From 1993 until 2000, Mr. Siddiqui dedicated weeks of his time yearly together with a volunteer medical team to establish health camps and to provide free medicines and care to 16 impoverished villages.
In 2004, ECHO founded vocational centers for women in two villages, the Dass Bala and Yagum communities. The donation of 20 sewing machines motivated the women to make a commitment to protect the environment. Currently, three school shifts are running: morning, afternoon and evening (due to limited space) to train female students.
The directing committee provided environmental instruction by means of slide presentations to the people and school children in the subdivision of Astore High School, Bubin and Dass Bala communities and elementary schools. The villagers increased their awareness of the urgent need to become stewards of their own environment and its wildlife.
In 2002, Dass Bala and Yagum communities people signed contracts with ECHO, promising not to kill the endangered species, even if the animals depredate their livestock. They expressed a strong interest to provide the labor if financial support and technical skills are provided by ECHO to accomplish the construction of predator-proof corrals, freshwater irrigation canals and suspension bridges.
The elders of Dass Bala and Yagum met with the director of ECHO numerous times, and eventually gave him permission to create the vocational schools with the women. The day of the presentation of the sewing machines was so significant to the women that even though the women were doing the essential job of grass harvesting for the winter, they halted all their work to prepare a feast in honor of the occasion. The women of the village now have a place to gather, discuss and learn together.
Since 2002, ECHO has worked extensively with 16 villages of the Southern Himalayan area surrounding the Deosai Plateau. Much of its efforts have been focused on the two model communities of Dass Bala and Yagum. In the future, ECHO plans to extend model community status to all of the 16 villages.