What is the Environment Protection Foundation and what activities is it involved in?
The Environment Protection Fund is a non-profit organisation registered in California, U.S.A and in Lahore as the Environment Protection Foundation. We are affiliated with a number of other NGOs including Azme Alishan, Packages Ltd., Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC), United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Creative Associates.
TEPF works with student volunteers and provides venues, tools and certification for community service work done by students. We focus on engag-engag- ing the youth to promote toleranceerance through community service initiatives.s. Some of the projects that we have accomplishedmplished include cleaning and composting, planting of trees and solar installations. Throughugh these proj-projects, children of different faithsaiths come to-together and learn tolerance,, accountability and responsibility. We even organize semi-seminars related to issues prevalentent in our soci-society today, including social responsibilitysponsibility and environment, tolerance, organicnic gardening, tree planting and compostingng and even population management.
How did you come up with the idea of starting such an institution?
After having lived most of my life in the U.S., I decided to eventually move back to Pakistan so that I could be close to my roots. Once I came here, however, I was deeply disturbed by the complete deterioration of our physical environment. It was very painful. The objective behind starting TEPF was not to start ‘cleaning up’ physically; instead, it was to educate future generations on the importance of keeping the country clean and green. That is when I began working with schools, school children, administrative arms of the government, individuals and communities and even companies to help educate children on the need to reverse
this dreadful ttrend. WhatW challenges did you comecom across?
A major difference between openingop an NGO in the United StatesS and one here is that, in theth U.S, the process, however tedious it may be, is actuallyly ppretty straightforward. If you are willing to follow the rules anddan have all necessary documentsocumentsdo on hand, youuyo can have youruryo NGO opened in no time. Over here, I realized that unless I knew the right peo- ple within the community and government, it would be very difficult for me. There is no clarity; practically everything is running on an ad hoc basis. I remember I used to sit in front of the society’s office for hours and even days on end, waiting on an update from the officials regarding the status of my NGO so that I could move on to the next stage. Thankfully, due to persistence and perseverance, I was able to get the job done.
Another hurdle I faced came in the form of funding. Most of it came primarily from my own resources along with a little help from friends and family. In fact, I had to sustain it for quite a number of years on just that. During that time, I went from door to door asking for donations. At every board meeting, I pleaded with board members for an additional injection of funds, just so that I could keep it running. Eventually, our first breakthrough came in the form of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) which greatly helped our cause.
In your view, are people generally willing to help or is there a lack of interest in the area?
I think it is a bit of both. From my experience,ence, I can say that people, in general, are more reactive than proactive. Whenever disaster strikes in the form
of a flood, an earthquake or a