As they approached the landmark Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) mosque in Boston, a rally of supporters awaited to cheer on the fasting runners who had just completed a 5k run to raise money for schoolchildren in Attock, Pakistan. What started out as a modest effort by a group of friends to raise $2,500 for one school computer lab blossomed into a community wide effort resulting in over $13,000 in donations in a matter of a week. These donations will not only replace a few computers, but revamp the computer labs of all three schools run by Cambridge, MA based nonprofit Barakat Inc. in Attock, complete with desktops and printers.
Running is a tradition that is deeply embedded in the history of Boston and has become more entrenched than ever with the recent tragedies of the Boston Marathon. With this in mind, head organizer Farhaan Razi set out to continue this hometown tradition while also emphasizing the Ramadan observance of remembering the less fortunate. "A few friends were thinking about how to raise funds and at first we laughed at the idea of a fasting 5K, but it did catch my attention and after the support of a few friends, the event was born." What began as an event page on Facebook burgeoned quickly with people wanting to get involved across Boston, DC, and Houston. Far exceeding all expectations, the run drew in support from up to 40 runners and over 200 sponsor donations. "The reaction was humbling and reinforced my belief that when given the opportunity to do good, people will flock to it."
These schools are three of five run by Barakat Inc. and educate over 1,200 students grades K-8. Barakat Inc. started out with two schools in Northern Afghanistan but with the increase in Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Attock began to lack the educational resources needed and so new schools were opened there as well and are open to all. "The computers these kids use are up to 10 years old and they deserve so much better. As a smaller organization, it is difficult for us to raise enough money for new ones and it's wonderful what you guys have done for them," a teary eyed Angha Childress, Executive Director of Barakat Inc., said as she addressed the runners before the 5k. "It has been such an amazing event and seeing young people getting together for it have meant a lot to us."
In solidarity, participants in DC and Houston took part in the pre-iftar run. Along with sponsors, community members also came out in support of the charity event with cheers along the route and congratulations and iftar snacks ready at the finish line outside of the ISBCC mosque. "I'm proud of those who participated in this run," said Imam Suhaib Webb of the ISBCC mosque, "and I can't wait for next year because this has the potential to do great things."