MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan has asked the affluent members of society to look after orphans and disadvantaged children in order to seek blessings of the Almighty.

“It is our collective responsibility to provide equal opportunities to orphans, widows and needy people to make them part of the thriving communities,” the president said at a ceremony of SOS Children’s Village at Chak Dhamni on the outskirts of Rawalakot.

Construction of the SOS Complex in Rawalakot which comprises an SOS Children’s Village, SOS Youth Home, and community schools started in 2013.

SOS Youth Home and SOS primary school were completed by 2014 and 2015, respectively, while other projects - Children’s Village and High School - are in the pipeline.

The Rawalakot SOS complex is the second project in AJK after the one in Makri neighbourhood of Muzaffarabad, which comprised 12 houses, a mosque and a high school for girls.

The Muzaffarabad project was set to be inaugurated in 2005 but a devastating earthquake struck the region the same year, destroying most of its structures.

During the restoration and reconstruction process, eight houses and administrative block were restored while the school and staff accommodation areas were completely reconstructed.

According to the organisers, the SOS Village will be relocated to Sundgran, some 12kms on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad city, where 15 family homes for up to 150 children and a community centre for extra-curricular activities have been constructed over 6.5 acres of land donated by the AJK government.

The Makri structures will be turned into the SOS Youth Home for the older children.

Describing the care of orphans and abandoned children a noble cause, the AJK president observed that it was not just a social responsibility as a human being but something enjoined in the Quran and in the sayings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

“The Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself was an orphan and treating orphans with compassion and love in the light of his teachings has a great reward in this world and in the life hereafter,” he said.

He praised all those involved in the project as Almighty’s chosen people.

Earlier, Ms Saba Faisal, National Director of the SOS Children Villages Pakistan, said the largest independent, non-governmental, non-profit international development organisationwas proud to be making a meaningful contribution to nation building by developing a comprehensive social programme for rehabilitating the most vulnerable members of society – orphans and abandoned children.

At SOS Villages, she said,children learnt values, shared responsibilities and formed life-long relationships in a family environment that gave them a solid foundation to build on their lives.

Ms Faisal also expressed gratitude to the AJK government for awarding valuable pieces of land in Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot for construction of the SOS Villages and facilitating the projects in many other ways.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2019