In Urdu, the word dost means friend. Parveen Azam Khan (born 1938), founder and head of the Dost Welfare Foundation, has been a true friend and a savior to some of the most marginalized people in Pakistani society: drug users, women and juvenile prisoners, refugees, and street-children. Thanks to her work, thousands of drug users in the North West Frontier Province have been rescued from hopeless lives as mendicants, prisoners, or wastrels. She has also managed to push through changes in the way the justice system treats vulnerable prisoners.
Parveen Azam Khan, who spent 35 years working for Pakistan's health services, knew how bad the country's drug abuse situation was. Upon retirement in 1998, she set up an NGO, the Dost Welfare Foundation, in her hometown, Peshawar. She gathered a small core team of voluntary workers and trained them. The following year, Parveen set up a 70-bed treatment and rehabilitation center on donated land. This center provides a range of services under one roof to thousands of clients. Her next goal was to develop an outreach program and establish a treatment continuum between the outreach program and the center. Today, three mobile teams meet about 250 drug users every day, counseling and educating them and providing first aid and social support. They encourage the drug users to visit Dost's drop-in centers: 100 to 150 people daily visit three such centers for counseling, therapy, treatment, a hot meal, a bath and to change their clothes. Every drug user in the area has access to free or affordable treatment and rehabilitation. Working with prisoners and Afghan refugees in camps in the North West Frontier Province became an extension of Parveen's work, since drug abuse problems are endemic in both settings. "Therapeutic communities" have been established in two prisons in Peshawar and Haripur, which provide prisoners with primary healthcare, counseling, education, vocational-skills training, help in contacting family members, and free legal aid. Parveen has also developed a network of local, regional, national, and international partners, with whom she shares experiences and the latest strategies. Since January 1999, Dost has been running programs in collaboration with Penal Reform International, Unicef, and the provincial government to educate prisoners, police, lawyers, and civil society.
Dost Welfare Foundation