Saturday 8th October 2005 would have been a normal day in Kashmir had it not been for one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit the region.
It was the holy month of Ramadan and everyday routines were temporarily put-on hold for the annual fasts. Shops opened their doors later than usual, as children studied and played while counting down the days to the celebration of Eid. It was the day that hundreds of villages were destroyed, and thousands of lives were unexpectedly cut short.
Official figures from Pakistan show that 87,350 people lost their lives that weekend as they slept in following the pre-dawn Ramadan breakfast. Over 19,000 children were crushed under school buildings that had collapsed on top them while they sat in class. At least 38,000 people sustained life changing injuries, and almost 3.5 million people fled their homes to seek refuge from the terrifying aftershocks.
Human cost aside, the economic devastation that befell Azad Kashmir that morning was a massive setback for the region. Pictures of the disaster were circulated around the globe and within a few hours thousands of people responded generously with the same compassion they had shown to the Boxing Day tsunami victims of Indonesia just 11 months earlier.
A group of friends including Ch. Mohammed Akhtar from UK were amongst the international TV viewing audience who felt compelled to act. Thanks to the generosity of their families, friends, and local communities, they raised over £118,000 in just five days to provide tents, blankets, food, and medicine for the worst affected areas.
Whilst they were at the scenes of devastation, they came across a group of children heading down a mountain with fear and anxiety on their faces. They had filthy clothes, no footwear and were hungry for food.
When asked about their situation, the children said they were survivors from the mountain villages who witnessed their families being killed and had their homes destroyed by the earthquake. They were told by surviving village elders to go and seek refuge in the main cities as there was no future for them in the villages anymore.
It was this experience that led Ch. Mohammed Akhtar and his friends to start a charity called Kashmir Orphan Relief Trust (KORT), to offer long term support for orphans.
We believe that it is the right of every child to be protected, taken care of physically, psychologically, and emotionally, and these rights do not change when children become orphans.
The first group of children we supported in late 2005 were traumatised. It took time for some children who were affected by the deadly earthquake to emotionally recover. Many children came from remote mountain villages and therefore were below the national education standard for their age. This is when we aimed for emphasis on education to make sure we give them the best possible chance to become self-sufficient and succeed in the future.
In 2006, plans were made to build a purpose-built home for orphaned children where they can prosper through loving care and quality education. After many meetings and requests, the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir donated 13 acres of land to KORT in 2007 to build a purpose built complex for orphans.
With the blessings of the Almighty and the generous support of our donors, and after 8 years of blood, sweat and tears, the construction of the KORT Educational & Residential Complex was completed in 2016. This complex consists of a school for up to 1,500 orphan children, a separate building which includes laundry, cooking and dining facilities where up to 600 orphan children can dine at one time, separate hostels for 500 orphan girls and 500 orphan boys, and an onsite Mosque for 1500 worshippers that has washroom and ablution facilities for disabled people.
The orphaned children in our care have now developed into confident individuals who can enjoy life all over again.
We have served hundreds of orphan children since KORT was established in 2005.
We regularly post news and updates for our donors and supporters to stay informed.
Together, we’re creating a future where our children have a chance to succeed.
lost their lives
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OUR AIM IS TO PROVIDE QUALITY LIVING & EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN