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participant of pakistan hunza challenge with islamic relief, musa, standing on part of the mountain in hunza valley

Pakistan Hunza Challenge: Reflections

In September 2023, a group of 31 participants from around the world took part in the Pakistan Hunza Challenge – hiking across the stunning landscapes of Northern Pakistan in order to help raise funds to support flood-affected families to rebuild their lives. Musa, a participant of the challenge, reflects on his experience.

The Hunza challenge was an opportunity to bring people together from across the globe with one common goal of taking on something outside of their comfort zone, and build life-long memories and friends for life. 

We took on one of the world’s highest mountains whilst also exploring the beauty of Northern Pakistan.

It was a very challenging experience – but made easier through the meaningful conversations and laughter we shared . By the end of the trip, we felt like a family! 

a groups of participants taking part in islamic relief pakistan hunza challenge

The highlights 

It was incredible to experience the local culture, and meet some very kind-hearted souls.  Although I’m of Pakistani origin, this was my first time visiting the country. 

Everyone I met was friendly and very welcoming. The food was also incredible- from Yak Burgers, to Indochinese food and of course, all the desi (traditional!) classics.

The natural scenery was stunning. On day two of the hike we reached the Rakaposhi base camp, where we witnessed the most beautiful views.

After an exhausting hike and a little bit of drama, we all laid down on the grass and took in the night sky. You could see every detail, every colour and a sea of stars. Without phones and distractions, we sat in peace taking it all in.I think I speak for a lot of the team when I say it was one of the most peaceful moments I’ve had in my life and everything seemed to stop in that moment. 

The  photo here of the sky above doesn’t compare to what we could see with the naked eye but hopefully gives an idea of just how beautiful it was.

night sky view in hunza valley pakistan

Seeing the impact of Islamic Relief’s projects 

On the second day of the trip we visited Rawalpindi, and had the opportunity to see some of Islamic Relief’s current programmes  with our own eyes. We  visited a girls school where Islamic Relief provided solar panels to help power the facility. The teachers explained that the school offered these girls a way out of child labour and the unfortunate living conditions that they had at home, being a place of safety for them where they could be children. 

We were also blessed with the opportunity to join the opening of a new water sanitisation system, and to see the smiles on the local community members faces as they filled up their first canister to take home. 

We then visited Islamic Relief’s livelihoods projects, such as a skills centre where rightholders are given the tools they need to earn an income or build their own enterprise/business – from sewing, to clothes making, to computing and finance skills. 

With skills like these InshAllah I pray that the rightsholders are able to support themselves out of poverty and help their communities prosper. 

a group of rightsholders in pakistan visited by participants of the hunza challenge by islamic relief

The final visit was the most powerful – a dinner at a hotel attended by the shining stars of Islamic Relief’s Orphan Sponsorship Programme. Each star shared their stories of losing parents at a young age, losing family members to the rising drug problems in Rawalpindi, and being left with no financial, psychological or moral support.

Islamic Relief’s Orphan Sponsorship Programme helped each child through a most difficult time, offering them with what they needed to have a brighter future. MashAllah each one of them had gone on to do inspiring things, achieve degrees, open their own businesses and study at universities- it was incredibly inspiring to hear of their stories.

Challenges of the challenge 

Physically, the challenge was certainly tough at times. 

The hike to the base camp started with 40 minutes of steep incline. After a poor night’s sleep and some fatigue from the previous day, I really questioned whether I could do it. 

I tried to push through and told myself to take each step at a time until we got to the top. All I can say is that the short struggle was worth every second of taking in the view once we got there.

view of mountains in pakistan hunza

I also found the lack of sleep difficult. However, this was through my own choice. I wanted to make the most of my time there and end up staying up all night sharing stories with fellow participants and then waking up to pray fajr together and hiking up to viewpoints nearby to watch the sunrise over the mountains. However, the lack of sleep did begin to take its toll on my body! 

A once-in-a-lifetime experience 

I would definitely recommend this challenge to others. You’ll get to visit one of the most beautiful places, challenge yourself, and make friends for life.

You also grow as a person and the spiritual impact of the experience can’t be understated. Allah  says to know him you should know his creation, there’s no better way to do that then travelling the world, learning about new cultures and surrounding yourself with nature. 

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