NEDian Roland DeSouza, a Shining Example of Social Activism in Pakistan

'You cannot change everything, but can change yourself'

Wednesday, August 13, 2008
By Aisha Masood

Karachi

Although a member of the city's dwindling Christian community, Roland deSouza says he opted to stay in Pakistan while many others migrated. The reason was his firm belief that his presence would make a difference, no matter how little, to his country, to his profession and to Pakistani society in general.

An electrical engineer by profession, Roland has contributed to society more than what he could do in his specialized field. He has spent a lifetime advocating human rights, protection of the environment and creating public awareness regarding the rule of law.

Roland is a Partner and Principal Engineer of FND (Fahim, Nanji & deSouza), an engineering firm that designs electrical and mechanical systems for industrial, institutional and commercial buildings. He established the partnership some 21 years ago after working with other reputable engineering companies. Earlier, from 1976 to 1979, he worked for a social development organization of his community in the Multan area and lived in a village near Mian Channu.

A graduate of the NED Engineering College, Roland is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Pakistan (IEEEP), and is active in numerous technical and standards committees. He has presented a number of technical papers at local and international level. He hopes that all those who have worked under his guidance have learnt something that could contribute to the society in a positive way.

As a social activist, deSouza is a council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), and is the former chairman of Shehri - Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE), an advocacy group working for the improvement of environmental conditions in the city.

The desire to "do his bit for others" has existed in Roland since his childhood days and this prompted him to take part in social welfare and community development activities during his school and college life. His perseverance later on made him participate in the social activities at higher levels.

When it comes to the problems of the nation, he uses the term "bulldozer effect" to describe the pressures in Pakistani society and the problems that have been multiplying over the years. Circumstances and developments have made it difficult for many to keep their efforts going on in the right way.

He strongly feels the absence of a spirit of nationalism that is required to do a something voluntarily for the benefit of others. "A good action, without looking for some personal return or benefit has become very rare in the country today," he comments.

He feels sad that breaking rules and regulations and violating laws is no more an issue for the people of this country. "A person who deliberately crosses the traffic red light does not only commit that traffic violation, but will tend to cross red lights in every field of in his life," he says.

Roland believes that people who do not follow the rules end up living a chaotic life, and contributing significantly to the degradation of society in general, a situation in which we presently find ourselves. He observes that three-fourth of his classmates in school and college chose not to stay in the country and went abroad. This was the cream and talent of Pakistani society. However, his urge to serve humanity made him stick in 'the land of pure'.

Things would have been better if that cream has also lived here and utilized their talents and morality for the development of the country, he believes. However, he says that all those who left were tired of injustice and had lost hope in the local system, therefore preferring to settle abroad where at least they would find justice.

However, he believes that it is all a matter of perception. When he comes to his personal assessment, Ronald finds himself very fortunate that he did not suffer any discrimination in the country. "I was advised to become twice as good as the next man if I was to survive in Pakistan. I have tried to do this," he tells this while listing major things what he has got in life to be thankful.

Speaking economically and socially, the extent of his personal fulfilment can be judged with the fact that he considers himself amongst the top 1% of the countrymen. "I see myself with more resources and more opportunities than 99% of people of this country," Roland says. Unfortunately, he does not see that sense of contentment in people in his surroundings. The discontentment, along with lack of competence and integrity, has led towards availing different opportunities of making black money.

Talking in a broader perspective, Roland feels that nations in the world are over-exploiting the resources of earth. "As a result, we have poverty, terrorism and social unrest. Although all nations are facing the same issue, we need to be worried more as Pakistan is somewhere near to the bottom."

"The biggest setback Shehri has faced is that we could not involve more people. There are innumerable problems but the number of people involved in working for their solutions is not as much as required." More effort is needed for the common good and less for individual benefit.

"People in the world identify with their countries and feel proud of their accomplishments", observes Roland, adding "but unfortunately, this element is missing in the Pakistani nation. How many persons actually love their country and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure its development?" He believes Pakistan is a talented nation and the only thing needs to be changed is lack of motivation. "You cannot change anything in the world but yourself!" he believes. His message to students, workers, businessmen and to the entire nation is to work with integrity. "We do not need heroic actions but ordinary people to do things with honesty and ethics," he concludes.

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"We do not need heroic actions but ordinary people to do things with honesty and ethics,"...............Simple but right on the money, very impressive. Hats off to Mr. Desouza....... a true inspiration, we need more people like him.........Now I am feeling bad about myself.
Here's a Microsoft Word version of Roland's recent interview.
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