Himat inspires hope and change

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 21, 2022

In marginalized mountain communities in northern Pakistan, the Himat project provides development learning for vision and action. Photos by Michael & Judie Bopp

A Cochrane-based project known as Himat has been stimulating hope and change in the high Karakoram mountains at the northernmost tip of Pakistan. The visionaries behind this initiative are Cochrane’s own international development specialists, Drs. Michael and Judie Bopp.

Michael and Judie, who live in the Wildcat Hills area northwest of Cochrane, have been pouring their hearts and souls into Himat since 2010, after a massive landslide blocked off the only road into that region and created a lake that displaced 500 families into internal refugee camps, surviving at subsistence levels.

Our Cochrane couple describe it this way: “Not only is this area extremely remote – it can take 15 to 20 hours of driving from the nearest international airport – but its people are also struggling with poverty, degraded land, and constant extreme weather events causing huge natural disasters, crop failures and misery.”

In response, “the Himat project has reached more than 10,000 folks in approximately 120 villages through a learning program that teaches skills related to leadership, small business development, governance and conflict transformation.”

Himat is an Urdu word meaning courage, perseverance and empowerment. These qualities certainly characterize the impact of this project.

“More than 300 small businesses have helped families meet their basic livelihood needs, pay school fees for their children, and take care of their medical expenses,” Michael and Judie say. “Women’s organizations in many of the villages have now created savings and loans funds that will help women start businesses and will create a fund to support village development projects. Development councils are working at the village and regional levels to address critical issues, such as the rebuilding of roads and irrigation systems and the opening of new agricultural land.”

A distinguishing feature of Himat’s approach is “building on strong cultural and spiritual foundations by developing the capacity of individuals for service above self, honesty, fairness and the ability to cooperate and work together.”

If that principle sounds familiar, it should. It’s at the heart of Rotary International’s value system. Which, by the way, relates nicely to that service organization’s support for Himat.

Since 2019, the Himat project has been funded by the Rotary Club of Cochrane with matching funds from Rotary District 5360 and Rotary International, as well as other area Rotary Clubs, Michael and Judie are pleased to say. “This outpouring of support clearly demonstrates Rotary’s commitment to service above self and to actions that promote goodwill and are fair and beneficial for all.”

This Sunday, April 24th, from 2 to 5 PM, Himat is holding a musical fundraiser at the Ironwood Stage and Grill in Calgary, 1229 9 Ave. SE, to fund project costs over and above those that can be supported by Rotary. Tickets are available on “Brown Paper Tickets” for $25.00, https://bpt.me/5412651.

For more information, contact Michael or Judie Bopp at (403) 852-8283 or at anyone@fourworlds.ca.


© 2022 Warren Harbeck

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