Providing drinking water to those in need in Pakistan jumpstarted a MSUCOM student organization fundraiser


As a second-year student at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) and member of the MSUCOM Islamic Medical Student Association (IMSA), Syed Rizvi thought others might be interested in “participating” in Ramadan – the holy month of fasting, introspection and prayer for Muslims. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, and after sunset they share meals with family and friends.

The student organization hoped getting others involved would also be the impetus of a fundraiser that would provide a water well to a village in Pakistan. The idea was to ask others to consider giving up one meal on one day during Ramadan and donate the money that meal would cost to the water well fundraiser. IMSA, working with the college’s International Osteopathic Medicine Organization (IOMO), hosted the fundraiser during April with a goal of raising $600 to provide one well to a large Pakistan village. They surpassed their goal and are also supplying a small well to another village.

“It starts with Ramadan itself,” Rizvi said. “One of the biggest things is to help the less fortunate and I wanted to see how we could integrate this into our college.”

“We thought, what happens if we just ask everyone to skip one meal for one day and donate what would have been spent on that, giving it for those less fortunate. It was a neat way to introduce people to what Ramadan is while trying to engage those in the college in something they could actively participate.”

What happened, he said, was in addition to raising the funds for the water wells, conversations got started. Peers didn’t just donate money, they fasted for the day, giving them a better understanding of what Muslims do during Ramadan and what it means.

The student organizations’ goal was to raise $600 for a deep water well that would tap into the underground water in the region. They worked with the Paani Project, a nonprofit organization “to supply clean water and foster empowerment across Pakistan,” to get the water wells installed. Paani surveys the land to ensure sustainability and many people can access the water, Rizvi explained.

The $800 raised pays for a large water well and a second smaller well for another village.

“We’re helping 300 people – that’s our class size,” Rizvi said.

He visited Pakistan in August to see for himself where the wells would be located. Rain and flooding interfered with the timely placement of the wells, but in early October, the team was able to get the large well installed, complete with a Spartan helmet to show the world the tie with Michigan State University. An inscription will also be included recognizing the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. The smaller well will be installed soon.

Rizvi ties his work for the water wells with what he hopes he will do in the future as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. “I came in with the mindset to help as many people as I can,” he said. “I know I am here because of communities that have gotten me here. I am trying to figure out when I become a doctor, what can I do with my power to help as many people as I can.”

And while he’s still a physician in training, he said he’s trying to get his name out in communities to let them know “this is who I am and what I stand for and how we help the community. This is for the greater good of humanity.”

Outside of class and his other volunteer work, Rizvi is also the national liaison for the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) and a student liaison to the Michigan Osteopathic Association (MOA). He said being in these types of positions is crucial to helping others.

“I always want to see what the greatest thing is I can do in the position and set a standard that this isn’t just a seat, but the power you hold can translate to good for other people,” Rizvi said. “If you aren’t at the table – voices aren’t represented.”