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Danish-Pakistani UCPH students and alumni still volunteering

They are current and former students, and they are continuing a tradition of medical aid that started at the University of Copenhagen back in 2005

When an earthquake of magintude 7.6 on the Richter scale struck the Pakistani state of Azad Kashmir on 8 November 2005, over 87,000 people died. In the immediate aftermath of that tragic Saturday morning, an initiative called the Kashmir Fund DK was born. This response of Denmark-based doctors and academics with a Pakistani background who felt driven to take active part in relief work has persisted, and even grown in strength over the past decade.

The Kashmir Fund has provided the Danish public a forum for supportive involvement by organising fundraising dinners. Throughout this period, they have maintained the same core team, chaired by Adnan Ali Khan, who has a background in international business and politics. The cashier and other board members, united by their mission of ’Help for the weakest first’, are all doctors and alumni of UCPH as well.

A visitor at a camp two years after her cleft lip-palate operation. Photo: Malik Haroon Ali Khan – MHAKstudio

“We wanted to give everyone an opportunity to contribute by participating in this work”, reflects Urfan Ahmed, co-founder of Kashmir Fund DK and an alumnus who graduated from the University of Copenhagen in 2008. He currently practices medicine in Hvidovre, besides being a part-time lecturer at the Department of Public Health, UCPH.

Bringing people together

The dinner not only provides a financial basis to execute projects in Azad Kashmir and other regions, it also constitutes an occasion for people to mingle and meet others with a similar interest in supporting such efforts over a nice traditional meal. Besides the board members, a bigger team of volunteers helps make the event possible.

“We started from the Panum Institute premises”, recalls Urfan, “as a group of medical and dental students with Pakistani backgrounds who wanted to make a difference.”

Iftikhar Ahmed, regaining the use of his disabed hand a decade after a fire accident thanks to a Z-plasty by doctors from the Kashmir Fund DK. Photo: Malik Haroon Ali Khan – MHAKstudio

The Fund’s projects send doctors and other health professionals to Pakistan with the intent of helping poor people. They have conducted three plastic surgery camps in the past, focussing on cleft lip-palate surgery on children. They have also targeted other primary needs such as facilitating access to water by introducing handpumps in mountainous areas.

Making a difference

In September 2016, the Kashmir Fund will conduct a fourth such camp. The group also intends to hold birth clinics during this year’s visit. The fundraising dinner is this Thursday, 21 April.

“We work pro bono,” explains Urfan. “One of our main principles is to implement all our projects without administrative costs. Donor contributions – all proceeds from every ticket sold – directly fund the projects.”

Kashmir Fund DK board members. From the left: Adnan Ali Khan, Sheraz Butt, Urfan Ahmed, Hassan Ahmed, Abbas Qayyum. Photo: Urfan Ahmed

What is most important for him about this work? ”To see the difference it makes,” he says. ”We would like to encourage others to start similar initiatives, because they really do make a positive difference.”

And going by the fact that the upcoming fundraising dinner has just sold its last ticket, things seem to be going well.

For more about the Kashmir Fund DK click here and here for the Facebook group.

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