Bushra’s legacy to live on through her mountain schools charity

Girls' education

Bushra Farooqi was a force of nature. A British banker who worked in Dubai, she helped to educate hundreds of underprivileged children in the mountain valleys of Pakistan, where she was born.

She loved to walk through the Himalayas and other mountain ranges of the world. She worked for the organising committee for the 2012 London Olympics. And she had been collecting signatures for A World at School’s #UpForSchool Petition and was due to attend the recent #UpForSchool Town Hall event in New York.

Tragically, Bushra died aged only 42 while on a trekking expedition in Oman in September. When two children in the group of 12 became dehydrated by excessive heat, she went off-track in the mountainous region to get a mobile phone signal to call for help.

Her sister Aisha said: “She lost her way and succumbed to dehydration and extreme heat. The rescue helicopter found her after 24 hours. By that time she was beyond all rescue.

“All the other members of the group and the children were safely rescued by the end of that evening and went home safely.  My sister died as she had lived, taking care of children and as a true humanitarian.”

Bushra’s family have vowed to continue the work of her Inspire Initiative charity in the Baltistan region of Pakistan – and even to expand it. Her brother Sohaib said: “Aisha and I have taken the mantle of continuing ahead with Bushra’s Inspire schools legacy in the remote mountain regions of Pakistan. 

“With support pouring in from all wellwishers, friends, family and people from Pakistan, UAE, UK and elsewhere, we are very encouraged and confident that Bushra’s legacy will continue to inspire for a better tomorrow.”

In 2009 Bushra decided it was time to give something back to one of the many hospitable mountain communities that had welcomed her on her travels. She invested in girls’ education along with three other UK sponsors and 60 girls from Basha Valley were supported through primary education by using the boys’ school premises.

Over the next three years 360 girls were educated and Bushra decided in 2014 to set up the Inspire Initiative charity – whose motto is “Inspire – for the love of mountains”.

Aisha said: “The importance of education and empowerment of the girl child is something she and all of us have learned and practised from the very beginning and is a deeply-held value that we have inherited from our parents.

Children at one of Inspire Initiative’s classes

“By establishing her charity, she was giving back what she had gained in life – a good education. Thus Bushra had completed a circle – and because it is a circle, it cannot end. Bushra’s Inspire Initiative shall continue giving for a long time.

“As her family, we are resolved to take her work forward and fulfill the vision of spreading education through out this region in Pakistan.”

Inspire Initiative has adopted two community schools in Sadpara village in Baltistan, where it takes care of the educational needs of more than 170 children aged four to 14 – half of them girls. 

The aim is to adopt more community schools in the village over the next two years and then expand to neighbouring villages. The charity also plans to start adult literacy programme in the short to medium term to empower the community.

Girls and boys gather for sports day for the Sadpara schools

Aisha added: “We are grateful for the support of all the sponsors and donors of Inspire Initiative and hope they will stand by us as we take Bushra’s legacy forward.”

A memorial service for Bushra in Sadpara was attended by more than 400 parents, children and villagers. Nahida, a teacher in the village, told The National news website in Abu Dhabi: “The children have been crying a lot since they heard of her death.

“She had so much energy. When she came here the light became brighter, everyone was happy. The children loved her like their mother. She wanted the children to do something with their lives.

“She planned to train teachers, admit more students, build two more rooms. Who bothers about remote areas? But she truly cared for us.”

Learn more about Inspire Initiative here. And read about the inspiring stories of some of Bushra’s students on its Facebook page.

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