Note: The following story is based on an interview between ROZEE.PK and Parveen Saeed of Khana Ghar. Snippets of the interview have been reproduced verbatim in quotes, while the rest has been molded to fit the narrative style.
Having grown up in a well-settled family, Parveen remembers her early years living in Karachi. Finding solace in serving her elders and looking out for them whenever she could, she sheds light on how simple and fun life used to be for her as a child. Having gone to Model School for her Matric education and eventually the University of Karachi to pursue a degree in journalism, Parveen is no stranger to the socioeconomic standpoint of most individuals within her city.
“I’ve lived a happy and content family life, before marriage with my parents and afterwards with my husband and children.”
The Need to Address Hunger
It was in 2002 that Parveen heard of a tragic incident involving a woman who had murdered her own children because she couldn’t bear to see them die of starvation.
“I was shocked and horrified when I heard about what had happened. I couldn’t understand what could have pushed a mother towards such madness?”
This woman was soon apprehended and brought to a police station where I went straight to the source and directly asked her the motives behind this heinous crime. In return, I received a haunting response which eventually went on to reshape my perspective about what my purpose on Earth.
“If your children ever starve for long enough, you would do the same thing as I did.” This statement changed the way I thought about life – I come from a privileged background and I never had to worry about being able to eat, yet others within our own community are being driven to their slow and painful demise because they cannot afford the most basic food items.
I felt as if my whole perspective on life had changed after hearing about the horrific incident. I knew I had to do something to make a difference – I had to do my part and put up a good fight, and my fight was going to be against hunger within Pakistan. In my pursuit to do so, I started cooking meals at home which I would go on to distribute within the local community. This was an entirely self-funded initiative which was manageable because of the support I gained from my husband.
“Early on, my relatives and close friends would call us crazy when they would see the effort we were putting into this. (laughs)”
With time, my extended family and close friends began to pitch in as well – the idea had picked up traction and people could see that it was making a positive impact on our community. Soon after, I legitimized my efforts by launching the first official outlet of Khana Ghar which was set up with the purpose of being a low-cost and reliable food distribution center.
As our operations grew, so did the level of inflation in Pakistan. We are always aiming to minimize our costs without compromising on the standard of the food being prepared. For this reason, after three years after it’s inception, we were forced to raise the prices of our meals from 2 to 3 Rupees per meal. While we have grown with time, I continue to remain personally involved in the operations at Khana Ghar.
“The only way to succeed in the fight against hunger is by ensuring that the meals at Khana Ghar remain affordable.”
I am honored to be in a position where I am carrying out God’s work by feeding His people. My most memorable moments have always involved being able to see people eat two proper meals a day as they praise God – I am honored to be able to witness this each day.
“We are God’s vessels, carrying forward His good work.”
The Message Behind Khana Ghar
We are living in a time where inflation, unemployment and poverty are growing exponentially while politicians and businesses remain distant from coming up with any reasonable solutions which could facilitate the poor. As human beings, it is our responsibility to share what we have with those who are less fortunate. We must work together with a common goal in mind, and for Khana Ghar, that goal is to eradicate hunger.
Our operations are specifically situated in the slums, where the labor class is dominant. We offer two meals a day to anyone who visits our outlets. Our meals are currently priced at 3 Rupees per serving – charging this minimal amount is intended to allow everyone to purchase food without compromising their self-esteem or encouraging them to accept free handouts.
“We are by no means encouraging people to consume something for free, instead, we are providing them with an opportunity to fend for themselves.”
Those of us who live in posh areas, have employment and are able to afford a meal for themselves and their families as per will, quite often fail to understand how difficult life can be for the ones who do not have these privileges.
“People who come from well-settled backgrounds are often unable to feel the pain of the poor.”
We live in a society where the rich openly spend extravagant amounts of money on food which they end up wasting most of the time. I have never seen a poor person waste even an ounce of food.
I’ve always felt Khana Ghar to be my true calling – there was never any doubt in my mind about what I was doing. Even till date, I find it relieving to actively take part in overseeing the operations. I still purchase the rations and get involved in the cooking process whenever I can.
We have found a great number of people who believe in this cause, both from within Pakistan and abroad. These people donate to our organization, allowing us to continue doing what we do.
When people learn about what Khana Ghar is doing for the people within Karachi, they feel compelled to help in whatever way they can, I encourage them to make smaller, consistent donations spread out over time instead of making a one-time lump-sum deposit. In order to remain functional, our kitchens need uninterrupted funding which can only be obtained if through frequent donors.
“Our cause does not have an expiration date, we intend to keep Khana Ghar running until we have irradiated all the hunger from within Pakistan.”
We are currently serving upto 4,000 people within Karachi each day. I have faith that over time, more people will learn about our mission and join us in the war against starvation.
“I pray to God that He eradicates hunger from our nation, and the world.”
We have no political affiliations – our only goal is to feed people. Anyone who can pitch in can help make a difference. We encourage people to visit our outlets, observe our operations and see our progress in for themselves so that they too may feel the urge to join us on our mission..
There are so many people below the poverty line within Karachi alone, and all of us keep waiting for some sort of intervention from politicians or business tycoons. We should no longer fantasize about a future where someone else might choose to do something that we ourselves can start doing today.
“Combined, all of us have the power to make Pakistan free of hunger forever.”