A DEDICATED teacher has told of his "distress and concern" after a recent visit to a region of Pakistan devastated by the killer floods.
Mohamed Shauq, the assistant headteacher and director of science at Manor College of Technology, in Owton Manor Lane, Hartlepool, said the images, smells and experiences he witnessed during the Christmas-time visit have altered his perspective on life and will stay with him forever.
Mr Shauq has extended family who live just 100 miles away from one of the areas badly affected by the horrendous floods.
At one point, the floods left more than one fifth of Pakistan under water, directly affecting more than 20 million people, with the death toll rising as high as 2,000.
Yet despite the unprecedented damage caused, Mr Shauq said the residents remain warm, caring and happy.
He said: "Upon in my arrival, I was greeted by my four young cousins, aged from three to 15, who showered me with rose petals and the tightest embraces I have ever had."
"This from family I have never seen or met before was a truly moving and very emotional experience for me.
"Broken families, villages submerged, the stench of sewerage, disease, death and struggle to find food are just a few of the deeply distressing sights I witnessed, but the people there are still so warm, caring and happy and work as a family unit.
"The Pakistani community embraced us everywhere we went and although it was the poorest nation I have ever visited, the people were more than willing to share all they had."
Mr Shauq admitted to fighting tears most days and told of the children having to wake at 5am to attend mosque before buying groceries and carrying them home barefoot.
The youngsters will then help to prepare the food, clear the dishes squatting at an outside tap, make the beds for an entire household and scrub clothes by hand – all before they start school.
Many of the families in Pakistan can't afford the 3 a week to send the children to school.
So the kind-hearted assistant head decided to sponsor two of his cousins through their college and university education. He added: "It is only by fate that I have had the opportunities in my life to become educated and now I find myself in a position to provide
support and opportunities for others to have a better life."
Before his visit, students at Manor College had raised around 2,500 in a fundraising drive for the victims of the floods.
Mr Shauq added: "I would like to thank everyone in helping to raise the spectacular amount we did, it will make a big difference."