Photo Essay

Executive Director Khalil Demir visits Pakistan, Afghanistan

Meets with government officials, doctors and other dignitaries to discuss upcoming projects

Zakat Foundation of America has been providing relief, development and other forms of humanitarian aid in South Asia since 2002. The organization has responded to natural and man-made calamities in the region, including earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, wars, and the refugee crises. 

Executive Director Khalil Demir recently returned from a trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan that allowed him to assess current and new projects while looking back at the progress Zakat Foundation of America has made over the past 20 years. The metaphorical trees he planted decades ago flourished, and now they benefit today’s communities throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Demir met alumni orphan students from the Rumi boarding school he established in 2002 for Afghan orphans and refugee children in Pakistan’s Haripur district. Alumni explained to him that they were used to seeing Zakat Foundation of America’s name on banners at the school, but it was different to meet the man behind the movement that led to their education and care as orphans.

He began his trip in Islamabad and, that same day, traveled 200 kilometers to Peshawar to obtain a visa from the Afghan Consulate. In Peshawar, Demir visited Paraplegic Centre Peshawar, a specialized rehabilitation facility for paraplegics and quadriplegics. He conveyed interest in collaborating with the center’s CEO, Ilyas Syed, for Zakat Foundation of America’s livelihoods program.

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The Paraplegic Centre is a state-of-the-art public-sector institution and rehabilitation center. It is a unique and specialized public facility in Pakistan that also serves Afghan patients.

Ilyas Syed (Paraplegic Centre Peshawar’s CEO, third from left) speaks with Halil Demir (Zakat Foundation of America’s Executive Director, third from right) as they tour the Paraplegic Centre. | Zakat Foundation of America photo

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The Paraplegic Centre Peshawar finds ways to keep patients engaged and active. They’re seen above passing a ball around.

Three events were scheduled for the next day, March 8, in Lahore, Pakistan. Demir and the Zakat Foundation of America delegation traveled more than 500 kilometers to the Punjab province’s capital to visit a proposed hospital site, meet with prominent doctors and dignitaries to introduce the initiative to establish a state-of-the-art hospital in Lahore called the Humanity Hospital Lahore, and meet with regional partner Al-Khidmat Foundation’s management and staff at their head office.

Patients at the Paraplegic Centre Peshawar play a game March 7 in the facility’s courtyard. | Zakat Foundation of America photo

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The next day began with a nearly 400-kilometer trip to Islamabad for a trip to Kabul, Afghanistan. The day after that, Demir met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director. He also visited the Ministry of Education to meet with the Minister of Education in his office, visited the Ministry of Health to meet with the Minister of Health in his office, and visited the Pakistan embassy with the Zakat Foundation of America delegation to introduce the organization.

Demir and the Zakat Foundation of America group visited a Red Crescent Hospital outside Kabul on March 11. The five-story facility, which had no furniture, equipment or doctors, was difficult to access. The day after, Demir, who is also Chairman for the American Muslims Humanitarian Forum, called a conference for Muslim humanitarian organizations working in Kabul.

Zakat Foundation of America’s Raza Farrukh (U.S. Development/Planning Advisor, left) and Halil Demir (Executive Director, second from left) tour a site in Lahore, Pakistan where they intend to construct a hospital. | Zakat Foundation of America photo

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Zakat Foundation of America volunteers organized a food distribution in Kabul on March 13. Demir participated in the distribution and met with beneficiaries to better understand the particular problems their community faces.

Executive Director Halil Demir chats with beneficiaries at a March 13 food distribution in Kabul. | Zakat Foundation of America photo

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Zakat Foundation of America, in collaboration with Turkey’s Disaster and Management of Emergencies Authority, sent a train full of relief and food items to Afghanistan from Turkey. Upon traveling back to Islamabad later that week, the Zakat Foundation of America delegation visited Rural Education and Development Foundation (READ Foundation)’s girls’ school to learn more about their programs and meet with orphan children.

Executive Director Halil Demir (left) prepares to give food to beneficiaries patiently waiting. | Zakat Foundation of America photo

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That same day, they visited Khubaib Foundation in Haripur, where the foundation gave a presentation about its partnership with Zakat Foundation of America that has been ongoing since 2002. Demir spent time talking with the children and, with the rest of the delegation, attended a taekwondo tournament the orphanage hosted.

Halil Demir and the Zakat Foundation of America delegation visit a Khubaib Foundation orphanage, with which they partner, and are greeted with cards. | Zakat Foundation of America photo

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