team of JZT have also contributed to the organisation of a variety of events, which can be seen below.
A fantastic team and organisation. I hope we can all support such great causes and aid them by doing our bit by spreading awareness!
– Fatima Ali