What goes on at IZAAS in a typical week?
This program, founded by a businessman named Raza Fazal, is very multidimensional, but essentially there are two major divisions: the orphans program and the disabled project.Every week so many things happen here that it has taken a while to step back understand the flow of the whole place. I will do my best to describe what happens and how the aid is distributed on a weekly basis citing examples from my own personal observations over the past two weeks.
Raza owns the building that he lives in (I live there as well in an apartment in the back) and it is above several store fronts.He owns a hardware shop, a travel agency, and a cellular phone distributors on this premises.He also has other very successful businesses in other locations around town.The mornings, he says, are dedicated to these ventures: take care of your businesses first and in the afternoons see the needy people who drop by for various types of assistance.
In the back of the building next to the orphan drop-in center there is the IZAAS Medical Project Center. Having heard of Raza’s program, many villagers from the surrounding Kagera region come to see the doctor here every morning. Because the IZAAS program has helped so many disabled people it has gained a sort of notoriety with the locals. Consequently, people who could easily be treated elsewhere end up here simply because they don’t know what to do or cannot afford to go to the government hospital.
Last week, for example, I saw a mother and child at the medical drop in center from about 10am to around 2 in the afternoon.The child had a very large and severe burn on her leg from a cooking incident (very common here because stoves and fires are on the ground) and should have been taken to the government hospital for immediate care but they sat and waited at the drop in center until someone saw them and directed them to the right place. I can’t imagine sitting around patiently waiting for help while one’s daughter had a huge open wound on her leg covered by a dirty wrap, slowly becoming infected.This is one of the reasons that there are so many disabled people in this part of the world, often a simple injury becomes much more severe, in many cases permanently crippling due to delayed, absent or insufficient care. Even when the villagers do know where to go to receive a certain medical treatment, lack of transportation, and thus time, into town often prevents them from doing so.
In the afternoons people drop by the hardware shop and request financial aid from Raza and his helpers.His right hand man, Ruta, listens to the requests of the various applicants and then makes his recommendation to Raza who reviews each situation and most of the time follows Ruta’s suggestions as far as how much to give each applicant.Their methods are precise and well thought out.
On Monday of last week, for example, as I was standing in the shop a woman came in requesting about 95 USD in aid.She has five children aged 13 to 22 her husband has died of HIV/AIDS and she wants money to send the children to school.After reviewing her case Ruta decides that they can give her about 25 USD and Raza makes this the offer.Everything is recorded.In several of these cases that I observed that the applicant was turned away to go back home and get proof that the aid that was given previously (some are first time visitors but it seems that most have a history with them) went to the proper place in the form of a receipt or report card.
The next woman to drop by the shop was disabled.She walks with crutches and has a prosthetic limb.This limb was paid for by the IZAAS program in 2002 and is now broken.Raza will pay forher transportation (by bus known as the “dalah-dalah”) as well as for the new limb: a total cost of around 200 USD. She receives full payment for her claims because she is helpless and lives alone. Several more people dropped by the shop with similar claims as the first woman, the most common scenario being that they need help paying school fees for their children. Although they cannot all be compensated for the total ammount that they have requested, if some type of proof is provided regarding their needs and their responsibility in using previous funds properly, they are never turned away empty handed.
I was very impressed with the formality of the process and clearly there is a reason why Raza is such a successful business man.He runs his charitable organization with the same honesty and diligence that he runs the other ventures.Some of it is by instinct, but most of the flow of money is based on factual information.Ruta keeps every record in a giant book so that it is a known fact and recorded how much of the of the businesses’ and how much of Raza’s personal money is going to help these needy people.It turns out that a very significant amount, somewhere around 100, 000 USD every year!
Along with the typical day to day drop ins to the shop and the medical center, there are also ‘special events’ that occur regularly.Every Tuesday for example, you will find about 30 to 40 people hanging around outside ofthe shop starting at 11am ranging in ages from a few months old (babes in arms) to around 80 years old.They are all HIV positive and they come for in-kind food donations that is distributed by Ruta at around 3pm.They prefer to give them food as opposed to money because they know that at least one good meal a week can make a huge difference in their health, regardless of their age.
Fridays are a very special day at the orphanage: Mama, Raza’s wife and some other women, both paid and volunteer, work all morning and into the afternoon to prepare a meal for all of the childrenIt is uncertain what, and if, they have been eating during the rest of the week, but at least once a week they are very well fed.Cooking for 65 children seems like no great task, especially when these 65 eat like they are 150. They are literally starving for nutritious food and it is obvious by the way they dig in!The way here is off of communal plates and I have never seen 5 children sit around a giant heap of steaming pilau (rice, meat and veggies stewed all together with spices: delicious!) and eat and eat and eat until they send the youngest back with a bare plate for more. Most of the children have about two platefuls polished off with the rare treat of a glass full of soda.I ate less than 1/5 of what they were each consuming and was very full.
Saturday the drop in center is open early and Sunday the children are mostly on their own, occasionally another orphanage invites them to join in a communal meal. Up at the disabled center the weeks are much less varied, the children have class and they are fed but they get no exercise or serious stimulation except for the rare times when there is the occasional visitor or when I come up to play with them as I have been everyday now.They sing songs and hang out and are happy but there is not too much going on in their lives.It is fun for me to see them as I always get an extremely warm reception as do all visitors.This week I will be bringing up some friends that I have met here: my neighbour and an
Irish girl just to get the children excited and make them feel like they have more playmates than just me!
A marketplace of shops, an orphanage, walk-in clinic, center for the disabled and home — these are the many different things all going on in Raza’s humble building with its dedicated helpers. As you can no doubt see, there is so much work over the course of a single week that goes into assisting the many people who are helped by IZAAS.