Celebrating 21 years of the Starfish Asia Story

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STARFISH ASIA transforming a generation of Christian young people in Pakistan

The Starfish Asia Story

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told through the records of the past 21 years


The Starfish Asia Story China

The stars show the approximate location of Starfish Asia schools





  Lahore      India Gujranwala










 Karachi



The Arabian Sea

Population in 2000: 142 million Population in 2021: 225 million Muslims: 96% Christians:1.6%

This is Pakistan The story of Starfish Asia is a story of one community, the Christian poor who live in and love their country, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. “We operate to support and build up Pakistan’s deprived Christian community by providing education and career support for its vulnerable children. In this way, we seek to encourage self-sufficiency and dignity as equal citizens in the country’s future.”

STARFISH ASIA No ordinary history If I were to write a full history of Starfish Asia, it would stretch to 500 pages and few would read it. Too many people have been involved in our story, not least the thousands of Pakistani Christians who, as teachers, students or friends, have gone the extra mile in service or discovered a future they had never dreamed of. So this is a book of insights, short extracts, quotes, stories, some of them tragic (the floods, the earthquake, the bombs), some of them inspiring, some of them deeply moving. You can read from the beginning to the end — it tells the story. Or you may prefer just to browse through the stories and pray.

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Above all, we hope you will recognise the amazing love and grace of God in the lives of many. It is He who has moved, provided and blessed the lives of us all.


The Starfish Asia Story by Mike Wakely This is a story written by many people. Since we took the first steps to support a Home for the Blind and a school for Christians 21 years ago, I have edited and produced 70 newsletters. I did not write every word. Much was written by our partners in Pakistan and those whose lives were touched by friends around the world who helped their dreams to come true. Their stories inspire us to keep going.

The Starfish Asia Story Telling the Story Over the past 21 years we have produced regular newsletters, mostly four times a year. They tell a great story, as we have progressed from fledgling charity, feeling our way forward, to the present day. We have made mistakes, battled disappointment and failure — and sometimes things have gone wrong. But in the process there have been multiple successes and much blessing for thousands of Pakistan’s Christian young people. In this book I tell the story through the records of the past years. On each page I show the front cover of one of the newsletters, together with one or two short articles about events covered inside. If you want to read the full newsletters, most of them are available at:

https://starfishasia.com/newsletters/ https://starfishasia.com/newsletters/

The next chapter To read the next chapter of the story, please write to us and ask to be put on the mailing list. We will be pleased to send you future newsletters every three months. You can also receive the letters by email — or just look them up on our website. Please write to us at:

info@starfishasia.com info@starfishasia.com We value your interest, your support and your prayers, especially for the Christian children of Pakistan. Thank you, Mike Wakely (mike@starfishasia.com) Starfish Asia is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in England and Wales, no. 1181649

The Starfish Asia Story Introduction by Mike Wakely The story of Starfish Asia began in a conversation with a Pakistani friend, Ashley Arshad, in Lahore. Having worked with Operation Mobilisation (OM), a mission society in Pakistan, for 20 years, my wife and I had come to know, appreciate, and understand some of the difficulties faced by Pakistan’s Christians. Ashley, a businessman who had worked overseas in his own shipping supply company, was the treasurer of the March for Jesus movement in Pakistan. He turned to me one day and said: “Mike, if you really want to help our community, help us provide education for our children.”

Mike & Kerstin Wakely: 2004

It was a significant moment for me. Education? I had never been a teacher, had never taught a class or visited schools except occasionally to preach the Gospel. My background was in preaching, training, administration — and to some extent fund-raising and profile-raising for the work of OM, especially in Pakistan. Ashley and Seema We had occasionally been involved in helping some projects Arshad: 2004 for the Christian poor — some houses for a community that had lost their homes in a flood, support for a blind community and a school building for the Church of Pakistan in Gujrat. Now Kerstin and I were inwardly challenged to go further in providing help for Pakistan’s Christians, and especially for the poor, the disabled and the illiterate. The following pages trace the story of the birth, development and growth of Starfish Asia since 2000 — guided by our reports and newsletters, for which I take full design and editorial responsibility, which have provided the information and underpinned the credbility of our work over the years. We never imagined in those days that 21 years later we would be passing on the baton to another generation, while the commitment to Pakistan’s Christians has led us into areas — and into some wonderful relationships — we could not have dreamed about. We give thanks first to God, who has amazingly watched over and provided for our progress, and then to the army of Christian co-workers, mostly in Pakistan, who have a passion and a vision to support their own community in sometimes very trying and difficult circumstances.

2000 “Unto one of the least of these my brethren...” The School of Christ In my March 2000 report I noted that I had a meal with Ashley Arshad, “a gifted and unusual man (his wife is from Djibouti)”. Little did I know how this relationship would change my life. The friendship developed quickly. In November 2000 I wrote: “We have helped to find funding for a new school for poor Christian children in Lahore. Known as the School of Christ, and supervised by Ashley Arshad, who directs a Christian discipling organisation known as the Fellowship of Christ, the School was inaugurated on 21st October. I cut the ribbon and made a speech. They have about 80 poor children who would otherwise not go to school and they begin the day with devotions and a Scripture lesson. Ongoing funding will be needed and I am responsible.”

I remember the day in 1999 when a Christian businessman from near Tonbridge came to visit me. I had written to ask if he could help us with some projects for the poor in Pakistan. We talked, and then I asked him which of the projects he was interested in. “All of them,” he replied. It was the start of a unique relationship with his family Trust that continues to this day. He immediately provided funding to build a Primary school in Gujrat, Pakistan, to purchase a tractor for a village near Khanewal, and water and electricity lines for a Christian community in Green Town, Lahore. And more ...

The Ananias Home for Blind Girls In 2000 I visited a home for Christian blind girls in Lahore. Mrs Khalida told me the Home had no funds and would soon close. I asked how much was needed to keep it open. “£200 a month,” she replied. With help from the local Trust and a businessman in Australia we agreed to help them — and to enable them to purchase their own building. It is still supported by Starfish Asia.

2001-2003 Dreaming bigger dreams I spent a lot of time just walking through some poor areas, dreaming of how OM, the mission I was still working with, could be helping poor communities better. I visited an area called Khaliknagar, where 450 families (mixed Muslim and Christian) lived in extreme poverty. Why could OM not start literacy classes or a school?

Where do we go from here? The birth of

STARFISH ASIA We approached two charities to manage our affairs, but with no success. Then one night, as I was preparing to return to the UK from Pakistan, I became convinced that we had to launch our own charity, to be called 'the Starfish Asia Fund'. I was walking on the beach one morning and I saw a young man picking up starfish and flinging them back into the sea. I asked him why he did it. “If I don’t, they will die in the midday sun,” he said. “But there are thousands of starfish,” I replied. “What difference does it make to save a few?” He looked down at the starfish he was holding in his hand and flung it to safety in the waves. “It makes a big difference to this one!” he said.

Starfish Asia Fund was registered with the Charity Commission in September 2003.

We had no plans to start a Charity, but we needed to find a way to meet a growing list of requests. “Do you have any ideas where we can find £8,000?” I wrote in June 2001. “A small price to pay for one year’s schooling for 200 poor children.” Somehow God provided the funds for a major renovation of the building for Ashley’s School of Christ.

I wrote again in July 2001: “In the last report I mentioned the project to buy a plot of land and construct a simple building to house the Ananias Home for Blind Girls. I am happy to say that we have received a cheque for £9,500 which we will send on to Pakistan as soon as we can find a carrier. There are now 13 blind girls in the home.” God was providing.

April 2004 Extracts from the newsletter

“We can’t help them all – but we have to help some!” CGA Home for Special Children

Motivated by Compassion

“On a visit to Pakistan in October, I called on a friend unannounced. Iqbal is an unusual friend and I wanted to surprise him. His home was over-run by children, mostly disabled. He lived in two small run-down rooms in a dusty street. I found Iqbal squatting on the floor, surrounded by children, telling them a story. I had a lump in my throat as I left. How could I not be moved? We have now enabled him to move to a larger home and begun to support his family.”

With the launch of our legal registration, we had to discover quickly all that it means to run a charity.

 We needed publicity and a

database of friends. We were greatly helped by Paul Jones, a local adviser, who prepared our first newsletter in April 2004 and gave us a logo.

 We needed to raise funds. Our

available fund reserves were at one point down to £100. I was never a trained or capable fund-raiser, but God led us to many generous people.

 We had to design a website —

admittedy initially very simple and amateur. We were learning as we went: www.starfishasia.com

Hanifa and her family “Hanifa has a part-time job washing dishes, and her husband is a low-wage labourer. None of their 8 children has been to school. I visited their small home and sat to drink tea with them. “Seher, the youngest daughter is very shy. I asked her if she would like to go to school. Her eyes lit up. It was a dream none in the family had ever dared to dream. We agreed that we could help the three youngest to start in a local Christian school. They were admitted just before Easter.”

August 2004 Extracts from the newsletter

Emergency in Karachi In 2004 we began to provide support to the Holy Shepherd Grammar School in Karachi. This was the article in the August 2004 Newsletter: The Starfish Asia Fund pays the salaries of the teachers in the Holy Shepherd School. We had just sent them £1,000 for the salaries for three months and £1,000 to give the 320 children milk and biscuits once a week. This is the email reply we received from Nadeem and Jamila.

So much – and yet so little We faced many uncertainties in the early days of the charity. Our original donor was (and remains) incredibly generous and helpful, but the requests from Pakistan began to mount. This was how we stated it in the August newsletter: “In the past four months we have been able to give away £24,000, mostly to support schools for the poor and to meet some tragic personal needs. We are grateful to God for one or two large, and many smaller (and often sacrificial), gifts.” “In the light of the size of the need and the opportunity to give millions a chance in life, we are still just scratching the surface. We cannot get away from the fact that we have so much, while millions (many of them our Christian brothers and sisters) are barely surviving.”

“Yesterday I met with the school committee and we discussed different aspects of the work. As the monsoon is approaching we have major concerns about the school building’s roof. It needs to be immediately cement-plastered, as it leaks all over the place and when rain comes it destroys all the benches and all the class rooms get filled with rain water. It could cause the whole building to collapse. To avoid that, we have to plaster the roof and at the same time we want to repair the toilets. The girls and lady teachers feel quite embarrassed going to the washroom, which doesn’t even have a roof.” Anser Javed and his wife Kashi became Administrator and Principal of the Holy Shepherd School. In 2012 they became the leaders of Starfish Pakistan. The school was totally rebuilt in 2020-2021.

December 2004 Extracts from the newsletter

From the December newsletter:

The Miracle School

Angela and her aunt live in their family home in a Christian colony in Lahore. Having come to know Christ and had some experience in Christian ministry, they together had a desire to do something for the poor in their local community. They opened their home and started a small school for the very poor. They visited in homes, got to know the families and took an interest in the health of the children. But their home was far too small and they began to pray for funds to rent a building and enlarge the school. In the December newsletter, I wrote about a widow we had met on our recent visit to Pakistan. Her name was Shenaz. “Shenaz is a widow in her 40’s with five children and a cleaning job that brings in about £10 a month. We visited her in her small one room rented house, lit by a single kerosene flame, as she has no electricity. “Her face was an image of weariness, hopelessness and sadness — and yet she was not begging. There was dignity and resignation in her struggle to bring up her family. Starfish gave a Christmas gift to help lighten her load. Two of her children are studying in the Miracle School, also supported by us.”

The Miracle School was opened in May (2004) in premises rented thanks to a grant from the Starfish Asia Fund. Now 230 poor children of all communities receive a free education. Daily devotions and Bible teaching are an accepted part of the curriculum. We are committed to support the school with £200 a month.

Starfish Asia continued support until 2015. Two Miracle Schools are still serving 700 Christian students from poor families.

The Starfish Asia Story Compassion and Control 2005 - 2006 In the first years of Starfish Asia (then called the Starfish Asia Fund) we exercised more compassion than control. When we saw need, someone suffering or crying for help, with the close co-operation of Ashley and Seema, we would do what we could to meet the need and relieve the suffering. With the registration of Starfish Asia in the UK in 2003, followed by Trust registration of Starfish Pakistan in 2004, we became more established. Our purpose: “The relief of poverty, sickness and distress, the advancement of education and the advancement of the Christian faith in Pakistan and other countries of South Asia.” Growth in 2005 At the beginning of 2005 we were committed to five projects in Pakistan including the Lahore Christian High School and the team of ladies serving the poor with the Fellowship of Christ. In Karachi we had begun to provide support for the Holy Shepherd School. In our 2005 Annual report we stated: “More than 1000 children from poor homes are now dependent on Starfish Asia Fund grants for their education, plus a number of others who are disabled, poor or in special need.” In 2005 we produced a short DVD film of the work and launched our website. We also purchased a Christian mailing list and sent out appeal letters to 5,000 addresses. We had 30 replies (0.6%). We dicovered that life is full of disappointments alongside the encouragements. Some of those who replied still support us. Our December 2006 report told of progress in nine schools that we were supporting regularly, including the Sambhal Education Centre in southern Punjab. We also promised to provide funds for goats — and to give eight donkey carts to some poor village Christians. We also began to support a school for the Hindu and Sikh victims of the 2005 earthquake. A further eight schools were under consideration. As God provided increased income, we could see no reason why we should not consider helping more people. In the 2007 Annual Accounts we reported that income had risen by 70%. I visited Pakistan twice a year, but it was increasingly demanding to manage it all. Should we be looking to increase the staff? It was no small challenge.

March 2005 Extracts from the newsletter

Telephone to Jesus “...Hello!”

I first heard it as I was investigating the dusty compound of the Holy Shepherd School in Karachi. It was last November and a lot of rebuilding had been done to improve the school. I thought I would look it over, and as I walked between the outer wall and the classrooms I heard this song.

“Jesus has given us this Christian school and this is a very beautiful and big building. I feel like I am in heaven...” (Nomee) “I feel very happy when, before we start our work in school, we come in to pray. I love my school.” (Nabeela) “Holy Shepherd School is a place of hope for children like us ... I love to come to school.” (Sonia)

I made my way quickly inside and headed for the boisterous singing coming from class Three. It was loud, the children were clearly enjoying themselves and they sang at the top of their voices. Sitara was on the drums, and the teacher was leading the singing. It is not a great song and they made more noise than music -- but it was music in my ears and I think Jesus enjoyed it too. Telephone to Jesus Telephone to Jesus Telephone to Jesus every day Hello!!! I want to speak to Jesus... Jesus says I love you...

July 2005 Extracts from the newsletter

A Day at the Water Park April 11th was a special day for the disabled children of the CGA Home in Lahore. We were going to Sozo Water Park -- and I was privileged to go along with them. Around 20 children with various disabilities receive help from the CGA Home for Special Children. Some live at the home, others come each day to attend classes. All are cared for by Pastor Iqbal and his wife.

1000 children with a future We had many things to learn in the early days of our charity. Here are two lessons that have guided us: Firstly, schools never grow smaller; they always grow larger. More classes, more teachers, and more facilities. And secondly, it is an un-thinkable tragedy to close them down if the funds fail to come in. Commitment must be long-term. I have a friend who was Principal of a school for 100 poor children (not a Starfish school). Sadly his funding was cut off and he had no choice but to close the school — and the children had to return home. The light of hope went out of their lives. My friend said it was the most painful thing he had ever had to do.

This was a special day for a group of very special children. Being a recognised institution meant we got free entrance to the Sozo Water Park outside Lahore -- an extensive fun park with slides, swimming pools and other attractions. I noticed one desperately shy boy who refused to join in with the others on the swings and roundabouts. I made it my goal to become his friend, and within minutes persuaded him to go with me on the bumper cars. It broke the ice and I made a friend for life. The swimming pool was a clear favourite with many. Not swimming as many understand it – more a splashing pool. Adnan, disabled by polio, had the time of his life.

November 2005 Extracts from the newsletter

The Pakistan Earthquake (8th October 2005)

I was in Lahore when the earthquake struck the northern areas of Pakistan, killing more than 80,000 people and causing massive devastation. None of our Starfish Asia people or projects was affected. Feroze, the husband of Riaz (who looked after the Starfish Asia children in Youhannabad, Lahore), comes from a remote village in the area, which was flattened by the quake. Several of his relatives died.

Keeping in touch... From Mike’s November report I have recently returned from yet another visit to Pakistan. I spent time with all our Starfish Asia friends, visited the homes of Lavish (whom we helped when he fell and broke his skull) and Parveen Martha (her children attend the Miracle School) — and many others who have been helped by the fund. I visited the village, Chak 113, where we support 100 school children (in the Sambhal Education Centre). Sohail has bought 7 cows to provide a livelihood to widows and is requesting funds to buy goats for poor villagers. We have responded to a request from a friend who visits prisoners in Sargodha jail to provide a library in the prison, including Christian books.

Starfish Asia will not be directly involved in the rescue effort, but any gifts sent to us for Earthquake Relief will be sent in full to Operation Mobilisation who have a team directly involved in relief and long-term reconstruction.

Welcome RDC! We have agreed to provide £300 each month to support the school at Rak Dera Chahal (east of Lahore). The school was threatened with closure -- bad news for its 210 students. We have also agreed to enable it to add two more classes to become a High School -- great news for the village and its deprived community of very poor Christians. Surely God will provide! Our support continued until 2017

February 2006 Extracts from the newsletter

Special Children and Donkey Carts Sharakpur is a small town situated in a backward area about an hour’s drive west of Lahore. For some time Ashley Arshad (director of FOC: Fellowship of Christ) has been helping a Christian couple who have opened their home to run a small, totally under-funded ‘School’ for disabled children. We now feel compelled to provide a subsidy to enable the school to develop and to provide some training for its small staff.

Supply & Demand I suppose every Charity is the same — a balancing act between available funds and pressing needs. We are no different. We have been amazed by the way God has enabled us to see the big picture and yet remain small enough to meet the most personal and often painful needs. Are they all just starfish that have landed on our beach?

In March we will begin to provide a donkeyand-cart (cost: £200 each) to Christian families in rural areas in association with a Pastor from Lahore. He has a list of 37 needy families. We will proceed as funds permit.  To enable the poor to gain a regular income.  To save Christian people from doing dirty jobs and gaining income illegally.  To give honourable status to Christians.

Perveen Perveen (age: 19) has five sisters and two brothers. Her mother Razia earns about £20 a month, cleaning and washing for two families — totally inadequate for a family of nine. Perveen’s father left some years ago and took another wife. Marriage has been arranged for Perveen, but the family has no resources. We are committed to help them through the FOC team.

Saving Starfish Our first video and website were launched in 2005

June 2006 Extracts from the newsletter

The Light in Noori Gate In the early morning of Tuesday February 28th unidentified people attacked a Church in Sargodha, Pakistan. They doused the back door with petrol and broke the windows, set fire to the church and then escaped. It was part of the response to the insulting cartoons that had appeared in European newspapers — a response that identifies Christians as allies of the west and enemies of Islam.

My visit to Noori Gate We park the car and walk into Noori Gate. There are children everywhere, standing around, playing in the dirt, playing cricket, and staring at us intruders. I like it. I like children. They like having their photos taken and, with the magic of a digital camera, I can instantly show them their picture. I am mobbed as I squat amidst the crowd jostling to see the tiny screen. They love it and crowd around to have their picture taken again. It is not hard to take great

Fortunately the church pastor heard the noise and, with help from some Muslim neighbours, managed to extinguish the fire before much damage had been done —but too late to prevent further damage to the fragile relationship between Pakistan’s Muslim majority and the tiny Christian community. “Minorities are not safe in Pakistan,” said one resident of the Noori Gate colony.

Tariq’s better way In May, with help from Starfish Asia Tariq Iqbal rented a 4-room house in Noori Gate. He installed fans (the temperature is soaring), desks, chairs and blackboards, and offered jobs to two teachers and a watchman. And the children arrived! He has limited himself to 40, but more are lining up at the door, eager for the chance of a lifetime to learn to read and write and gain a foothold on the future.

It costs so little It costs so little to rent a building, pay the deposit and buy the essential furniture for a Primary School. Two or three classes require salaries for teachers, a watchman and a cleaner. Private schools recoup these costs from the fees, but to charge high fees would defeat the object. Few would be able to pay. Even £1 a month is too much for many.

October 2006 Extracts from the newsletter

Is this our next big challenge? A School for the children of Christian Brick Kiln workers The life of a worker in Pakistan’s brick kilns has no romance, little hope and no prospects of improvement. Hundreds of kilns dot the countryside around Lahore. A family together can make about 1000 bricks a day in good weather, for which they are paid about £2. Many of these workers are Christians.

Where is God... when tragedy strikes? Shaukat Nawaz is a mason. He is a Christian and his daughters attend the Lahore Christian High School. In early September tragedy struck the family. Shaukat’s wife died while giving birth to a still-born baby. Shaukat was left alone at home to care for the three children. With no money he still had to go out for work. Then the second tragedy struck. Shaukat fell from the third storey of a building and broke both arms. His life fell apart. Thank God that the FOC ladies were there to give immediate comfort and relief. They will continue to provide help to the family until he has recovered his health and can work again.

One such community is located in an area known as Youhannabad No.2 east of Lahore. The children have no access to education, no access to Christian teaching outside their homes, and no hope of a future away from making bricks. They are trapped in poverty. For some months Angela and her sister Edna from the Miracle School have been holding a Sunday School for the Christian children at the brick kiln. Now they want to open a school ...  To provide free primary education  To provide basic hygiene and health care  To give Christian teaching “These children have a right to free education and to know the Bible.” said Angela.

December 2006 Extracts from the newsletter

A Walk through Korangi (Zia Colony, Karachi)

I did not intend to initiate anything when I visited George in Korangi 2½, a run-down area of Karachi. George is a pastor and wanted to build a church for his congregation. I was reluctant. We don’t have money for church buildings.

This was my editorial in the December newsletter

Risky business It is highly risky to walk through the streets of Pakistan. No, it is not danger from terrorists or thieves, but the risk of stumbling over too many starfish on the beach. I have just returned from another month in Pakistan, visiting the remarkable people we support, and assessing what more we can do to lift up the down-trodden and give hope to the desperate. All the stories in this issue come from this visit — and all the pictures too. The hardest thing is to walk through the dusty streets of the slums and villages and realise we cannot possibly rescue everyone. But we have to do what we can, especially for the Christian children who are the future light of Pakistan.

Picking one’s way through the rubbish, the discarded plastic bags and the sewage, is a special kind of experience. It’s the playground for hundreds of kids. We talked with people in the street and met some of the children (including Mehwish and her sister – above). “Why do you want a church building?” I asked George. “Why not rent a building and open a school? Hundreds of Christian children cannot afford to go to school and have no hope for their future. You could teach the Bible every day and see lives changed, use the same building for worship on Sundays, prayer meetings, sewing classes, adult literacy — and equip a generation of children with the means to escape poverty.” Are we dreaming when we think about helping open a Primary School for Christian children in Korangi 2½? Maybe we are. There are many obstacles to overcome and many needs to be met. But there are so many lost and needy children in Korangi 2½. Allow us to dream....

The Starfish Asia Story Quality or Quantity? 2007 - 2009 As 2007 opened our reserves in the Bank were around £20,000. Monthly transfers for support of our projects averaged about £7,000. Over the next three years our income tripled — and we were able to increase support for more schools and homes. By December 2009 we were supporting 23 schools with 4,800 students, and 5 homes for orphaned or disadvantaged children. Developments and expansion During these years many significant changes came into our work:  In 2007 we were discussing the possiblity of merging Starfish Asia with any larger charity, to guarantee its survival into the future. Transition and sustainability were already in our minds, but the discussion was postponed for the present.  Steve Curran, director of AE Tuition, a tuition centre in Slough (UK), paid his first visit to Pakistan at Easter 2007. It was the first of many annual visits, bringing with him many years of experience in the educational sector. His advice has been invaluable.  As a result of Steve’s visit, we made a guarantee to ensure that every child in our Starfish-supported schools would have textbooks – a costly but vital commitment.  In June 2009 Trevor Alexander from Northern Ireland joined the leadership of Starfish Asia, working as co-director with Mike. Trevor was already well connected with Pakistan as he had worked with OM for two years in Karachi. He continued to work with Starfish Asia until 2012, and remains a good friend and supporter.  We began to provide scholarships for higher studies to some bright students wanting to study beyond High School. We also provided Christian libraries to several schools — and we began to discuss preparing a Bible Curriculum for Christian schools.  Sadly 2009 saw several incidents of severe discrimination and suffering — the burning of Christian homes and the murder of Christian children. Professor Kaleem reaffirmed that “only education can secure the future of the Christian community”. We had a constant stream of requests from people asking for help for their projects—some of them excellent and in serious need of help. At the same time, everywhere we went among our current projects we saw the need for investment and improvement. How hard to get the balance right!

February 2007 Extracts from the newsletter

Orphan Care Steps towards support for Abba Home Ashraf (a teacher in a Christian school) and his wife Wilma opened their hearts and their home in Lahore to give protection and care to vulnerable children in the name of the ‘Orphan Care Organization’. Here is an insight into the lives of the first three children in Abba Home.

Quality or quantity? In a land where so few receive any education at all, it is easy to assume that we cannot aim for academic quality on a low budget. We feel that has to change, even at a price.  The schools we support make their own policies, but we must examine and help raise the standards.  This means increasing teachers’ salaries when possible, and giving incentives to improve their qualifications. We have enabled this in several schools.  It means helping to improve the facilities in schools we support, such as a science lab, fans and school furniture.  Steve Curran, an authority on accelerated education in the UK, visited Starfish Asia funded schools in April to advise on improving standards.

“We have a new girl in our centre, Rashida, 6 years old, from Mian Channu. Her father died and Rashida was cared for by her aunt who could not afford food or clothing. I found this girl in a miserable situation and requested her guardians to allow me to care for her. She was glad to accept my offer. After a week Rashida started school.” “Aksa and Emmanuel are from a village. Their father works hard but earns only 1,000 rupees (£8) a month. He cannot meet the needs of his family. He has TB and his eye is damaged. His wife died when Aksa was born. We decided to support him financially that he may live a better life.”

We have been supporting Abba Home from May 2007 until today. This is Ashraf and Wilma with their first three children. Jennifer (in blue) is their own daughter.

May 2007 Extracts from the newsletter

Raising our Standards

The risk of promising a better way This was our editorial in the May 2007 newsletter. It still rings true. We take a risk every time we show interest in the lives of people in need. Somehow the news is spreading that we want to help— especially where the next generation is in danger. And we believe that is right and good. But a lot of desperate people refuse to take ‘No’ for an answer. We cannot blame them. We believe God has given us a commission to care. May is the month when schools in Pakistan take new admissions, add extra classes, open their doors to a flood of eager applicants. It is the month when new teachers have to be hired, new uniforms are required, children need new books. We have taken a colossal risk in promising to contribute if we possibly can. We feel we have no other choice.

Stephen Curran is the Director of Accelerated Education Tuition in the UK (aetuition.co.uk). He has many years of teaching experience and is a writer of educational textbooks. “I had the great privilege of visiting many schools funded by Starfish Asia over my Easter break. It was both inspiring and humbling to see teachers and children working in the most difficult of conditions. Resources are stretched to the limit and class numbers are high, but amazing things are achieved with the children. All the children come from very poor homes, many are orphans and yet they smile continuously and do everything with great enthusiasm.” ”The children who work on the brick kilns are among the poorest of the poor. The Miracle Ministries school in this community outside Lahore only opened in January 2007. The 150 children still do not all have desks—but now they all have books!” Steve has visited Pakistan many times since 2007, providing invaluable support and advice. He is now a Trustee of Starfish Asia.

August 2007 Extracts from the newsletter

If this were your school ...

How can we not be moved? Wishal is 3 years old. His parents work on a brick kiln, where the Miracle School family run a school for kiln workers’ children. Sadly Wishal developed osteomyelitis in his leg. Angela wrote to us: “His parents didn’t take his illness seriously. The doctor said his leg would have to be amputated if he was not treated quickly... On 9 August he underwent a 3-hour operation, because the poison was increasing badly. He was in great pain and couldn’t stop crying. We were there all day with his parents. Now he has plaster on his leg. The doctors said everything is fine now. After a few months he should be able to walk properly.”

By any standards the Gospel School is simple — no furniture but a blackboard and a chair for the teacher. We will have to invest to get them something better.

A very big vision... The Gospel School System is a very big name for a very simple school. The dream of two committed Christians who wanted to do something for their community. Shamshad was a pastor. He and his wife Rubina worked with the Fellowship of Christ until they married. Together they began to work with a poor community. With a few local volunteers and no other financial help, they opened a small Primary School for poor Christians on the outskirts of Lahore. Starfish Asia began to provide support in August.

December 2007 Extracts from the newsletter

Mr. Ghauri’s dream Mr. Ghauri was a teacher in a Government school for many years. On retirement he opened a private school to provide low-cost education to the poor in his Christian community. That is when he met Starfish Asia. We had selected 60 Christian children from poor homes and were looking for a school with low fees that could give them a start in life. We chose Mr. Ghauri’s school. That was in 2003.

Scared of heights? Khalida Nelson, mother to the 20 blind girls of the Ananias Home, loves to take her girls for an outing. In November we went with them to Lahore’s Gulshan Park, a fun park with a boating lake, swings and roundabouts. We began with a picnic and a short peformance from the girls. Their skits usually make gentle mockery of one another — and of us. The Punjabis have a unique sense of humour. Then they went on the fun rides, the model train (for the timid at heart) and the swinging galleon (for those not scared of heights). This is a truly special family...

The Ghauri Wisdom school at that time required very low fees (which attracted us to them), not more than £1 a month), but the school facilities were very poor — small, cramped classrooms, almost no furniture. Finally Starfish Asia helped Mr. Ghauri to rent a larger building with rooms suitable for a school. We also provided money for school furniture and increased our monthly grant, so that he could hire extra teachers and increase salaries. This was the beginning of a long relationship. We still support the Ghauri Wisdom School, now totally transformed with more than 600 students.

March 2008 Extracts from the newsletter

Never short of new ideas In 2008 Anser Javed was Adminstrator of the Holy Shepherd School in Karachi, and his wife Kashi was the principal. They were never short of fresh ideas how to improve the school, their staff and the local community.

Abba Home “My Father’s House” In 2008 Abba Home was home to 17 girls – all either orphans or from broken homes. Their goal is to prepare the girls for their place as Christians in society. “Arzoo (age 9) is an orphan from a very poor family. In a moment of desperation her father sold his kidney to make some money. The operation damaged his other kidney, and he died within a year. Arzoo’s mother re-married and the new step-father had little time for her. He would beat her, throw her out of the house, even sometimes refuse to give her food or clothing. When we found out, we brought her in Abba Home and she now attends a local Christian school.”

 Anser ran vocational courses in computing, sewing, English and beauty treatment, funded by Starfish Asia and the British Women’s Association.  He launched a 3-month adult literacy project with 12 of his teachers, studying a 12-hour course from a local agency. 270 adults attended.  He launched a savings plan for his staff, arranged health check-ups and incentives for further teacher training.  He raised local funds to ensure that all the children in his Christian colony have access to schoolbooks.  He established a Scholarship Fund to enable 11 of his graduate students to go on to further studies.

Anser and Kashi served in the Holy Shepherd School for 8 years. In 2012 they moved to Lahore and Anser became National Director of Starfish Pakistan.

June 2008 Extracts from the newsletter

The School in Blue Kaleem Dean is professor of Urdu in Forman Christian College — a leading academic institution in Lahore. He and his wife Nagina were not content to rest on their personal achievements. They were troubled and moved by the huge needs and poverty of their own community. In 2000 they launched a High School for the poor in their Christian community of Youhannabad.

Strong foundations The Pakistan Bible Society produced a beautiful, full colour illustrated Children’s Bible, suitable for Christian children at Primary School level. Though the price is highly subsidised, few can afford to buy such a treasure. In April we bought 550 copies to be given to children from poor homes who attend Starfish Asia schools. Sajida from the Life Transforming Centre wrote: “The children were very excited to have the Bibles in their hands. It is a wonderful gift.”

Since that first step of faith, CAP schools are the Community Advance tidy, disciplined Programme (CAP) has gone and decked in from strength to strength uniform blue — on a shoe string. Every oases of order time funds become avail- in a messy and able, Kaleem opens a new troubled world. project, always aimed at giving a chance to the under-privileged. CAP Primary School The Primary School is bursting at the seams and desperately short of space and furniture. Classes are divided by thin curtains—or meet in the open air for lack of room. “It is not easy to say NO to needy and deserving parents. We were compelled to take 105 children in the Junior School. Pressure is mounting to take at least 100 more children.”

September 2008 Extracts from the newsletter

The Story behind the picture Dar-ul-Hikmat High School Rak Dera Chahal (RDC) is a village on the eastern edge of Lahore. It has a mosque, a Sikh Gurudwara and a ruined church building. There is a small Christian community of very poor labourers—and a magnificent Christian High School that serves the village community.

“Sometimes the children come to school hungry” Sajida sends her van around the villages every day to bring children to the school she built in the small town of Akhtarabad. Sixty children crowd the small building, but more are on the way. Over the summer break three more classrooms have been built and the numbers will soon rise over 100. “It breaks my heart, but sometimes the children only get rice and a little ground chilli to eat at home. Some children have not eaten anything when they come to school.”

I met Tania (our cover girl) in RDC in April. She was wiping tears from her eyes because one of her friends had bullied her. I asked her why she was not in school. She replied: “We have no books.” It was a poor excuse. “We will give you books,” I said. “You need to be in school.” The RDC High School is run by Dar-ul-Hikmat (House of Wisdom), a national educational institution that serves the Christian community through three High Schools and a Teacher Training College. 360 students attend the school, of whom 120 are Christian children. Starfish Asia continued to support the school at RDC until 2017 when it was sold to new owners. Mike with Tania’s family 

December 2008 Extracts from the newsletter

Waheedabad Christian High School

Serving the Village Walter Waheed is bonded to his village in the heart of the Punjab countryside. With a diploma from the Highland Theological College in Inverness, Scotland, Walter is well qualified to teach Greek and Hebrew, but his passion is for the future of the children in his village.

just imagine... Imagine you were born in a slum… where sewage runs in the street and the rubbish lies in the open. This is your home. You’ve never seen anything else. Imagine being born in serious poverty like half the world. In a world of plenty, poverty is a scandal that should trouble everyone. But we believe the poor deserve better.

With help from his brother and other family members—and funds from Starfish Asia donors—the Christian Secondary School opened in the village in May and already 140 children are preparing for a future they had never dreamed was possible. The picture shows the school attending the morning assembly—on land where Walter is now planning to build a hospital to serve his otherwise deprived rural community

So begins the 14- minute Starfish Asia DVD:

just imagine Available on DVD from 2008, it can still be viewed at: starfishasia.com/who-we-are/ about-us/just-imagine-dvd/ “Show it to your church, to your friends, to anyone who dreams of making the world a better place for God’s children to live.”

just imagine... ... a world where children just enjoy being children ... a world that cares for the forgotten and the downtrodden ... a world where children have a future to dream about

March 2009 Extracts from the newsletter

Why aren’t the children in school?

Is there a future for Christians in Pakistan? We should not ask such a question. Of course there is a future — God has not abandoned His people. The better question is: “What kind of a future will Christians have as a minority in a state beset with such complexities?” The picture of the girl working at the brick kiln was taken by Arthur Joseph of the Miracle School Ministries. Angela Michael directs the Miracle Brick Kiln School, together with her aunt and other family members.

There are many reasons why children stay away from school, but not the reasons we sometimes expect.  Some stay away because their parents want them to go to work to bring in extra family income.  Some cannot go to school because their families are too poor to pay the fees, buy the uniforms, provide the school books.  Many parents are themselves illiterate and see no reason why their children need to learn to read.  Many Pakistani Christians stay away because they are afraid to mix with Muslim children who will mock them and pressure them to convert to Islam.  Some stay away (especially girls) because there is no school close enough to their home for them to attend.  Some never go to school because they think that education is only for the wealthy and the privileged, not for ordinary children. James Qadir and his wife, with help from Starfish Asia, opened the Light Primary School for the children of the Christian families that work at the local Brick Kiln in Sheikhupura.

June 2009

Extracts from the newsletter The Kingdom of Heaven School

The thermometer soars The thermometer has risen to 45 degrees in Lahore this summer—far beyond comfort level. No problem for those who have air conditioners. For those who have fans that beat hot air down from the ceiling it is better. But Lahore’s electricity is switched off for a third of each day. It will be a long, hot summer.


On 30th March 30 the new CAP High School building in Youhannabad was officially opened at a ceremony attended by community leaders. The 400 children who now study at this purpose-built school have for years been crowded into inadequate and cramped rented rooms. They are naturally thrilled to have their own school building. Starfish Asia supported the school until 2012. It is still open and serving the Christians of Youhannabad.

There is no space for all the 367 children who crowd the Kingdom of Heaven School. Some of the classes have to meet outside. Yes! Outside in the heat, shaded from the sun but never from the heat. The school staff have chosen to give their lives to serve the local Christian community. But it is clear that they urgently need help to provide better facilities for their children. This is Starfish Asia’s newest project. We had no choice but to offer help to a school that is doing so much, for so many, with so little. We have provided funds so they can have fans when the electricity is working. Starfish Asia still supports the Kingdom of Heaven School. Much has changed. In 2018, with funds privately raised, they built a beautiful new building — still not complete, but the 650 students now have ample space and electricty back-up.

September 2009 Extracts from the newsletter

“This was my home” The destruction of Christian homes in Korian and Gojra In the early morning of Saturday 1st August a huge crowd of angry men arrived at the small Christian village of Korian in the heart of Punjab. They were enraged by a baseless rumour that a Christian had torn up pages from the Koran. They set fire to about 50 Christian homes. No one died but the Christian colony was destroyed. From the September 2009 newsletter

Rewarded for achievement

Tariq Iqbal who runs the Sadaye Aman school in Sargodha drove to Korian on the Saturday morning to see the situation. The houses were still burning. He did not know that the mob was still moving towards Gojra and that worse was yet to come. In Gojra a riot took place in the evening of the same day. Fifty more Christian homes were destroyed. Six members of a family—and one other—were burned alive in their home.

Sehar is 15 years old and she has five brothers and sisters. Her father works as a cleaner and her mother and sister earn small salaries to help feed the family. Sehar is a strong Christian. With all the odds against her, Sehar’s heart is set on further studies. She passed her Matric exam from the Miracle School with an A grade in Science and she will receive a Starfish Asia grant to fulfil her dream of studying for her FSc (Pre-Medical) from Government Degree College, Lahore.

Many people have contributed help to those who lost everything. Starfish Asia donors provided some funds and our partners were quick to bring relief to families in need.

December 2009 Extracts from the newsletter

The sadness of the downtrodden In October 2009, two of the children of a poor Christian family were murdered in a botched robbery in a village near Lahore. We reported this tragedy in our December newsletter. Zubeida lives in the village of Su-e-Asal. Her husband Manzoor works as a labourer. Three of their children were studying at the Primary School run by Kaleem Dean and the staff of CAP Ministry.

Discrimination by Kaleem Dean Director of CAP Ministries Some Christians do indeed face blatant persecution, often due to corrupt police and an unjust legal system and sometimes due to the Blasphemy Laws. But the far greater issue that affects the majority in the Christian community is prejudice and discrimination.

“Only education, education and education can save and secure the future of our community.”

On 3rd October Zubeida’s 10 year-old daughter, Komal, stayed home to look after her 3 yearold brother Zeeshan while her parents went to work and the others went to school. The family had recently sold a buffalo and a Muslim neighbour knew that there might be money in the home. He broke in and cruelly murdered the two children. He dumped their bodies in a canal, wrapped in the seat cover of his taxi. The killer was easily identified and arrested, but he was only held by the Police for a few days before being released. He is unlikely to be charged, as there is little justice in this harsh society for poor Christians. The photo shows Kerstin meeting with Zubeida and her two remaining children.

The Starfish Asia Story Establishing and Strengthening 2010 - 2012 To this point in our history, the expansion of our work in Pakistan had still been very much controlled from the UK — with the invaluable local help of Ashley Arshad and the team at the Fellowship of Christ in Lahore, and then similar help from Pervaiz Inayat and the staff at OM Pakistan. We were also well supported by the Starfish Pakistan Board of mature and capable national Christian leaders. A people in crisis

Anser and Kashi with Dua and Amn: 2010

In Summer 2010 we headlined this: “Pakistan is a country with deep problems, its economy in collapse, prices soaring, constant power shortage, increasing poverty and daily threats from suicide bombers and street violence. A catastrophe is overtaking the next generation. Pakistan’s population has doubled in the past 30 years, half of whom cannot read or write. Millions have no access to a school.” Were we being too dramatic and critical? Maybe. But it was not far from how many people felt. We added this: “Starfish Asia is targeting this crisis.” The turning point Already in 2009 we began looking for a national Director to take the work in Pakistan forward. In the December board meeting we noted: “A Job Description for a full-time local Starfish Pakistan employee was presented.” Two people were interviewed. In February 2010 we noted: “We urgently require a full time Starfish Pakistan Rep.” Then in November 2011 Mike phoned to Anser Javed, Administrator of the Holy Shepherd Grammar School in Karachi. Anser and Kashi responded positively and Anser came to Lahore for the March 2012 Board meeting. He responded: “It is really a privilege and honour for me and my family to be considered as partnering with you to serve the Lord. Of course my heart is for the big dream.” Anser was appointed Starfish Pakistan National Director from 1st June 2012, and prepared to move with his family to Lahore. Starfish Asia (Singapore) Ltd. Another highlight of 2011 was the registration of Starfish Asia in Singapore. Geraldine Lee has been a friend of Pakistan for many years, as she had worked with OM in Lahore. She now joined the family and registered Starfish Asia as a private limited company in Singapore. It is a relationship which continues today under its Executive Committee.

March 2010 Extracts from the newsletter

The Gospel School, Bilal Town

Building at last

The end is in sight for classes in the open air, in hot weather and cold, for the students at the Gospel School. For too long Shamshad and Rubina, who lead the school and pastor the church in Bilal Town, have crowded their students into an inadequate rented building and a plot that was waiting for a building.

Changing lives Phil Whittal, a church leader from the UK, visited Karachi in January. This is from his blogsite. “I wish I went to a school with a name like Holy Shepherd Grammar School — or for that matter to one with its values and attitudes. I’m very grateful for the education I’ve received and the more I visit schools in developing countries the more grateful I become. My friend took me to visit this school on the outskirts of Karachi, which is supported by Starfish Asia. It’s a bit of a trek into a dusty, dirty, poor edge of the city, but oh my goodness was it worth it! It is no exaggeration to say that the education offered here is changing lives.”

Construction of a 2-storey school building has at last begun. Funding received so far will be sufficient for the ground floor with a multipurpose hall, toilets and four classrooms. Naturally we hope to be able to continue construction of the first floor with more classrooms and facilities. About £15,000 is needed to complete the project.

The new building was completed and opened in October 2010. The school is still running well, though supported by another Christian charity since 2018.

June 2010 Extracts from the newsletter

The Jesus touch Sajida Iqbal and her dedicated staff go the extra mile to care for their children — not only bringing them from their villages to attend school, but also visiting their homes to pray and help in practical ways. She writes:

The scourge of polio Mariam is a student at the school for the children of brick kiln workers run by CAP near Kasur. She is 7 years old, one of the fortunate ones able to go to school. Sadly, as a baby, Mariam contracted polio and she now walks with a severe limp. UNICEF reports that “regular vaccination campaigns reach 95 per cent of targeted children” but Mariam and her village were sadly among those that were missed. Adnan, who lives at the CGA Home for Special Children, uses a crutch to walk. Thanks to the care of Pastor Iqbal and the CGA family, Adnan was able to study up to class 7. He had a future to look forward to.

“Most parents care little if their children fall ill. We try to provide free check-ups and treatment. We took Adil, a student in grade 3, to a local hospital and he was diagnosed with TB. He has almost fully recovered and is doing very well in school. He was very excited when he was promoted to Grade 4. “Samina and Razia are two sisters from a village near Akhtarabad. Their mother passed away last year and about the same time their father had an accident while at work in the field. He is now unable to walk. Razia, the younger girl, was emotionally disturbed due to demons. Samina felt alone and very upset. We visited them to bring some comfort to the family. We shared the word of God and prayed with them. Both sisters came to Christ and are now walking with God. Samina is very active in the church. She has learned to read and write and can now read her Bible.” Starfish Asia supported the Life Transforming Centre until 2013.The school is now supported by another UK Trust.

September 2010 Extracts from the newsletter

Pakistan floods The Pakistan floods in late July and August 2010 led to a humanitarian disaster considered to be one of the worst in Pakistan’s history. They affected approximately 20 million people, destroyed homes, crops, and infrastructure, and left millions vulnerable to malnutrition and waterborne disease.

CAP responds to the floods The Community Advance Programme appealed to their local community to raise funds and material to help flood victims. They established a collection point on the main road to collect money from passers-by.

Ashley Arshad from FC, Lahore, wrote: “Most of the villages in that area were washed away. When we walked into the camp we saw that they had nothing left, not even blankets, bed sheets or anything. The ladies who gathered around Seema were weeping as they told her how the water came in the night when they were fast asleep. ‘We all ran for safety with our young children to higher places. We watched as everything was washed away.’” Arthur wrote from the Miracle School: “People are camping in the school. We are providing food, medicines and clothes. The water is receding day by day, but the roofs and walls of many houses have been damaged.” James Qadir from the Light School: “At Easa Nagri there is much water around two sides of our school. Water entered the classrooms and the floor has been broken. There is a danger of the class room walls falling down.“

Kaleem wrote: “In the road campaign we raised 92,000 rupees (£700), which is very encouraging for our team. The whole day we remained on the road. After this our teams will go to factories and pharmaceutical companies to collect funds, material and medicine. Any gift will be valuable.”

December 2010 Extracts from the newsletter

A statement of hope The Miracle School One year ago this was a dream. The Miracle School had to leave their rented building in the New Year. Angela, Arthur, Rubina and Edna— and their 400 children—were praying for a miracle. We are still amazed at the outpouring of generosity from many donors who made it possible for Miracle School Ministries to buy and renovate their own building. It was a privilege to celebrate with them as the building was dedicated to the glory of God.

Foundations of dignity

The Gospel School

We were privileged to witness the opening of three new school buildings in October 2010. Each had a story to tell of generosity and sacrifice. Each stood as a statement that God cares for His people.

The dedication of the new building took place in October. What a contrast to the old rented building and the open air classes meeting under canvas! New furniture has just been purchased, to the delight of children that have been used to broken chairs or sitting on the floor.

For too long Pakistan’s Christians have been resigned to their station in life as the illiterate servants of the wealthy. It should not be so!

Ghauri Wisdom High School

We are truly honoured to see the commitment and dedication of our Starfish Asia partners who are laying a foundation of Hope and Truth that will determine the future of their society.

In August Ghauri Wisdom moved into a new school building. It is not their own building, but in exchange for 5-years’ rental payment the generous landlord cleaned up the ground and constructed 8 new classrooms. They have a beautiful new school building, rent-paid for 5 years. Mr Ghauri even has an air-conditioned office.

March 2011 Extracts from the newsletter

Special care for special people Several months ago Shamshad, from the Gospel School in Bilal Town, phoned to say that Shahbaz, a severely disabled boy in his school, was being bullied at home. “When I visited him he was weeping. An older cousin sometimes beat him badly. His father is a drug addict. Shahbaz had 11 brothers and sisters but four died. His mother requested me to take care of him.”

“I will surely hear their cry” Exodus 22:22 God surely reserves a special place of affection in His heart for the weak and the vulnerable. Several Starfish Asia partners share His concern for those who are deprived, wounded or face an impossible struggle in their lives. Komal is 8 years old and is unable to walk due to polio. She lives with her parents and four siblings in a village near Lahore. Her father works for a tiny wage in a cattle farm and is trying to pay off a large debt. We provided a wheelchair for Komal. Her dream is to go to school.

“Find out what we can do and let me know,” I replied. Shamshad responded shortly with a list (with photos) of 10 disabled children, all desperate for help. What should we do? We could not afford to support another project. What did Shamshad do? He went ahead anyway and opened a very simple rented home for five disabled children. We supported the Gospel Care Centre for more than six years. Shahbaz was a true inspiration and a leader, but sadly died in a tragic motorcycle accident in 2015. The Home closed two years later.

The Gospel Care Home boys — Shahbaz is on the left in a dark shirt.

June 2011 Extracts from the newsletter

No one would guess that behind this unimpressive facade lies a success story

Under the burning summer sun As the summer temperatures have soared above 40 degrees (110ºF) in Punjab, and electricity has sometimes been off for 8 or 10 hours a day, life has been tough for the staff and children in school. This comes from Angela at the Miracle Schools in Lahore: “In the last two days two of our teachers fainted in the Miracle School and three fainted in the Brick Kiln School with the great heat here. Also many children have been vomiting and have suffered from dehydration with the heat and water infection. This month was terrible with so many sicknesses.”

The Morning Star Primary School lies at the heart of Zia Colony, a dusty slum colony in eastern Karachi. Pastor George Thomas looked after a small congregation of Pentecostal Christians meeting in a home, when he married Fehmida in 2006. She had been a Primary School teacher and this opened a new door of opportunity for their ministry in Zia Colony. The Morning Star Primary School has become a local success story with an influx of Christian children desperate for an education they can afford. They have just admitted 95 new students and are now overflowing. They have joined the queue requesting more furniture for their children.

September 2011 Extracts from the newsletter

Kingdom of Heaven School

The Matric Class of 2011

Hope for Pakistan This is a brief extract of an article by Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of Pakistan’s assassinated former Governor: The future of every country is its next generation. For a progressive, pluralistic and economically sound Pakistan to succeed, there is an urgent need to harness the potential of the youth. Pakistan has the largest number of children out of school in the world after Afghanistan. Only 23 per cent of our children under the age of 16 attend secondary school. One-third of Pakistanis have received less than two years of education. Pakistan’s young are dynamic and thirsty to learn and be involved. As patriotic citizens with a heavy stake in our nation’s stability, it is in our hands what direction our nation takes.

Rafaqat (in white shirt at the right) gained the best marks in the School. He wrote: “In our family we are seven, four brothers and one sister, and we are all studying. For about two years my dad has been suffering from hepatitis. My mother is working in a school nearby. My father is a Pastor and a painter. “Circumstances at home were critical and it was very difficult to study, but thanks be to God for the Kingdom of Heaven School that polished our skills and enabled us to stand on our feet. I want to serve God after completing my education.” Rafaqat is now on the staff of Starfish Pakistan

Nimra (age 15) passed Matric with 870 marks (A+ grade).

Dilshad (age 15) passed his Matric with 684 marks (B+ grade)

December 2011 Extracts from the newsletter

The scourge of

Dengue fever In September Pakistan’s Punjab Province was in the grip of a terrible mosquito-borne disease, Dengue fever. Over a period of about two months, many hundreds fell sick and more than 300 people died. Schools were closed for two weeks due to the disease. Many of the staff and children of our schools were affected. In September Shamshad Luka, who runs the Gospel School in Bilal Town, wrote:

Mother Nest Tina Mateen and her family have been running a daycare centre for children with special needs for several years. We provided occasional gifts and were able finally to provide regular support for their teachers’ salaries.

“Yesterday one of our school students died from dengue fever. He was in Grade 5. Lots of children are on the bed because of this fever. People cannot afford medicine. Please pray for us.” Angela from the Miracle School wrote: “The main treatment is apple juice with lemon and high protein food, milk, apples and fruits full of iron and protein. We are providing them these food supplements every day. Five children from the brick kiln school were sick; they recovered but they are still very weak. We are also giving spray and lotion to protect people against mosquitos.” With the onset of colder weather the mosquitos died and the fever has subsided.

Tina gained valuable experience from another Christian institution for 14 years before opening her own School in Lahore. With her compassion and ability, assisted by her daughter and three teachers, she relates well to about 35 special young people with a variety of physical and mental disabilities.

March 2012 Extracts from the newsletter

Hope for Karachi TIME Magazine, in its 15th January issue, called Karachi “dangerous, chaotic, ungovernable, and yet essential to global stability.“ Last year in Karachi “more than a thousand people died in ethnic turf wars.” Behind these horrific headlines live 18 million people who want to survive and live in peace.

Vocational Training Centre in Karachi In February 2012 Anser Javed signed an agreement with the Consul General of Japan in Karachi for the construction of a new Vocational Training Centre for the Christians of Mianwali Colony.

With Starfish Asia help, in 2008 land was purchased next to the Holy Shepherd School in the hope that one day a Centre could be built for skills training for Christian young people from New Mianwali Colony. That day arrived, thanks to a generous grant from the Government of Japan that provided 90% of the funding.

Saturday 7th January was a terrible night for Christians in New Mianwali Colony, Karachi. Some Christian boys were in the church. They switched on the loud speaker to play worship songs. It was the time of prayer at the local mosque, and the boys from the mosque came over and began to abuse and beat the Christians. One of the Muslims was beaten and landed in hospital. Then the Police arrived. The next day Anser met with Christian and Muslim leaders to try to resolve the conflict. “The Muslim imam said that they wanted to be at peace with the Christians: ‘Our Prophet said it is our duty to take care of minorities.’ ” A month later Anser wrote: “Yesterday evening, I had a cup of tea with the mullah. We were laughing and had a wonderful time. He said that this incident had saved us from any big trouble. I told him it is written in the Bible.”

June 2012 Extracts from the newsletter

This is their school... and they are proud of it Stephen Curran visited Pakistan at Easter. This is part of his report: In the heart of an area populated mainly by Muslims, a small Christian community struggles against the odds. The pastor opened a school for the desperately poor Christians in his church.

Anser Javed

Starfish Pakistan Director In June 2012 Anser Javed became National Director of Starfish Pakistan and, with his wife Kashi and two children, moved to Lahore to establish the national office. The Starfish Asia UK chairman, David Wright, wrote: “In every way we feel this is progress — better accountability and a stronger infrastructure. With Anser’s appointment as Starfish Pakistan Director, a lot of the authority and decision making will shift to Pakistan, while we will remain closely linked to all that is going on. “One of our great strengths is that we are still small enough to know the people we are supporting—their problems and needs. We can still help a family in difficulty or a child with polio who needs a wheel-chair. We will remain intimately close to the people we are helping.”

We stood inside a rough-hewn entrance with a brightly painted sign. This was the Mission School System—just an open space with an old tarpaulin to keep off the burning sun. Outside, dozens of children sat on the dusty ground listening to a teacher barely out of school age. She had one tiny blackboard propped up on some bricks. The children had no books and no writing implements, but this was their school and they were proud of it. The bravery and resilience of this little community and the commitment of its pastor to this work was deeply moving. I wanted them to know that Jesus cared for those whom this society had cast out, and no matter how much they were beaten down Jesus would never leave them and would come to their aid.

September 2012 Extracts from the newsletter

The Summer of Sport The 2012 Olympic games in London were an inspiration for many. We were also inspired, especially with the potential of some of our special young people. This is what we wrote: The Paralympic Games gave us a fresh insight into the potential of young men and women with physical disabilities and a passion to succeed. Starfish Asia supports four homes and schools for disabled children. We want them to have a future of real dignity and respect.

Running for Starfish Several local sporting heroes ran to raise money for Starfish Asia this summer. We applaud them! Six runners joined 25,000 others to complete the 10 km British 10K London Run, raising £3,371 for Pakistan’s children.

Jenny Brown joined 7,000 for The Great Midlands Fun Run to raise more than £1,500. Allan Grant took on The West Highland Way Race, (96 miles) followed by the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (103 km through the Alps) and raised £2,373.

The heart of a lion In June at the height of the summer heat, the children of the Gospel Care Centre took a trip to the Lahore Wild Life Park. It was the first time most of the children had ever seen lions and bears. Shahbaz, the boy with a broken body and the heart of a lion, loved the slides and the wide roads where he could run his wheelchair. The body of a champion Mehwish lives with the family of the CGA Home for Special Children. She is about 4 feet tall, just like a well-known Paralympic champion, but without the chance to demonstrate her desire to live life to the full. We want her to win gold too!

December 2012 Extracts from the newsletter

It is easy to fall in love ... Geoff Larcombe served for several years as a member of the Starfish Asia UK Board. He visited Pakistan in September 2012. He and his wife Dee worked as missionaries in India and then in pastoral ministry in the UK. In the report of his visit, he declared that his favourite school was St. Peter’s, set near the border with India in a bamboo plantation.

Looking back Did we Reach Higher in 2012?


er high in 2012






At the start of 2012 we produced a special brochure: Reaching Higher in 2012 It outlined our dreams for the year. Now it was time to look back. How did we do?

We recorded that one of our goals for 2012 was to begin to support ten more schools. We had to admit: “Other priorities and budget restrictions have made this impossible, but we have managed five.” You can see the details if you read the Newsletter at: https://starfishasia.com/assets/ SANews34.pdf

“It is easy to fall in love with St. Peter’s. It is quiet (no traffic in the village), peaceful (the gentle rustling of bamboo plants), cool (especially after September) — and the teachers are enthusiastic and appear to really care for their students. They follow the example of the Principal. Ruth clearly is happy in the village, and she loves the children. “Others included listening to the blind girls sing and play at the Ananias Home for Blind Girls in Youhannabad; seeing the enthusiasm of the girls and boys at the Brick Kiln Miracle School and being impressed by the care provided by Angela and her team. I returned to the UK with images in my mind of happy, singing children, thrilled to be at school. And of teachers who are serving with resilience and commitment.”

The Starfish Asia Story Progress and Pain 2013 - 2015 As Anser and Kashi began to take full responsibility for the work in Pakistan — schools, homes, project partners, quality control, accountability and oversight — they had much to learn. The Starfish Pakistan Board under the Chairmanship of Danishmand Wasti, was a great support for them and important policies were given new emphasis. At a conference for all project leaders in 2015, agreements were signed to maintain the highest standards of accountability and integrity. Progress and Respect

Children at the brick kiln where Shama and Shahzad were murdered in 2014.

 Accountability and “standards of conduct” were given greater emphasis.  Respect and reward for all employees and project partners was highlighted.  A scholarship scheme was launched alongside compassion for the poor.  Teachers were increasingly seen as the key leaders of the next generation. Ian and Fiona Anderson In 2014 Ian and Fiona Anderson joined Starfish Asia in the UK, with a view to long-term leadership of the charity. They brought with them many years of experience in the education sector and a strong Christian faith and commitment to serve. They moved to Edinburgh and opened the door to greater support from Scotland. It was with mutual regret, disappointment and thankfulness that they resigned in January 2017. Lights in a dark chapter There were some dark and tragic moments in these years: The murder of Shama and Shahzad, Christian workers on a brick kiln in 2014 and the suicide bombing of two churches in Youhannabad, Lahore.  In 2013 Anser entered into a partnership with a national education organisation, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA www.itacec.org/). Under their scheme for Improving Standards, ITA sent teams to assess and advise several Starfish schools.  In these years the Starfish Bible Curriculum books for primary school classes were published and distributed free to all students in Starfish-supported schools.  In 2015 we took the first steps towards a national Survey of Christian schools.

March 2013 Extracts from the newsletter

Reflections on poverty and hope Absolute poverty is a terribly ugly thing. Many of the children whom we support come from families torn apart by abuse at home, grinding poverty, drugs and debt. Life loses its meaning for those with no hope.

Poverty is not a statistic In September 2012 the DAWN newspaper wrote: A study on poverty has brought Pakistan face to face with a reality that it will find hard to accept: every third Pakistani is caught in the ‘poor’ bracket — some 58.7 million out of a total population of 180 million subsist below the poverty line.” Poverty has many faces. Mother Teresa wrote: “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.” Kerstin, who just came back from a two-week visit to Pakistan, wrote: “I am humbled by the generosity of those who have so little and yet give all they have ... “I am more than ever convinced that poverty and ignorance go hand in hand.”

Kerstin was in Pakistan this month listening to the moving stories of some of these children and talking to some of the teachers who are inspiring them. On her visit to St. Peter’s, the school at the heart of a bamboo plantation, Kerstin met Maria. She wrote about her:

Maria’s story

Maria thinks she may be 12 years old. Her mother died when she was small. Her father and an older brother work as labourers on a farm. Maria has to get up at 4 am to cook breakfast for the family. A teacher then brings her and her brother to school in his rickshaw. After school she cooks and cleans again. It is a man’s world and men do not cook or clean the house. After doing her homework she is usually not ready to go to bed until 11. It is no wonder she is not doing too well in class, but her dream is to be a police woman. She likes the uniform! And what is the reward at home for this brave girl? When I ask if she has any special fears she replies that her brother often beats her and she is afraid that nobody loves her.

June 2013

Extracts from the newsletter

Aspiring to Excellence Steve Curran again spent his Easter break in Pakistan, taking training sessions with the teachers in 11 schools. He reported:

Salomi: a teacher inspired

“There are numerous excellent examples of good teaching practice in these schools. The fact that Starfish Asia and those in leadership are now considering the quality of teaching being delivered in the classroom is a demonstration of how far things have developed. “The objective is not only to provide some kind of limited schooling for Christian children in Pakistan, but to provide an excellent educational experience for them. This is a laudable aim, to which all involved and associated with Starfish Asia aspire.”

Teaching with a passion Salomi was troubled to see how many Christian children in her area were not going to school. She began a simple class in her church, but there were difficulties and she had to close the class. Then parents began to bring their children to her home to study. Salomi’s family moved downstairs so that the first floor could be used for the school. This was in 2003. Salomi’s brother James, a tailor, helped financially — hence the school’s name: St. James Educational Foundation

our greatest asset Our teachers are our greatest asset. They can inspire or they can discourage. Sadly many of them feel under-valued. We place the highest value on our teachers. Thank God for them.

If you can read this thank your teacher!

September 2013 Extracts from the newsletter

Holy Shepherd School

Vocational Training Centre


3 201

ear 10 y

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200 3


Ch s ’ n to Pakista Our first decade

s’ s ervic e

What was it that drove us to keep going for these past ten years? What motivated people to join us in generosity and prayer? It was the stories of sadness and pain, of success and achievement, that make it all worthwhile and keep us going. it is the 6,500 stories of children and their families, their tragedies and triumphs, the exhilaration of passing exams and the determination to do better next time.

The Starfish Karachi VTC opened its doors to students in May and already has welcomed 110 students (and a further 100 joining soon) to courses ranging from sewing to beauty training, computing to electrical work. It is the fulfilment of a dream for the Christians of New Mianwali Colony. The building was funded by the Japanese Embassy. The Vocational Training Centre is supported by Starfish Asia.

Ghauri Wisdom High School Catastrophic rainfall Heavy rain in August caused extensive damage to several schools. In Ghauri Wisdom School rainwater poured in from the street and damaged a lot of classroom furniture. “Constant rain became a flood for our school because our school is below the street level. The school office floor, carpet, furniture and paintwork were badly damaged and the library cupboards, books, electric water cooler and class furniture are in a bad condition. We could not open the school in time.”

December 2013 Extracts from the newsletter

Light a candle start a fire Tina Mateen and Mother Nest

Raising standards Is it enough to get thousands of children into school? We believe the answer must be “No!” That is important but only a beginning. Our goal is to enable Christian children from the most humble homes to achieve the best results because they receive the best possible education. This requires some painful and costly changes of direction for some schools. Failing schools will need to face reality and make changes to aim higher. Aiming for higher education We have entered into a partnership with a national initiative known as the “School Assessment for School Improvement (SASI).” Already teams from SASI have done a thorough assessment of five schools supported by Starfish Pakistan.

Tina worked for several years in a school for disabled children. Gaining much from this experience and supported by family and friends, she opened her own School in a Christian community to meet the needs of children with learning difficulties. So Mother Nest was born. Tina has a small staff and is ably assisted by her husband and student daughter. They provide security and hope to about 25 day students, as well as providing support to their families. Most of the children are mentally challenged, have cerebral palsy or Downs Syndrome. One of the Mother Nest students, Neha (18), with serious learning difficulties, was recently selected to run for Pakistan at the Special Olympic Asia Pacific Games in Newcastle, Australia in December. Tina wrote on 3 December: “I’m so glad and excited to tell you that Neha has won the silver medal in the 400 metre race. She won the first silver medal for Pakistan. It is a great achievement that a Christian girl has won the silver medal.”

March 2014 Extracts from the newsletter

Books to build faith Starfish Asia’s primary concern is to equip underprivileged Christian children with an education based on faith and truth. Their leaders also need to be encouraged and inspired. Starfish Pakistan has prepared and provided books to help build those strong foundations.

The Bible curriculum

An interview with Anser and Kashi Anser, you told me in November that you enjoy your job. Why? “Yes, of course I am enjoying my job — especially touching the lives of really poor children in the villages. It is a blessing to us also when people come to us to request scholarships for further study. I enjoy helping their schools to develop. This is very satisfying.” Kashi, how involved are you in the work of Starfish? “I was very happy to get involved in some teacher training sessions with six of our schools. I was able to share my experiences in teaching. They all said this was helpful. They were happy that Starfish Pakistan is not just giving money but also helping with training.”

For three years we had worked to provide a strong Bible Curriculum for primary school classes. The books were written by Mike Wakely, then translated and published by Nirali Kitaben, a local Christian publisher in Lahore. Class textbooks in Urdu and English were at last ready and available in April (free for all Starfish Asia schools) for Classes 1 to 3, with Manuals to guide the teachers in how to teach these basic Bible lessons.

Spiritual help for teachers We also provided 300 annual subscriptions of Scripture Union daily Bible reading notes (Daily Bread), for every teacher that we support.

June 2014 Extracts from the newsletter

Committed to the future The education of girls in Pakistan is in crisis. Religious extremists are dedicated to preventing women from being educated. In 26 months (2011-2012) the Pakistan Taliban blew up 198 schools, mainly for girls. “We target schools because they are an infidel system of education,” said a spokesman.*

Power for the powerless Pakistan’s shortage of gas and electricity once again becomes critical with the approach of the summer heat. Pakistan still faces a critical power shortage and the electricity goes off for about half the day — longer in rural areas. Thanks to a significant gift from Singapore, the orphan girls of Abba Home will have fans and lights throughout the summer, due to new solar panels now installed on their roof. We have also recently provided two generators, two Uninterrupted Power Supply systems and solar panels for one more school.

Starfish Asia is committed to giving hope and a future to girls from poor families. Apart from any other consideration, it is often the girls who show the greatest promise and gain the best results in exams. * http://jinnah-institute.org/

“The World Bank tells us that the education of women is one of the most important investments a society can make, yet we know from UNESCO that in Pakistan three-quarters of girls are not in school. Two-thirds of the out-of-school children in our country are female.” “Fewer than half of Pakistani children ever complete a basic, primary school education, so over half enter adult, working life unable to read and write.” https://www.alifailaan.pk/

September 2014 Extracts from the newsletter

The Agape Home

For the vulnerable — with love “You will be happy to hear that we have started our school.” So wrote Farzana on 22nd August. She had approached us a year earlier to share her personal vision to open a school for Christian children with special needs. She had already worked in another project that we supported which had to close.

Working together: the amazing ministry of

CTTC was founded in 1900 with the vision to provide a first-class Technical and Vocational training to young men and women from lower-income homes. Located in Gujranwala, 40 miles north of Lahore, CTTC provides courses in many vocational skills. A residential hostel caters for Christian students. In 2014 Starfish Asia provided scholarships to 12 young people taking courses at CTTC.

Now at last Agape Home opened. Anser cut the ribbon to officially open the Home, in the presence of children and their grateful parents. Farzana is helped by her husband, Imran, and two staff members.

What future is there for those with special needs? Starfish Asia’s priority is the provision of education for Pakistan’s Christians. No less however has been our care for the needs of young people from dysfunctional homes, orphans, the blind and those with learning difficulties. We currently support six Homes or Schools for children with special needs, including the Agape Home.

December 2014 Extracts from the newsletter

As the old year closed... As 2014 ended, we appealed for prayer for Pakistan’s Christians. The old year closed on a dark note with the horrific murder by a violent mob of a Christian couple working on the brick kiln at Kot Radha Kishan near Lahore. In November the Christian mother Aasia Bibi began her fifth year under sentence of death for blasphemy. We appealed for special prayer for three urgent needs:

Small enough to care The story of Shania Asher Just like the importunate widow, Shania’s mother refused to take no for an answer. Because of her we provided a scholarship to enable Shania to gain her MPhil degree. She then worked for several years with a charity that supported the victims of the tragic bombing of a church in Peshawar. She wrote: “I am enjoying my work with children. Keep praying for me as life is tough in Peshawar for a single lady. I have got my MPhil transcript. This could not be possible without your support.” Shania now works with another national development organisation.

1. Prayer for Pakistan’s Christians “The Kot Radha Kishan tragedy is a black blemish on the face of Pakistan, our religion and humanity.” So wrote the Chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, representing many Muslim clerics. Pray for Pakistan’s leaders as well as the Christian minorities in these difficult times.

Khalid Shahzad, a partner with Starfish with a group of children from the Kot Radha Kishan brick kiln.

2. Support for our teachers We are convinced that school teachers are the true leaders of society. We want to invest more in them, giving them proper salaries, due respect and motivation for the task. 3. Books for 7,000 students In February we will transmit funds to cover the cost of school books for 7,000 students. It is a small price to ensure that every student has the materials for the coming year of study.

March 2015 Extracts from the newsletter

New Life in Sahiwal In 2008 Mrs Kishwar Emmanuel had some vivid dreams. In one of them she saw local children wasting their lives, hurting birds and throwing stones aimlessly into a pond. Then she saw many flowers and knew that these represented the children. She sensed that God’s hand was on the flowers, taking care of them. In her dream she prayed they would have a future: an education and a good life.

lation Pakistan's popu ecome b ay m explosion ry a threat to the veation n e th of existence

With the full support of her family she opened the New Life School in her home in the village. Mehtab, her son who now directs the school, told us: “My mother works hard to spread the light of education, because in this area there is no church and no education for our young people.”

DAWN: February 2015 The fact that there will be 342 million people in Pakistan by 2050 is giving many people sleepless nights. For years now, demographers have been trying to get the attention of the policy makers, showing them that Pakistan needs to slow population growth. Today, the signs are all over — perpetual power outages, current petrol imbroglio, 25 million outof-school kids, and polio cases through the roof... Unless the government invests in the young (approximately 56 per cent of the population in 2014) they may become a threat to the very existence of the nation.

They appealed for help to Starfish Asia and in 2014 we finally began to provide scholarships, to bring in more Christian children who could not afford to pay the fees. Mehtab wrote later: “Six more Christian kids got admission to our school. We had only 24 Christian children, but with your support now we have 51 Christian kids. Four are from one family. Their father met an accident and now works to clean the irrigation canals that water the fields.”

June 2015 Extracts from the newsletter

Sunday 15th March 2015 The girls at Abba Home were playing in the courtyard at their house in Youhannabad. It was Sunday morning, the weather was cool and sunny. From across the road came the sounds of worship from St. John’s Catholic Church.

That memorable day It was a terrible day for Christians in Lahore. As the Sunday morning services were drawing to a close in the two largest churches in Youhannabad, young men wearing suicide vests blew themselves up outside the church gates. 15 people were killed. For two days after Easter the staff and project leaders of Starfish Pakistan met together to affirm our commitment to the poor and our common faith in Christ. We spent time in prayer for the church in light of the recent tragic events so close to the Conference Centre.

Suddenly their peace was disturbed by what sounded like fireworks, followed by a loud bang. There were screams and pieces of debris, dust and small fragments of bloody flesh flew over the gate and into the courtyard. The girls ran screaming into their dormitory, traumatised by what had happened outside their Home. Ashraf and Wilma, who are parents to the 30 girls, did their best to comfort them.

In honour of those who died

Akash Bashir was a student of Ghauri Wisdom High School, just 100 yards away from St. John’s Church. On 15 March he was acting as a security guard at the church. When the suicide bomber attempted to climb over the gate Akash grabbed him and refused to let go. He died when the bomber blew himself up. Jahanzaib Ghauri, Principal of the school, said of him: “We want to pay homage to that witty and brave young boy. He forfeited his life for the hundreds of worshipers. He was a good and faithful student. His parents were also happy with him. We are proud of him.”

September 2015 Extracts from the newsletter

The Great Christian Schools Survey Asking Questions – Finding Answers We were planning to launch a project in October which we hoped would answer many of the questions we had about the state of education for Pakistan’s Christians.

Community harmony

at the Holy Shepherd School 30th August was a significant day at the Holy Shepherd School in Karachi. The school opened its doors to welcome local leaders from both the Christian and Muslim communities. About 50 attended the meeting, which was planned and organised by the school. Anser came from Lahore to attend the function. Moulana Furqan, in charge of a local mosque, spoke of our essential brotherhood emphasized by the Holy Qur’an. Anser followed, sharing the commandment from the Gospels to love our neighbour. Lunch was then served to all.

Up to now we had been shooting in the dark — picking up Starfish whenever they landed at our feet. In the coming months we hoped to have verifiable data to show us the extent and the location of the need.  Where are the schools (and how many are there) that are accessible and open to low-income Christians?  Where are Christian communities that have no access to suitable schools?  What special problems and needs face Christians in their search for dignity, faith and education? We had identified 21 of Pakistani Punjab’s 36 Districts with sizeable Christian populations. They would be the focus for research teams.

The 36 Districts of Punjab the Districts n shows that have significant

Christian communities

We expected to find and survey about 3 - 500 schools run by Christians for Christians. We expected to find that most of them were in urgent need of help.

December 2015 Extracts from the newsletter

“God has plans for Max ...” Fiona was in Pakistan in October, visiting schools and meeting school teachers and young people with ambition and hope for their future.

A shining light in a dark world In 2015 Sunita (our cover girl) was 14 years old. She came from a village in central Punjab. Her father was unable to work and her mother laboured in the fields to support the family. Sunita’s two brothers were able to travel and so attended school in the city, but being a girl she could not go so far by public transport. In 2012 she was invited to join the girls at the HERF Hostel for girls from disadvantaged and poor homes. A light came on in her life. Sunita joined the Nursery Class at the age of 11 but she was thrilled to be able to study at last. Sunita left the Home in 2017 and sadly she died at the age of 19 in January 2020

Tariq and Huma run Calvary Model School in Karachi, a Secondary School with more than 300 students. It serves Christians in a very rundown industrial area.

“I don’t know why Max caught my attention. He was quiet, unexceptional, earnest. Tariq and Huma had noticed him too, on the streets near their school. They encouraged him to come to classes. When he appeared one day, they gave him a book bag and helped him with a uniform. “Max’s mother is dead, his father busy working, and so he is cared for by his grandmother. I catch a glimpse of him standing in class and reading aloud. At the end of the morning session he does not leave with the tide of other children. He stays to do his homework and to help around the school during the afternoon shift. As we leave he escorts us to the car with quiet courtesy, serious but with the flicker of a smile.”

“God has plans for Max — and indeed for each one of the children in our schools. At one level the odds seem stacked against so many of them. Families struggle to make ends meet and children are often forced to work. Money and opportunities are tight. What will the future hold for Max?”

The Starfish Asia Story The 2016 Schools Survey 2016 - 2018 The Christian Schools Survey The thought of conducting a survey came to us in a meeting organised in the Serena Hotel in Islamabad to discuss funding for low-cost schools. The whole discussion revolved around a survey, and we began to think: “What benefit we could gain if we had such evidence — giving us a reliable demonstration of the crisis facing Pakistan’s poorest Christians!” The Survey, covering 21 districts of Punjab and Karachi, took place for three months in late 2015. Teams went out, first of all looking for schools that matched our survey criteria, and then filling a questionnaire. We were all surprised when they returned with 604 acceptable forms. These were then collated by a professional team from ITA (who also conduct an annual survey of education: http://aserpakistan.org/). The results were finally published in mid-2016. See them at www.starfishasia.com/resources/ Implementing the Survey The implications of the Survey were far-reaching: Hundreds of schools with untrained teachers poorly paid, no books, no toilets, no drinking water, no electricity. We had to take action, while realising that we cannot do everything. Many of the initiatives taken in following years are a response to the discoveries of the Survey.

Surveyed: 604 schools 85,000 children 4200 teachers

Survey initiatives  The Association of Teachers was launched in 2016, together with a quarterly magazine for Christian teachers called Uraan (Inspire!), edited by Kashi. The Association sadly never took off. The magazine closed after six excellent issues.  Training for teachers became a major emphasis, with regular training seminars mostly led by Kashi, and highlighted by summer training in the cool Murree Hills.  The five books of the Bible Curriculum for primary classes were completed in English and Urdu and came into regular use in about 100 schools.  Special events to promote confidence and hope among Christians from poor homes became a highlight, together with scholarships for ambitious students.

March 2016 Extracts from the newsletter

To inspire a generation In February Starfish Asia arranged four days of training for head teachers from 30 Christian schools. They came from many parts of the country — some from small primary schools in brick kiln communities, some leading a team of teachers in city slums. All were committed to aim higher and to improve their teaching skills.

Security alerts! Since the massacre at the Bacha Khan University in January, in which 22 people died, the federal authorities are demanding greater security for all schools and colleges. In addition to razor wire and CCTV cameras, schools are now required to have two guards with guns. The Punjab Police have rated two village schools supported by us in the highest risk category.

This is the gun licence granted to one city school that we support. Here is our dilemma: Should we provide funds for guns, armed guards and sand-bags? Several schools in Punjab have been suspended for lack of adequate security. This is Pakistan today.

These leaders were taking the lessons they learned back to their schools to inspire their fellow teachers with new ideas and higher ambitions. Steve Curran has been to Pakistan many times. Again in February he came to teach, advise and bless our schools. Steve wrote: “I was privileged to attend the 4-day teacher training conference for head teachers from Starfish Asia schools. The excellent national educational initiative, the Institute of Professional Learning, was engaged to lead the programme, which they did extremely well. Lectures were carefully balanced with interactive tasks and group work. Kasim (one of the course leaders), was outstanding in his delivery. It was obvious that, as well as learning how to run a school, everyone had a great deal of fun.”

June 2016 Extracts from the newsletter

In shared grief with the victims of the bomb blast on

Easter Day 2016

An organization in India, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, works to build bridges between schools in India and Pakistan. After the tragic Easter Day bombing that killed 73 people in an amusement park in Lahore, a school in Mumbai sent friendship cards to the students of the Ghauri Wisdom High School, which is supported by Starfish Asia.

The sad life of brick kiln workers Pakistan’s brick makers live a hard life with few rewards. Many of them are Christians and among the poorest of the poor. Brick kiln workers labour for up to 12 hours a day, often in the blazing sun. A family, including the children, can make 1,000 bricks on a good day, for which they are paid about £4 or US $6. When it rains they cannot work and so earn nothing. That is when the kiln owners advance loans at exorbitant interest, thus enslaving the workers by a debt that can take many years to repay.

At school, the privileged few

An Indian daily newspaper, The Hindu, reported the event: To Lahore with Love In a heartening gesture of "Divided by solidarity, 40 students from countries ... Class 7 of Mumbai’s Ecole United by peace. Mondiale World School, You are not alone." gathered to make cards to be sent to Ghauri Wisdom High School in Youhanabad, one of the Christian neighbourhoods affected by the suicide bombing in Lahore on Easter Sunday. The students wrote messages of strength and support for the friends, family, and teachers of Sharoon Patras, a Class 7 student from Ghauri Wisdom High School who died in the attack at Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park during the celebrations. His elder brother, Irfan Patras, a Class 8 student, was severely injured.

September 2016 Extracts from the newsletter

600 schools and 85,000 children Initial results from the Christian Schools’ Survey The final report of the Christian Schools’ Survey was due to be published in September, but first results were emerging. No such survey had ever been conducted before and the results provide a unique insight into the state of education for Pakistan’s poorest Christians. Pakistan’s Christians are a poor community.  We only surveyed schools that are free and

The excitement of success! The summer of 2016 was full of good news, which we can only summarise here:  Congratulations to every one of the 71 successful students from schools we support — especially to those who have gained an A or a B in their results.  At a ceremony held in August, Starfish Pakistan recognised the achievement of Christian students who had gained the highest marks in their Matric exams. Sixty students qualified for the award.  In June Starfish Pakistan held a training conference for teachers in the Murree hills in northern Pakistan. 75 teachers from 23 Christian schools attended.

accessible to the poor or charge a small fee.

Christians face discrimination  Pakistan’s and many are afraid to send their children

to Government schools. We only surveyed schools where Christians are welcome.

This was a foretaste of what the Survey reveals:

 Of the 85,000 children in these 604 schools, 75,000 are from nominally Christian homes.

 They are taught by 3,700 Christian teachers.  81% of the teachers have no teaching qualification.

 More than 90% of the schools teach the Bible.

The Survey teams

The full survey is available at: www.starfishasia.com/resources/ christian-schools-survey-2016/

December 2016 Extracts from the newsletter

Overwhelmed by Opportunities We have many hopes, dreams and ambitious plans for the coming year. These have only increased since the publication of our Survey Report, For a Better World. With the results of the Survey, we now hold contact details for almost 700 schools. This presents us with an opportunity to make a huge difference to the lives of the next generation of Christians. Here is how we are responding:

Anser in Scotland Anser Javed, Director of Starfish Pakistan, visited Britain at the end of October for three weeks, at the invitation of Mr. James Dornan, MSP and Co-convener of the Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Pakistan. Anser spoke at a meeting in the Parliament building to introduce the work of Starfish Asia in Scotland.

The Christian Teachers’ Magazine A 16-page magazine in Urdu, sent to all the schools on our Survey list in December, provides teachers with some essential guides to better teaching skills, and also serves to bring a sense of the significance of their service to the Christian community. School text books According to the Survey results, several thousand children have no text books. Can you imagine the standard of learning with no access to books? We can make a difference!

“My first meeting was at the Scottish Parliament. I’m still telling people about it! This former sweeper speaking at the Scottish Parliament! I was really proud that I could tell people about the difference Starfish Asia is making and how education can change lives.”

March 2017 Extracts from the newsletter

Surely, these are the people we must help! Naseeb at the Right Way School is the sort of person we love to help. Capable and compassionate — not waiting for funds before stepping out in faith.

The Big Question We asked a question to some of the schools in the Survey: Why do so many students drop out of school? This was not part of the formal Survey, but still revealing and helpful. Here are the main reasons we were given: 1. Lack of interest by parents: 72% 2. Lack of student motivation: 48% 3. Poor school facilities: 28% Inspired teachers will result in inspired students — and parents willing to support and encourage their children to study. It is a hard battle in a minority community that has lost its ambition.

She charges a basic fee at her school, the sort of fee that most families can afford: about 40 pence a month (US 50 cents). This brings in £27 / $35 each month, to which she adds her pocket money. This is the monthly school income from which she pays the rent and the salaries of the teachers. Hard to believe — but sadly true in many Christian schools. Anser promised to provide Bible Curriculum books and school text books for the children. He will also provide a scholarship for Naseeb and one other teacher for further studies. He added: “I would also like to give them £400 / $500 and monthly support, so that the teachers can be paid a reasonable salary.” The Christian Schools Survey reveals:     

200 schools with no classroom furniture 60 schools with no blackboard 80 schools with no toilet 133 schools with no clean drinking water 520 schools with no electricity backup

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchill

June 2017

Extracts from the newsletter

Parents: the keys to children’s futures In March many schools hold special ceremonies to reward their students for success and achievement. They receive certificates, shiny cups or books that affirm and inspire them. It motivates the children to aim higher.

“I wish every girl could study...”

Rimsha Bashir gave a passionate appeal to the students at the Holy Shepherd School Results Day. “I belong to a poor family. Whatever I am today is because of my father, my teachers and Starfish Pakistan. They helped me study so that I could achieve something with my life. I am now in my second year of study in nursing. “My father is a sanitary worker in the hospital where I am studying. I wish every girl could study like me. Today I say to you girls: ‘Do not sit at home. If you want to be a doctor or, like me, you want to be a nurse, you can.’ Go out and be a light to Pakistan.“

It was especially heart-warming at the Results Ceremony in the Holy Shepherd School when the parents were also called to the stage to receive applause for their part in their children’s successes. The school went a step further. They gave special awards to “Outstanding Parents”.

Many parents from poor Christian families are illiterate, as they have never had the opportunity to study. Some regret that and want a better future for their children. Sadly, others see no value in education and hold back their children’s progress — or even send them to work to boost their meagre family income. The keys to a successful student often lie in the heart of a motivated and ambitious parent. They deserve their rewards!

The 2016 Survey Report revealed that "by far the most common reason that students drop out of school is lack of parental motivation."

September 2017 Extracts from the newsletter

Training for teachers

Murree, Pakistan: June 2017 These are some of our heroes — the ones on the frontline who are preparing and equipping the young people who will be tomorrow’s church in Pakistan. It was our privilege to host 105 teachers in the cool of the Murree Hills in northern Pakistan for four 3-day workshops that aimed to inspire as well as improve the teachers’ skills.

“No backward looks... Seize the day.” (Luke 9:62 The Message) The Survey has given us a database of 600 schools, run by Christians mainly for Christians. The challenge now was how to help these schools raise their standards. Majid and a small team set out to bring immediate support:  Offering to invite their teachers for training seminars.  Ensuring that teachers receive the Christian teachers’ magazine.  Providing Bible Curriculum books free for primary school students.  Offering to repair or provide washrooms for schools that have no toilet. We also offered desks and blackboards.

Steve Curran commented: “My visit to Murree was inspirational. The programme for teacher training was ambitious and thorough.” Kashi Javed: “I had such an amazing experience. Many had a heart for learning. My heart cried when they shared that for many years they had been teaching without any idea how to do it.”

Here are some of the teachers’ comments: “I have learned the amazing skills of lesson planning and lesson delivery.” (Zeshan) “I have learned how children can learn through playing and having fun.” “Our small school cannot think to send teachers for training. We can not afford the expenses. We feel proud to be a part of Starfish.” (Kaneez) “In my 16 years of teaching I have never experienced studying or learning with Christian teachers. Thank you Starfish.” (Allah Dittah)

December 2017 Extracts from the newsletter

From Singapore with love With a special focus on the training of teachers, in October Geraldine Lee came from Singapore, where she leads the work of Starfish Asia. Working very closely alongside Kashi, she led three teachers' workshops, raising standards and inspiring enthusiasm.

A look back at

2017 in numbers  We have provided regular support to 33 schools: * 9 Primary schools * 24 Middle or High Schools  7,000 students attend these schools.  77 students passed their Matric exam from our schools (25 with A or B grade).  We have supported 7 homes and centres for orphaned, disabled or disadvantaged Christian children.  191 teachers have attended training workshops.  We have given material help, books, furniture or teacher training to 27 other schools.  We have given scholarships to 130 young people for further study or vocational training.

"Kashi and I were able to conduct three 3-day workshops on Early Math and Lesson Planning in Lahore, Gujranwala and Karachi. Anser also contributed a valuable session on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (SWOT). 90 teachers come from 20 Christian schools. "It has been especially encouraging to hear from some of the teachers that they have been able to put the lessons they learned into practice. Kashi now plans to conduct the same workshops for more teachers."

The Star School Programme To standardise improvements, we launched a “Model School” standard, aiming at certain levels of excellence for all schools that we support. This was our ambition also for all schools, such as the New Life School (below), to work with them to achieve a level of “Model School Excellence” (now called “Star Schools”).

2017  2021 

March 2018 Extracts from the newsletter

A week in the life of

Anser and Kashi On a cold and foggy day in mid-January Anser and Kashi left Lahore and headed north towards Gujranwala and Narowal to spend a few days visiting schools. Their aim was to call on several that we have come to know about as a result of the Christian Schools Survey.

Joining hands

“Rising Star is a village school that we have supported since 2016. It now serves more than 100 students in a rented building. Kashi sat for a while with their teachers and shared a few more ideas about better teaching practice...

5 churches : 7 schools In 2017 five churches in Somerset set out together to raise £1,500 to equip three poor Christian schools in Pakistan. With great initiative and hard work they raised more than £3,000 — enough to help seven schools.     

A pancake party Concert with piano and organ Smarties tubes Sponsored walk A Barbeque ... and much more

The funds all went to Pakistan to provide furniture, electricity backup, windows and doors in seven low-income schools.

“We gave the children in classes 3 to 5 a coloured book of daily Bible readings. We gave New Testaments with both English and Urdu text to students in classes 6 to 8. To the teachers we gave a full Bible. We gave away about 200 Bibles to several schools. “Our visit was significant to build relationships and find out where and whether we can help. We made sure that all schools know of our offer to give the Class 1-5 Bible Curriculum to them free of cost for the new school year. We also made sure they were receiving Uraan, the Christian teachers’ magazine. In one school the Principal said that they had arranged teachers’ training and he prepared his lectures from Uraan magazine — encouraging! “

June 2018 Extracts from the newsletter

Dignity and Hope for those with special needs

A large banner hangs on the wall of the Agape Home

Azra is severely disabled and yet is a gifted and creative artist. She attends the Agape Home day-care centre for Special Children in Lahore where she receives the loving care of Farzana Imran and her dedicated staff. In February Azra submitted a painting to the Toyota Dream Car Art Contest, a national competition run by Toyota Pakistan. Her picture won Third Prize. Congratulations, Azra! Farzana wrote: “When Azra received her award she began to cry. It is all about our Team work. Runner-up prizes were also presented to two other students, Ashban and Umair.” As summer heat increased in May and the temperature soared, the Toyota Company gave a gift of an air cooler to Agape Home. Agape Home is one of six Homes and Centres supported by Starfish Asia for orphans, children with special needs and children from dysfunctional or disadvantaged families.

September 2018 Extracts from the newsletter

School dropouts

Addressing the tragedy National statistics indicate that only 50% of the children who start school in class 1 move on to Secondary School. Only 10% (or fewer) reach their Matriculation exam in Class 10. Alif Ailaan, a national think-tank, summarised the crisis:

The will to succeed This year we provided some small fee scholarships to enable students to complete their final exams. “My name is Daud Raza from Dawood Grammar School. I scored 73% in my Matric exams. My parents are teachers. Their income is low. Starfish helped me cover the cost of the exam Board fee. I am very thankful to Starfish Pakistan for this step to support students like me.” Komal is a student at the Holy Shepherd School, Karachi. Her father is a low-paid sanitary worker. Starfish Pakistan heard his plea to pay the exam fee. “I am not able to pay the exam fee for my daughter. Please help me. I don’t want to stop Komal’s education.” Komal said: “I will work hard and hope to be a doctor one day.”

“Fewer than half of Pakistani children ever complete a basic primary school education... For every four primary schools in Pakistan, there is only one school above primary level... Most children who pass Class 5 do not have schools to continue their education.” There are many reasons why children drop out of school. We are focusing on strategies to engage parents and help them understand the benefits of education, including a way out of extreme poverty for the whole family. This is in addition to our ongoing work to train, motivate and reward teachers adequately, which also has an impact on pupils staying longer in school.

In July Anser arranged a consultation to address the issue. Principals and teachers from 19 schools spent a day assessing reasons why children drop out of school. They began to look at ways to keep them in school up to their Matric exam. This is a work in progress. The hard task is to implement ideas and see real change.

December 2018 Extracts from the newsletter

Education with value

Bringing Christ into the classroom The Bible Curriculum:

The Hope School, Karachi

In most Christian schools in Pakistan the day begins with a Bible lesson. In 2009, urged on by local publishers, Nirali Kitaben, Starfish Asia began preparation of a Bible course for primary school classes. Book 5 was completed and published in 2016 bringing the project to completion. Now we are working on a Bible curriculum book for Classes 6-8.

Sitara was a student at the Holy Shepherd School in Karachi when Starfish Asia first began to support the school. We wrote about her in December 2004: “Sitara’s ambition is to become a teacher, but she had to quit her education as the family could no longer afford her schooling.” Faisal was a teacher in the Holy Shepherd School. He married Sitara and they opened their own school. The Hope School grew to 400 students, now supported by Starfish Asia. Sitara and Faisal are back where they began, equipping Christian children for the future.

Bibles for students: Urdu Bibles are presented to senior students and Children’s Bibles to younger pupils. Students who had excelled in their Matriculation Exam received a beautiful Bible Encyclopedia published by the Pakistan Bible Society.

Inspiration for teachers:

2004  2018 

One school head wrote: “The teachers are very excited about the new curriculum. The class 4 teacher shared that 60% of the class 4 book is totally new for him!” The Christian Teachers’ magazine also contains a regular Bible study.

The Starfish Asia Story Transition and Change 2019 - 2021 As 2019 dawned the world had no idea what was waiting in the coming months. Nor did we know in Starfish Asia. It was a time of upheaval and change for many, as well as us. The changes were multiple, and included the worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we (Mike and Kerstin) were nearing our 80’s, we knew that transition was on the horizon, but many other changes awaited us. Transition  In early 2019 the Starfish Asia UK Board began the process of finding a successor to lead the charity into the future. In July, Duncan Stonehouse, an experienced businessman and committed Christian, was confirmed as CEO in February 2020. Regrettably and after much heart-searching by us all, he resigned in July 2020.  In late 2019 the Government of Pakistan Economic Affairs Division imposed a ban on the import of foreign funds, and all NGOs were required to register. Starfish Pakistan (along with hundreds of other organisations) immediately applied, and we happily signed our MOU with the EAD in mid-2020. Crisis averted!  In early 2020 Coronavirus arrived and the world changed. Schools closed and therefore received no fee income. Travel was halted. We continued to provide funds for teachers’ salaries and school rent and launched an appeal for money for food. Food parcels were provided to about 1,600 families for several months.  Then, to our surprise, in March 2021 Anser and Kashi resigned from Starfish Pakistan after nine years of quality leadership, during which they established and built the work with integrity and commitment. We were delighted to welcome Danishmand and Jasmine Wasti to take their place in leadership, supported by a capable office team and a Board of national Christian leaders.  Not least, we also sensed God’s good hand upon us with the appointment in September 2021 of Rob Bavington as Chief Executive Officer to lead the charity into the future, also supported by staff and a strong Board of committed Christians.  Mags Robson served faithfully for three years as UK-based Adminstrator, working alongside Kerstin. She retired in 2020 for family reasons and we welcomed Liz Ellis, who has inspired us all with her willingness to take over her multiple responsibilities.

March 2019 Extracts from the newsletter

Four walls with the future inside On the outskirts of Islamabad is a community of Christians in a suburban slum called Rimsha Colony. It is home to several hundred poor Christian labourers and domestic workers.

There’s more to school than books and exams End of term, ready for the Christmas break! Nine enthusiastic teams, 6 boys’ and 3 girls’ teams, all from Starfish-supported schools, met for a day of cricket at St. Anthony’s School. Excitement ran high. The Inter-schools tournament was inaugurated by the Principal, who welcomed the teams and ensured that they all had a great day. There were no losers on this day. Everyone won applause. The Boys’ cup went to Ghauri Wisdom High School who beat the Kingdom of Heaven in an exciting final. The Amazing Grace team won the Girls’ trophy. There’s more to school than study!

In 2018 a group of British parliamentarians visited the colony. Jim Shannon, a Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland, was deeply moved by the plight of the Christians in Rimsha Colony. We met Jim in October and promised to visit them to see what we could do to help. Anser and Mike visited the Colony in February. We went door to door looking for Christian schools. There were many small churches but, so it seemed, no school where children could study with the security of Christian values. That was until an old man came up to us, hugged us and told us to go through a nearby door. We did. Inside were 11 children on the ground with books — a school! It was a “God moment”. We met Mrs Sweeta, a teacher with a “passion for education”. She was eager to open a school for the Christians of Rimsha Colony. We now support the 70 Christian children at Risen Hope School, Rimsha Colony, Islamabad

June 2019 Extracts from the newsletter

A picture speaks louder than a thousand words Our cover photo speaks volumes about the aims and dreams of Starfish Asia. Our aim is to enable thousands of Christian children to be freed from poverty and our dream is to watch them develop, grow up and begin to support their families and their community.

The Annual Inter-school Speech Competition

Can they do this just with Maths, Urdu and Social Studies? No! They must have much more: faith and confidence as followers of Christ and pride in their identity and their country.

Saturday 4th May was the Day of the annual Speech Competition, arranged by Starfish Pakistan to give 25 schools the opportunity to enjoy a celebration of their abilities. 33 students were given three minutes each to give a speech on a set topic — and were judged on their content, style and presentation by a 4-person panel. The First Prize for Seniors was given to Arooj Patris from Ghauri Wisdom School. First Prize for Juniors to Noman Marcus from St. Peters.

The Right Way School Both these photos were taken at the Right Way School in the village of Kalokey. The Right Way School is run by a farmer’s daughter with a passion for education for her rural Christian community (see March 2017). Naseeb now has more than 100 students — excited to receive books for the coming school year. School textbooks given in March 2019 11,720 sets of books 81 schools 58,000 books Bible Curriculum books for primary classes 8,683 books 115 schools

September 2019 Extracts from the newsletter

Addressing a scandal I (Mike) recently had a text conversation with a school principal, working in a village north of Lahore. He is a committed Christian who has studied in Korea and returned to his home village to serve as a pastor and school head. Sosthenes has a special passion to provide a good education to the Christian girls in his village. This was our conversation:

We must address two big questions: 1. Why are there so few students in Class 10, when there are thousands in primary school? 2. Why did so many students fail in science and maths? EDKASA is a local initiative that aims to assist teachers in secondary schools like ours. They focus on the teaching of science and maths for higher classes, providing a wireless projector and internet connection to each school. Anser signed a contract to provide their services to 13 Starfish Asia schools. See: www.edkasa.com

Sosthenes: Hello Brother Mike. Thank you for supporting our school with windows, doors and electricity. Your encouragement gave me strength to work more for my community. Mike: How were your Matric results this year? Sosthenes: It was very poor. Only one student got through. For me it is a big challenge. My students can’t pay fees, so it is very hard for me to hire good teachers. Mike: Which subjects did they fail? Science? Sosthenes: Chemistry. All passed in English. Mike: Are more qualified teachers available in your area? What salary would they need? Sosthenes: They demand 5,000 rupees (£26 a month) or more. Mike: What do you pay now? Sosthenes: Rs.2,500 (£13 a month). Mike: That is a scandal. Can we help? Sosthenes: I don’t understand “scandal”. Mike: Scandal means that £13 is bad news — far too little for qualified, capable teachers. Address the scandal: Four teachers from Sosthenes’ school attended the training workshops in the summer. We agreed to support the school regularly and increase the teachers’ salaries.

December 2019 Extracts from the newsletter

My first visit to Pakistan Duncan Stonehouse Life in a Basti…

“Thank you, Starfish!”

It was my first time in Pakistan, and I really wanted to understand what it is like to live in a slum or Basti. Zafar took me to visit a home where 5 people live, all in a room the size of a typical UK living room, without a kitchen, with shared beds and an outside toilet shared with another family. It was pretty grim, and this was one of the better ones I saw, as it had sewers, rather than open sewage channels running alongside the houses in other places.

Sheeza Shahzad scored more than 90% marks in her Matric exams this year. She came to the Starfish Pakistan Outstanding Achievement Award programme in Lahore to receive her award and cash prize. She said: “When I was in my primary class my school (Dar-ul Hikmat, RDC) was struggling financially. It was Starfish Asia that rescued my school 10 years ago. I have no words to say thanks to Starfish. “If my school had not been rescued, I would have not been able to reach this stage.”

1,000 bricks a day Ever wondered what it is like to do the same thing 1,000 times a day, every day, and only get paid around £4 a day for it? This is what it is like for this Christian family that I visited on a brick kiln near Lahore. Starfish Asia supports a number of schools at the heart of these communities, including the Tahir Model and Ambrose Schools in Sheikhupura.

March 2020 Extracts from the newsletter

The legacy of Dr. and Mrs. Stuntz In 1920 Methodist missionaries purchased land close to Khanewal in Punjab. Dr. and Mrs. Clyde Stuntz, American missionaries from Ohio, established a colony of Christians, who in gratitude named their village Stuntzabad. About 20,000 people now live in Stuntzabad, mostly Christian farm labourers.

Laying stronger foundations In February 2019 Starfish Pakistan launched a programme in partnership with the Lahore-based Open Theological Seminary to arrange Bible study groups for teachers. OTS provides a 3-year Bible course. For two years 25 Starfish-supported schools and 250 teachers held weekly Bible studies with a trained tutor, overseen by Walter Waheed. “These studies are very helpful for us. If the teacher understands her faith, then she is better able to teach the Bible to her students.” (A teacher from Mission School)

In recent years the community has declined as many have moved away. St.Paul’s School was founded in 1980 by the Gospel Baptist Church. It has its own compound and buildings, but they fell into disrepair due to a lack of funding. A new Principal, Shamaun, was appointed in 2008. He renewed the vision for the school, but after ten years of struggle, it was again on the point of closure. This is where Starfish Asia stepped in, providing funds to repair the classrooms and toilets, paint the school and provide regular support for salaries. Shamaum was both relieved and grateful. “Our school was always known as a good educator, but through these measures the school has improved and it is getting stronger.” School attendance has increased to 160, with a plan to increase up to 250, with some coming from nearby villages.

June 2020 Extracts from the newsletter

The COVID-19 Crisis Celebrating our partners on the Front Line Our Project Leaders in Pakistan are the beating heart of all we do. As society closed down and many suffered, we celebrated their dedication. In Pakistan more people suffered from hunger than from disease. Our Project Leaders were able to bring immediate help to some of the most needy among the parents of children in their schools. In response to a special Appeal, Starfish Pakistan provided funds to 61 schools, sufficient to give rations or cash to more than 1,500 families. Naseeb (Right Way School, Kalokey) “Razia’s husband died two years ago. She has a sister, who is paralysed, and six children. She is from Kalokey village. She has no source of money due to Corona virus, but we were able to provide some rations so that her family can eat well. This is a very poor and needy family.” Sumeira (New Life School, Bahawalpur) Babar Masih is a rickshaw driver. His children attend the New Life School. Due to the lockdown, he could not support his family. “I have five daughters and a wife to look after. Since 16th March I am sitting at home and unable to earn. New Life School has provided me food.” Mehtab (New LIfe School, near Sahiwal) “Today Mehtab came to our home with a bag of rations for our family, “ said Shehnaz. “We are thankful to him.” Her husband is a labourer and drug addict, who now has no work. Mehtab runs the New Life School in village 65/5-L, near Sahiwal.

September 2020 Extracts from the newsletter

We are proud to have played our part On 17th August, DAWN newspaper published this summary of the COVID-19 crisis:

Working with the Lock-down Kashi summarised how she managed life under the lockdown: “Many of our schools have been working hard, preparing their own work sheets, calling students and going to their homes. Carol from Green Field School in Multan called her students to her home every day. They covered most of the syllabus. “We met regularly with our eightmember coordinating team in Lahore. Nabila from the School of Hope in Faisalabad called her teachers and arranged two classes every day three days a week. Danish in Karachi organised classes online. We have a WhatsApp group with several teachers to discuss how to re-open the schools. I am so happy that many are very responsive.”

In Pakistan, the outbreak is believed to have caused an economic slowdown that amounts to a staggering loss of Rs.2.5 trillion (about £11 billion), with about three million jobs likely to be lost; worst affected are the daily wage earners and those who inhabit the unforgiving urban slums.

12,000 masks for Starfish Pakistan schools The staff and students of Ghauri Wisdom High School set to work to make face masks for Starfish Pakistan. Costing about 5 pence (US 6 cents) each, they made 12,000 masks that were then provided to Starfish Pakistan projects.

Locked down but not locked out Eden School in Gujranwala is run by close friends Farah and Nazim. Their school closed with all other schools, but they were determined their children would not miss their classes. Teachers opened their homes as “tuition centres”. Where there is a will, there is usually a way.

December 2020 Extracts from the newsletter

As stars in the dark

equipped to shine Anser recently received a phone call from someone who had received a scholarship from Starfish Pakistan. “Sungzar lives in a village south of Lahore. He


We cannot deny, 2020 was a difficult year — nor can we deny God’s grace and amazing provision that enabled us to do so much. In 2020 we launched our largest ever construction project — the rebuilding of the Holy Shepherd School in Karachi. The old building, deemed unsafe, was demolished in March.

called to say that he has been appointed as a Junior Engineer in the Hydel power department, Government of Pakistan. In 2012 Starfish provided him a scholarship for a degree in Engineering at Bahaudin Zikriya University. He was truly grateful to the donors who helped him when he had no money to pay his fees.”

“Maths is my favourite subject” Iesha is the oldest of five siblings. Her mother is a housewife and her father retired from the army with a heart condition. They were supportive of Iesha and her sisters going to school. Iesha studied at the Community Development School and passed Matric with a B. “Maths is my favourite subject. It has always been my dream to be an accountant, to earn money to support my family”. Thanks to a Starfish scholarship she is now studying Commerce at Aspire College. “I always wanted to be a nurse”

This was the December report: The construction is going ahead. The foundations are complete. The walls will soon begin to rise. Classes should start in the new building by mid-Summer 2021.

Samson has wanted to be a Nurse ever since he was a child, and now he has the chance, thanks to the Starfish Pakistan Scholarship programme. He passed his Matric with a B grade from Dean Public School and is now studying Pre-Medical. His father works as a tailor. Samson’s desire is to secure a good job and support his family. He has attended Church since childhood.

March 2021 Extracts from the newsletter

A great way to start the New Year New Year’s Day, 1 January: Anser and the Starfish Pakistan team emerged from the office and went into the street outside. A cook was hired to prepare a huge pot of rice and chicken biryani, and they offered a free meal to workers sitting by the roadside.

Rob Bavington

The next step ...

Born and brought up in Pakistan, Rob Bavington joined the Starfish Asia team in January.

Staff members went out to look for people waiting for work, sometimes in vain, and looking hungry. They chose 300, and had the joy of giving them a free meal of steaming biryani. Senior students from three secondary schools were invited and joined in to help with the cooking, packing and distribution. “Nothing else could be a greater start to the new year 2021.” Only one expressed disappointment: “We gave food to 300, but we could have given to another 300 if we had enough.”

And that was just the beginning “I’m excited to be involved with Starfish Asia and to start getting to know the projects which really improve life for some of the very poorest of the poor. The needs are immense, but so too are the rewards.  The knowledge that teachers are receiving training to help them be better teachers.  Supporting Christian students through the scholarship scheme.  Making sure that the material needs of schools are met — fans, tables, chairs and toilets.”

Since then, every Friday, Starfish Pakistan staff were joined by a team of about 20 young students from local Starfish schools, to provide a free meal to people from poor homes in the Christian colony of Youhannabad. “Yesterday we fed 350 people. They included shop workers, rickshaw drivers, children on the street, and many others. It was a blessing to be able to share a meal with them.”

June 2021

Extracts from the newsletter

Transition in Pakistan

(Memories and reflections from Mike Wakely) In the past year we have all had to grow used to huge and mostly unwelcome change. In Starfish Asia, both in the UK and in Pakistan, we have been obliged to accept the turmoil and the changes that go with it. However, God has remained faithful, and we are grateful for all who continue to stand with us.

Equipping those who dream big dreams Rob has been working hard to make sure that our scholarship awards are not only appreciated but also effective. Over a video WhatsApp call, I get to meet Zarish, Cyril and Dora. All speak good English. These are students studying degree courses, full of hope and vision for the future. They smile, laugh and talk about being the only Christian on their course, and share requests for prayer. They are truly delightful! I am left to reflect on the difference the scholarship scheme has made for each of these young people. Not just an education but the opportunity to dream big dreams.

We were especially sad when Anser and Kashi announced their resignation after nine years of tireless service. We respect their decision and pray for God’s blessing on their future.

Welcome to Danishmand From 1st May, Danishmand Wasti took the reins of leadership in Starfish Pakistan. The Starfish Pakistan Board affirmed their full support for Danishmand’s appointment. Danishmand and his wife Jasmine are well known to us. They have both been members of the Starfish Pakistan board — Danishmand as Chairman for five years. We asked him: “What excites you as you join Starfish?”  First, I want to win the hearts of our Project Leaders – to let them know that I am for them.  I want to be an example to the children and the teachers who are in contact with me.  We should be very transparent in spending the funds provided to us.  I have known Starfish Asia from the very beginning. I want to continue with that vision.

September 2021 Extracts from the newsletter

Transformed classrooms: transformed lives! “Now no class is without a classroom”

Dean Public School, with 300 students, was over-crowded. Several classes met in the large open roof space. The building also faced some serious structural faults. In the past six months it has undergone major renovation. The staff and students are delighted!

A day to remember On 12th August Danishmand and Jasmine invited 32 leaders of school projects within reasonable distance from Lahore to a dayconference. They met to plan for the new academic year, and also to enable project leaders to meet each other, build closer relationships and exchange ideas. Their agenda was to plan for the 2021-22 academic session:  First of all, the new national Government Curriculum, One Nation – One Curriculum.  Secondly, to address issues of Administration, Accounting and Communication.

2017  2021  “Now students are studying in beautiful new classrooms. They are really happy and thankful.”

Every need is an opportunity In April and May, 16 schools were provided with essential equipment to improve their facilities. This included 17 fans, 4 water coolers, 4 washrooms and new furniture for 3 schools.

New classroom furniture was provided to the Morning Star School in Karachi. Funds were also given for painting and other improvements.

December 2021 Extracts from the newsletter

Rob and Dan in Pakistan Rob Bavington, our CEO, left for Pakistan on 3rd November, together with his nephew Dan. It was the first visit any of us from the UK had been able to make since the start of the pandemic and it was a busy three weeks with a lot of travel to see 15 of the schools and projects supported by Starfish Asia.

The Power of Context “A few schools have asked for computers. I asked in one school how many computers they wanted. ‘Just one,’ came her answer. ‘Maybe two would be better,’ I replied.” A new school building, bright classrooms, computers, cold water to drink, fans that work and toilets that are clean — these are the “little things” that make a difference to ambition, respect, hope and the desire to succeed. Thank you to all who make this possible for Pakistan’s Christians.

The staff of Starfish Pakistan

Left to right: Asher, Naveed, Jasmine, Dan & Rob, Danishmand, Rafaqat, Majid and Aftab

“In two weeks we visited 15 schools and homes. How different they are from each other! “The difference is in leadership. One may be thriving, but another is just not making progress. If we can invest appropriately with these leaders, then there is great hope for all the schools to give much better results.”


The Starfish Asia Story Just the beginning ... We have travelled through the past 21 years of our story. But this just brings us to the start of a new chapter. When we began our story, Pakistan's population was just 142 million. Those who were born in that year, 2000, are now starting their careers, some still illiterate and some educated, equipped and ready to serve their society. Their country now holds 225 million people.

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Our story is just beginning ...



We welcome you to join us on the journey We invite you to join us in the next chapter of our story. Here are some of the ways you can stand alongside us:  We need your prayers Giving Hope is an up-to-date 8-page introduction to Starfish Asia. It outlines our "Case for Your Support".

You can use this short book to help you in prayer. Our partners in Pakistan — the school leaders, children and students, the orphaned and disabled, their families and communities — all need our prayers.

 We need you to pass on the story Please tell your friends, relatives and church members about us and the needs of Pakistan's Christians. We can provide extra newsletters and brochures and you can direct people to our website. Put us on your Facebook page. We need your help!

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Our 2022 Appeal brochure sets out some of the main opportunities ahead of us — all of which need funds from our supporters and friends.


 We need you to join us in helping our brothers and sisters in Pakistan Starfish Asia can only continue to support Christian schools in Pakistan with your financial help. Please consider becoming a regular donor. You can give online at:


For further information, or to send a gift by cheque, please contact us at the address below. To receive any of the brochures or Starfish Asia newsletters, write to: Starfish Asia, 32 Beck Lane, Beckenham BR3 4RE, UK or email: info@starfishasia.com

STARFISH ASIA The Vision of Starfish Asia Restoring dignity to the Christian children of Pakistan Starfish Asia is a Christian response to a world of suffering and poverty. Our focus is the Christian community in Pakistan, and our response is a partnership with those who are meeting their need through education. We do not start our own schools or institutions, but trust local partners who have a passion to help the poor. Our vision has always been to give hope to the poor, the vulnerable and the neglected, especially in the Christian community that is marginalised and often forgotten.

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We know we can’t rescue everyone, but we surely must rescue some. Together we can rescue many.


We welcome any contact or questions. Please write to us Starfish Asia (UK) Registered with the Charity Commission of England & Wales Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO No.1181649)

32 Beck Lane, Beckenham, Kent BR3 4RE Rob Bavington (CEO) rob@starfishasia.com Mike Wakely (Exec.Trustee) mike@starfishasia.com Liz Ellis (Administrator) info@starfishasia.com

Starfish Asia (Singapore) Ltd. 887C Woodlands Dr. 50, #12-611, Singapore 733887 Contact: info_singapore@starfishasia.com

Starfish Asia (USA)

Advancing Native Missions (code:470SFA) P.O. Box 29, Afton, VA 22920 tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) Contact: rob@starfishasia.com

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The Starfish Asia Story Looking back over 21 years “What is success?”  Young people who can hope and dream again “He was so excited when I told him that he could be a doctor if he studied hard. He promised that he would work hard and aim to become a doctor one day.” (When Kashi told Sagar in Ghauri Wisdom School that he had gained A+ in his exam)

 A people with renewed dignity and confidence “God bless Starfish. You are not just striving to train a teacher but you have a vision to transform the Christian community in Pakistan. You help me to be courageous and to dream big. If as a teacher I don’t dream big, how can I help my Christian students to dream big? (Naila Izhaq from Kasur)

 A community that no longer feels destined to poverty Rockey was paralysed. He was convinced he had no future until Anser met him. “I remember bringing him to the school. He studied up to class 5 and left the school.” But that was not the end of the story. Rockey became a skilled electrician. Now Rockey has a job in the Pakistan Navy. (Anser reported)

 Young men and women who trust and follow Christ “Your contribution of Christian curriculum books will go a long way to shape the academic and spiritual course of these children. Thank you again for this gift. It means a world to us.” (Sharoon, Lahore Charter School)

“We once dreamed of saving a few. We now aim to transform a generation...”


Thank You We give our special thanks to everyone who has helped us to write the Starfish Asia Story — and to all who will help us write the next chapter.

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