Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

In late 2007, economic recession combined with a regional drought brought poor communities to their knees in rural western Pakistan. Families stopped sending their children to school, and instead put them to work to help pay for their evening bread. With few skills or opportunities, the least fortunate took to the streets to become beggars.

Bakhtawar was a good student in the fifth grade at a small school located in a Southern Pakistan village. She enjoyed learning, laughing with her friends, and spending time with her family. But one evening, as she sat nervously in a chair beside her parents at the local meeting hall, she knew that everything about her childhood was coming to an end. No more school, no more girlfriends, no more fun. At 15, Bakhtawar was about to become engaged to be married.

Gul Laila, a resident of Dharian Bambian, Pakistan, can’t read or write, but she still arrives at the local school early every morning. Before heading off to her job as a domestic worker, she stops by the school to ensure all the teachers have shown up for work. Faculty absenteeism has no longer been an issue since the School Management Committee elected Laila as its chairwoman.

USAID encourages husbands to support their wives in producing and marketing products – often ones made in family settings for generations – as these enterprises represent a huge untapped economic resource in Pakistan.

Water-borne infections such as cholera, typhoid fever, and dysentery also burden the public health system and can impose significant economic losses. Safe water alone can reduce diarrhea and other related diseases by up to 50%, but an estimated 62% of Pakistan’s urban population and 84% of the rural population do not treat their water.

Beating children is a common method for enforcing rules and punishment for poor learning in Pakistan’s government-run schools. Shafqat Shah, a primary school teacher at a small school near Islamabad, was shocked to learn through a USAID-sponsored program that if a child didn’t understand something, it wasn’t the child’s fault, but the fault of the teaching methodology being used.

People from the Allai Valley in northern Pakistan live in isolated family compounds perched along ridges of the Karakoram Mountains. With no schools nearby, most children had no access to formal education.

Teerath Mal spent the first five years of his education in anything but a traditional classroom. He went to school in Thana Bola Khan village in Sindh province, southeastern Pakistan, where classes were held outside under a tree. Today, Teerath is 33 and just received his MBA from the Institute of Business Administration, a top Pakistani university housed in a modern campus with manicured gardens and computer labs. Teerath’s path from rural Sindh to an MBA graduate in the bustling port city of Karachi was possible thanks to his hard work and a USAID scholarship.

Bakhtawar, a grandmother who lives with her extended family in Murtad Kilan village in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, recently planted her very first vegetable garden next to her home. She planted tomatoes, eggplants, gourds, and okra — summer vegetables used in daily cooking but usually available only at markets. Thanks to a USAID-funded program run together with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 500 women like Bakhtawar in three districts are learning how to maintain kitchen gardens and preserve and process their yield.

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Last updated: January 08, 2016