Society and associations have a variety of divisions and subdivisions which assist in the evolvement for the better good of the people. These could be in the framework of the development, culture and art sectors and education and literacy sectors. Jean de La Bruyère, a French essayist states, “A vain man finds it wise to speak good or ill of himself; a modest man does not talk of himself.” It is one way to describe an extensively travelled and well-read gentleman such as Roomi Hayat who is at ease with himself, unpretentious, gracious and above all sociable.
On meeting Hayat, the CEO of the Institute of Rural Management (IRM), an individual entrenched in his belief in the process of strengthening human ties and creating leaders amongst mankind, I felt a sense of hope and reassurance. As an unassuming and uncomplicated person, he shared many interesting stories about his role and experiences at the organisation. For his initial narrative he states, “I came as a consultant to the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and started the IRM in 1992.”
Regarding an intriguing story about how he got involved in this field, he states that his mother would always say, “Mera beta engineer banay ga,” and this was something he sought to achieve in his life. “I completed my bachelors in engineering from Peshawar University and then joined the army for three years. I then went on for my masters in robotics from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. I came back to Pakistan and began working for the small industries development board for seven years. I settled in the NRSP later and over a period of time began learning on the job. I learnt how to advance human capacity and facilitate human relations.”
Gifted with a good sense of humour, Hayat Sahib chooses to limit his conversation to brief sentences that radiate concrete intellect and enthusiastic revelations. He is fond of travelling and reading and has been to 40 countries and 300 cities. An avid photographer, during his travels he photographs anything that appeals to him from a piece of furniture to a historical site. He enjoys blending his life with everything that emanates from the country’s soil.
The NRSP which was established in 1991 is the largest rural support programme in the country in terms of outreach, staff and development activities. It is a non profit organisation and the IRM followed in the footsteps of its parent organisation, while evolving and finally attaining the status of the premier human resource development training institute. Some of its major programmes are vocational and technical training, management development programme, social mobilisation training, social sector services training, education, health and academics.
Impassioned and profound, Hayat Sahib continues, “The organisation is now widely recognised and appreciated both at national and international level for the quality, innovation and the effectiveness of its training workshops. The driving force behind its tremendous success and mounting growth is its deep-rooted commitment to the cause of poverty reduction by harnessing the potent capacity of the rural population and effectively channelising their energies for creating self-reliant opportunities that improve living standards.
“Thousands of men and women have benefited from a wide variety of the training events and have been able to break the vicious circle of poverty for leading better lives. The true spirit of the institute is the dedication and fortitude of its staff members and individuals who have been associated with it for varying periods of time.”
He has inspired and influenced people from all over Pakistan as is evident from an interesting yet simple story, “I received an email from a female student four years ago thanking me for the help I provided as she has completed three research papers now and is currently doing her Phd.” This is a small example from many that exude the type of person he is. Being passionate about what you do and how it can change a person’s life is what characterises him.
“Every experience is a way of transformation, people in Pakistan need to change through other people willing to help them change. This is how I changed my line of work from robotics to the development field,” he states matter-of-factly.
While discussing his role, he states, “The institute trains around a hundred thousand people every year. It offers a variety of courses which vary between three days to nine months and there is a balance in training men and women. We also have programmes for the disabled such as embroidery and stitching.”
He recollects a story, “While we were in northern Sindh, we wanted to take a group of girls and train them in Sukkur at a polytechnic institute, unfortunately the village elders did not approve. We then rented a building in their village and started training there. We revived their traditional crafts, computer training and mobile training so that the women could provide for their families while being at home. Rickshaws were hired for transportation purposes so that the girls and women could easily commute.
“Our centre was a mobile centre which would travel around and assist in training workshops for the poor. It was after a year-and-a-half that the same elders came to us and were so pleased at how well their women were doing that they asked for them to be properly trained in Islamabad. Each woman would earn Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 to support their respective families. The women were trained in life skills and technical cultivation which instilled confidence in them and made them better human beings.”
On being asked about his marriage, Hayat Sahib says, “I was studying in the US when one day I called my mother who told me my parents had got me engaged to someone who was also part of the family. When we used to live in Peshawar we would walk to the market places late at night. Peshawar was one of the best cities to live in, but since the Russians invasion in Afghanistan the social fabric of the city changed which is very unfortunate.” He has two sons and a daughter.
Recognising such persistence and modesty in an individual such as Hayat Sahib is rare. On the status of the flood affected areas of Pakistan, he comments, “Well, in the flood hit areas, we created awareness amongst the people. This was mainly in the emergency phase and we provided 24,000 families cooked food three times a day. Our team also instructed them on how to build houses hence the villagers built their own homes. This was in Jati village near Thatta and 500 houses were built near Dadu. We prepared them in taking care of their livestock, trained them in medical and birth care all the preparations required to maintain a healthy life.”
Hayat Sahib, owing to his determined and assiduous character, started an organisation in 1997 called the Human Resource Development Network. It originated as a platform where a network of professionals could share ideas and concepts and the idea was also to set up a network that should work as a bridge between individual development professionals and organisations.
The HRDN has not only witnessed a gradual increase in its membership fold but has also earned international recognition as a capacity building platform and one of the leading network of trainers. Academic organisations and UN agencies are amongst the members of this network. Hayat Sahib is a voluntary chairperson. He is also a member of the International Society for Training and Development.
Roomi Hayat Sahib is a focussed and ambitious individual whose hard work has led him to success and eventual appreciation from the people he has helped. The combination of his steadfastness and perseverance has permanently cast him into an embodiment of humbleness and a valuable asset in society.
With regards to his future aspiration, he says, “I want to open a centre of excellence which will incorporate subjects such as rural development and social economics. I want to encourage research within this centre besides theoretical subjects; this will assist in taking students to the field as well.”
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