Unlike most Pakistanis, Zeeshan “Shani” LaalDin (’05) was born to Christian parents and had the privilege of attending a missionary school in the north of Pakistan. This made him a minority in a country where Christians comprise only 2% of the almost 200 million population.
LaalDin recognized God had given him a unique experience as a child and believed that one day he would be able to use the things he’d learned to bless other Christians and marginalized individuals in his home country.
But he was only one man. How would he possibly bring about any lasting change?
LaalDin knew education would be important to his journey, so as soon as he was able, he enrolled at Trinity Western University.
Learning to Trust God
It wasn’t easy for LaalDin to stay at Trinity Western. High tuition and cost of living seemed insurmountable for him and his family. LaalDin says he isn’t sure how he was able to afford it, but knows it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Inga Warnock, Executive Director of Stewardship and Investments.
“In our family, she was considered an angel,” says LaalDin. “People like her were instrumental.”
Among other things, his experience at Trinity Western taught him how to trust God with the unknown, something he’d need to do a lot of in the days to come.
Then The Earth Shook
After graduating in 2005, LaalDin returned to Pakistan, where he was eager to make a difference. Shortly after returning, a devastating earthquake struck the country and left many people homeless.
Using all he’d learned at Trinity Western, LaalDin worked closely with the local government, military, foreign doctors, and aid organizations in an effort to help with relief work. For the first year, LaalDin worked for Serving in Mission, then transitioned to Samaritan’s Purse for the next two years.
After three years of helping rebuild schools and houses, LaalDin decided to go to Thailand with his wife and study at a Christian university there. He earned his MA in Business, believing this would open more doors of opportunity for him back home.
In 2010, while he was studying in Thailand, a flood hit his home region in Pakistan. LaalDin knew he wanted to do something, so he reached out to different contacts he’d made to see if anyone could help.
“Within half an hour, I’d raised four thousand dollars,” says LaalDin. “Within one month, we as a family were able to raise one hundred thousand dollars.”
It was incredible! LaalDin was blown away by the support he was able to find. But he knew he couldn’t just send the money home. He had a responsibility to ensure it got to the people who needed it most, and to give account to those who donated. So after graduating with his MA in Business, he returned to Pakistan with his brother-in-law and started an organization called OnetoAnother.
behind One to another
“The concept is that we are receiving from one and giving to another,” says LaalDin of his company. “Initially, we did a lot of relief work. Gave blankets, food, clothing, beds and goats. All these people were displaced [from the flood] and living on roads, because the roads were higher than their homes were.”
In some places, water had risen nine feet and completely washed away all homes in the area.
“From 2010 to 2012, we built 200 homes,” says LaalDin. Their work was so well received that they were able to raise another hundred thousand dollars from supportive donors.
Because of his efforts, LaalDin was able to meet with many international doctors from around the world, including a group from the Singapore Red Cross. “After seeing what we were doing, they wrote to us mid-2012 and said they had funding and asked what they could do,” says LaalDin.
Together with the Singapore Red Cross, One to Another was able to build another 200 homes, a health and development centre, and a new hospital for women and children.
Serving the Marginalized
Because there is so much discrimination against religious minorities (like Christians) in Pakistan, and because the culture is very rough on women and children, LaalDin has made these people his focus. The new, twenty bed hospital, named Victoria Memorial Hospital (in memory of LaalDin’s mother), has been built, but is not yet operational. The goal is to have it completely staffed with Christian women, but they are still searching for the right people.
As far as the hospital itself, it’s about 60% equipped. They have beds and medical supplies, but are still in need of some more costly equipment, like ultrasound machines.
In addition to staffing and equipping the hospital, operational costs are estimated to be around ten thousand dollars per month. But despite these obstacles, LaalDin has faith that God will provide. Through his life, he’s experienced the mercy of God in ways he would never have expected.
“It’s a constant thing, to be trusting in the Lord,” says LaalDin. “There’s never been a time when I haven’t had to trust God for something.”
Despite walking through one uncertainty after another, LaalDin says with confidence that God has been very real and present in his travels, and there’s no where he’d rather be than serving the marginalized community in his homeland.
If you’re interested in learning more about One to Another, or donating to supporting this hospital in Pakistan, please visit: https://gcfcanada.com/1-to-another/