A COMMUNITY group that helps people in one of the poorest areas of the world has vowed to continue its work after picking up a prestigious award.
The Abaseen Foundation UK was founded in 2000 by husband and wife William and Helen Bingley, from Lancaster, to improve the lives of the residents in north west Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.
Mrs Bingley, 54, a former nurse, was inspired by stories from the Pakistani doctors she worked with in Lancashire.
So after travelling to the region, Abaseen UK was founded to partner the Abaseen Foundation Pakistan.
The charity, which has volunteers from across the county, is run using donations from the UK and abroad.
And just a decade after it was launched, it is having a huge impact on education and healthcare.
The work caught the eye of judges on the Fusion Awards, which recognise and reward people and organisations that make a difference to communities.
Mr Bingley, 61, said: “It was a great honour and a thrill to win the award.
“We are supported brilliantly by volunteers from across Lancashire and beyond, people from every type of community, which is fantastic.
"It just makes us more determined to keep on making a difference.”
With the help of donations from the UK and Pakistan, Abaseen has built two primary schools, one each for boys and girls, in Peshawar, that cater for 250 pupils.
Plans are also afoot for a secondary school and a college, funded by Abaseen and run with the local government.
Meanwhile, the foundation runs a hospital in the region on behalf of the authorities.
In 2000 it treated 13,000 people a year but it now cares for 80,000.
Abaseen also works with UNICEF on programmes to educate new mothers about bringing up children.
Mr Bingley said: “This is an area where, for example, there are no government schools. It is an area in need.
“It is an area where the average life expectancy is 46 and we are trying to change that.”
The couple run a health consultancy and pay all their own expenses when they travel to Pakistan.
They visit twice a year and say it is well worthwhile braving what is considered by some to be one of the most dangerous parts of the world.
“What we are struck by every time is the extradorinary resilience of people,” said Mr Bingley.