The story of an orphaned girl whose dream came true…thanks to your help.
School is a gift not all children will appreciate. In some cases, attending school five days a week may feel like a major injustice to them. Meanwhile, in the Makri district of Muzaffarabad in Pakistan, Sehrish Siddique could only dream of going to school. Now a qualified teacher, Sehrish was once an orphaned child whose mother couldn’t afford to send her to school. Sehrish reflects on her journey and how Orphan Sponsorship changed her life.
“My mother tells me that when I was 3 years old, I used to cry seeing other children going to school, because I wanted to go as well,” recollects Sehrish. She did, however, have a taste of being in the education system. Each day, Sehrish’s father, Raja Muhammad, would walk her to nursery. He’d always hoped that his daughter would someday become a teacher. It is unimaginable how he must have felt not to be able to afford to send her to school to fulfil this dream.
The tragedy that changed their lives forever.
Regardless of Sehrish not being able to study, the family were happy. Tragedy then struck when Sehrish was 4 years old. Her father suddenly passed away from cardiac arrest. Now, Sehrish’s mother, Amroza Begum, was left a widow.
Amroza had two daughters and was unable to send them to school. She struggled to manage the income and expenditure of the household, as Raja had once done. Amroza awoke each day with the anxiousness surrounding how she would even feed her daughters that day. “It was tough for our family to survive. It’s not easy for women to survive on their own in countries like ours. Our fathers were the source of income,” says Sehrish.
Nevertheless, Amroza pushed on. “My mother struggled so much, but she always had a firm belief in my abilities to grow up and do something with my life. Her hard work and supportive nature made me who I am today, and she will always be my role model.”
Being sponsored and the gift of education
Then came the day when the family’s prayers were answered. A generous donor from the UK heard of Sehrish’s situation through Orphans in Need. They wanted to help and consequently sponsored Sehrish through our Orphan Sponsorship programme. Upon hearing the news of the secure monthly donations that would now come to their home, the family were overjoyed. They were now eating regular meals, and Sehrish was blessed with the opportunity to attend school. Her father’s dreams of his daughter’s success were coming true.
“The sponsorship gave me hope and encouragement.”
According to UNICEF, an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 are out of school. Sehrish emphasises the importance of education and how pivotal it is in a child’s life. “Education gives you freedom, It opens so many doors for you, and it empowers you.” She further states that if you could gift anything to a young girl, in particular, it should be an education. “Education is important for every child – including girls. Girls are the ones who also become mothers and can educate and train the future generations. If they are educated, future generations will most likely be educated. As a result, they will come out of the poverty cycle and won’t need to depend on anyone.”
Today, Sehrish lives with her mother and sister, Irum, and is able to provide for her family. A qualified school teacher, she credits her sponsorship for the opportunities she’s received. “Without the support from Orphans in Need, I cannot imagine completing my education and doing my Master of Philosophy!” says the school teacher. Sehrish recalls the overwhelming “joy and happiness” that her mother felt when seeing her daughter graduate school. “I can stand on my own feet now and support my family. We feel more independent now. People talk about our success in the community and see us as role models! My mother said that my hard work has brought honour to the family.”
The struggle and strength of a schoolgirl in Pakistan
“One of my best friends once said to me: don’t give up so easily without trying in life. At least try. At least try doing something, anything can be achieved by taking even smaller actions. Break up your goals into smaller actionable points and take the actions. This is the same advice I give to my students now.”
While Sehrish is celebrated by members of her local community and serves as an inspirational figure to the local children and those in her classes, she describes the struggle of being a girl in education. “The majority of girls in my hometown only go for basic education and they don’t go to university. They cannot afford it and their parents don’t believe in girls’ education, because there are not many job prospects for girls after education.”
“It’s not easy to go out far from home to study and survive in a male-dominated society. Psychologically and emotionally, it was hard as people ask, ‘why you are educating the girl?’, ‘what she will do after education?’, ‘how is education going to help her?’…people ask so many questions. But I focused on my objective rather than listening to people. It was disheartening at the time, but I focused on my goal, which was to stand on my own feet, to help my mother and to support her. My mum used to say to everyone: ‘If boys can study, then so can girls.’”
Sehrish says that if she wasn’t gifted the sponsorship, she would have married young and spent her time carrying out domestic work, rather than achieving her dreams.
“Securing government jobs in primary teaching in Jammu & Kashmir is very tough,” tells Sehrish. She recalls when she was offered the role, and everyone was calling to congratulate her Mum. “Seeing that happiness on my mother’s face was the proudest moment in my life.”
Miss Sehrish Siddique: The Future
After successfully completing her education, Sehrish returned to the classroom, but this time as a school teacher. Her favourite subject to teach is Maths, but she teaches the 30 children in her class a range of subjects. “They are all from disadvantaged and poor backgrounds. But their parents want them to do something with their lives. They are keen learners despite their backgrounds.”
This isn’t just a job for Sehrish. She is passionate and committed to making a change in these children’s lives. “They even don’t have books and notebooks,” says Sehrish. “I buy them from my own salary. I always motivate my students by example, by telling them my own story about how I came from a very disadvantaged background and how I became who I am today.”
When asked what makes her happy, Sehrish mentions that, as well as cooking (favourite food – biryani!), reading and spending time with her family, helping her students is truly important to her, and keeps her content. “I want to change the mindset of my students. Mindset is everything. If they believe they can do it, they will try for it. Seeing my students progressing in their studies is the best feeling.”
The 23-year-old is described by our OiN Pakistan team as someone who is “hardworking and very focused.” They go on to say that she is “very clear about what she needs in her life, and how she will achieve that.”
The orphan sponsorship Sehrish received changed the course of her life for the better. Her zeal and ambition is something we are all so proud of.
Sehrish now walks to school each morning, ready to change the world that little bit more. From the little girl who would walk to nursery hand-in-hand with her father, she now walks to school alone, but her father remains in her heart as she carries out the good in this world, like he had always dreamt for her.
May Allah bless the Siddique family and reward them for their patience. Ameen!
There are millions of orphans around the world who are still praying for their miracle. You can help shape their tomorrow. Donate now to our Orphan Sponsorship programme. You will be with your orphaned child each step of the way, receiving regular updates about the changes that you will make to their lives.
From Sehrish: how you can support your child’s education
“You should consider higher education for both boys and girls. Keep your child’s studies balanced and make sure that they are giving time to their studies. Help your child to walk their path of interest, bearing in mind their capacity. These discussions should be had when your child enters secondary school, so that they can make up their minds and follow their field of interest."