Friday, September 18, 2015

Stay Clean


Cristina von Sperling Afridi tells Us about her new anti-drug foundation

It’s a serious health issue that can have harmful consequences and even claim the lives of those it ensnares. Yet drug abuse isn’t a topic that is widely addressed in our society. Now, inspired by a personal tragedy, Cristina von Sperling Afridi has started the Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness about drug abuse and hopefully curb its prevalence amongst the youth of Pakistan. In an interview with Us, the founder of the foundation talks about what led to the creation of the organization and what she hopes to achieve with this initiative:

Us: Please tell us a bit about your background and life before you came to Pakistan.
Cristina von Sperling Afridi: I was born in Brazil into a German family who had settled in Brazil for the past four generations. I studied art in Italy and then moved back to Brazil. I worked in Brazil in various capacities, from marketing director to interior designer to entrepreneurship.

Us: What brought you to Pakistan? And how has your life changed since then?
Cristina: I met Tariq Afridi in Brazil. He was the Pakistani ambassador there. He played polo and I enjoyed horse show jumping. I suppose our love for horses brought us together. We got married. After Brazil, we were posted to Jordan, Portugal, and Libya. Then we came to Pakistan.

Us: Could you please tell us about the tragedy that led to the creation of the Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation (KKAWF)?
Cristina: My son, who was 19, passed away, most probably due to drugs as he was a healthy boy. He went out with friends one night. We never expected that he would not return to us. He had just finished his A Levels and had many dre
ams. I was told to hide the truth regarding what may have caused his death - drugs. I was not going to do that. Hiding such things is the main reason why drug abuse has spread so rampantly in Pakistan. I could either sit and sulk about the tragedy that I was faced with or do something to eradicate this menace that is consuming our youth. I decided the latter and established the Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation.

Us: We’d love to know more about your son, Karim Khan Afridi. What was he like?
Cristina: He was a popular young teenager. He enjoyed sports and was passionate about his roots. You could say he was a proud Pathan. He had the traits of a leader and was, at the same time, kind. People loved being around him.

Us: What do you aim to achieve with KKAWF?
Cristina: A difference. To improve the existing situation. To make both the youth and their parents aware of this menace. To educate them on the negative impact that this will have on their lives and to engage through the four pillars of the organization, which are: drug awareness, sports, the environment, and developing civic sense. Our aim would be to develop the personalities and lives of the youth to such an extent that they have no place for drugs.

Us: What are some of the initiatives that you have planned for the foundation so far?
Cristina: The first project, which is in process at the moment, is the production of a play on drug abuse that will be staged in all major cities of Pakistan. In addition, it will be filmed and shown to both public and private schools. Both English and Urdu versions of the play will be available for distribution. The first performance of this play was staged in Islamabad on September 1 at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA). Through interaction with students attending the play we will appoint some students as ambassadors of the foundation working in their respective schools.
Simultaneously, we will be commencing our sports campaign. We hope to partner with the relevant ministries to make sports facilities available for schools and to engage the students in healthy interschool competitions.
In addition, KKAWF is planning on developing a wing named MAD, which stands for Mothers Against Drugs. MAD will consist of volunteers who will spread the drug awareness campaigns in their respective localities.

Us: The play about the destructive nature of drug use, the foundation’s first project, is titled 19: A Shattered Dream. Is it based on your personal experience? What can you tell us about the play?
Cristina: One of the forms of pure expression is the theatre. I had met Mushfiq Murshed and he wrote a play for this cause. This play reflects my own story; however, the writer has been given the liberty to build fictitious scenes in order to get the message across in the most powerful way. Dr. Farooq Beg and Huma Beg of Serendip joined this project as directors and producers. We feel that the desired impact will be made with our target audience which is the youngsters of Pakistan and their parents.

Us: A number of prominent political figures were present at the official launch ceremony of KKAWF. Is the foundation associated with a political party? If not, then how will you ensure that the foundation remains politically neutral?
Cristina: The foundation and its cause are apolitical. There is no political affiliation. If we were to affiliate with any political party it would jeopardize the cause, as its motivating factor is keeping the youth of the entire nation drug free, and a political agenda will only damage and restrict the foundation’s objectives.

Us: The focus of the foundation seems to be on educational ventures aimed to increase awareness and prevent drug abuse and addiction. Will the organization also offer practical help for rehabilitating those who are already abusing drugs?
Cristina: Our main focus is drug awareness. However, the organization has links with psychiatrists, psychologists, and rehab centres, and any individual identified with drug issues will be referred to them. The foundation’s core goal is to reverse this trend of drug abuse in schools by engaging the youth in multiple activities that will develop them into confident and useful members of society.

Us: Any message for the readers of Us and the youth of Pakistan?
Cristina: Stay clean.

-  By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 17th September, 2015 *

No comments: