No Age for Charity

No Age for Charity

By Naureen Aqueel – Freelance journalist

If you study the lives of great personalities, who have achieved something commendable, you will find a few characteristics that are shared by them all: determination, courage and hard work. Where these traits are present, Allah (swt) extends His help too. There could be no better example than in the case of Major Abbas Ali and his wife Sarwar Jehan Begum, founders of the Muslim Welfare Centre – a couple who defied old age and devoted themselves to provide selfless service to humanity during the ripe years of their lives.

Major Abbas chose to raise funds by charity walks and feats others would only imagine at an age like his. He walked over 10,000 kilometres to support charities in various countries around the world. On April 7, 1985, at the age of 64, on World Health Day, Major Abbas undertook to visit on foot children’s hospitals in the seven emirates of UAE, propagating Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT). He covered 600 km on foot. In 1986, he also participated in the Sports Aid Programme organized by Unicef throughout the world to raise funds for the famine-stricken people of Africa in which he covered 191 km from Dubai to Abu Dhabi on foot.

In 1987, at the age of 66, he walked 2500 km in 90 days through the sandy deserts and camel trails across the Arabian Peninsula to perform Hajj and to collect funds for a charitable hospital in Karachi. He became known as the first man in modern history to walk for the Hajj.

In September 1998, at the age of 77, he sky dived from a height of 10,500 ft to raise funds for the ‘Support a Child, Save the Nation’ welfare project. In 2004, at the age of 82, he walked 100 km from Whitby to Mississauga to raise funds for a Seniors’ Home. His walks earned him the title of the ‘Volunteer Charity Walker from Pakistan’. He would often say “The rich pay Zakat on their wealth, I pay Zakat on my health.”

A retired major from the Pakistan army, Abbas Ali and his wife founded the Muslim Welfare Centre in Toronto in 1993 with the motto “Service to humanity is Service to Allah”. The organization was based in Canada but has operations in Pakistan and other areas of the world.

The Muslim Welfare Centre established a home for needy women and children in 1995. Over 3500 single women and mothers with children, irrespective of their backgrounds, have benefitted from it. The centre also operates four Halal Food Banks and Halal Meals on Wheels food distribution system for the less fortunate from all faiths in Toronto. Over 6500 needy families are helped by this initiative on a monthly basis.

The centre is also operating two schools and two charity clinics in the poor localities of Karachi. Moreover, it provided emergency aid for flood victims in Pakistan and is operating a water exploration project for the impoverished villages in the Thar desert region.

Major Abbas passed away in 2009 while visiting Pakistan to oversee these projects. Since her husband’s demise, Sarwar Jehan Begum has remained in Karachi and is serving as the President of the organization.

Major Abbas received a number of awards during his lifetime and others posthumously. The McLevin Park in Scarborough Canada was renamed to ‘Major Muhammad Abbas Ali Park’. The couple has taught us that if one has determination and will power, there is no age for charity work.

An Interview with Ms. Bilquees Edhi

By Naureen Aqueel

In this age of materialism and heightened individualism, selfless efforts are rare gems. One family that has become a paragon of such values is the Edhis. Altruism, commitment, compassion, determination and hard work are behind the successful mission to bring relief to millions across Pakistan and abroad. Be it war, aftermaths of a natural calamity, or abandoned babies, the Edhi family is a ray of hope for many groping in the darkness of disaster, injustice and disease. “Hiba” magazine spoke to Bilquis Edhi, wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi, to get an insight into the great heights they have reached.

“A humanitarian perspective,” is how Bilquis Edhi defines the prime motive behind the Edhi Foundation. “It is aimed at the collective good of all,” she says.

In his autobiography “A Mirror to the Blind” as narrated to Tehmina Durrani, Abdul Sattar Edhi says: “The five basic tenets of Islam continue into the sixth for me: Huquq-ul-Ibaad or humanitarianism. That it is not proclaimed as obligatory has deeper meaning; as right and wrong are left to human initiatives, its importance would be lost if forced.”

At another place in the same book he says: “Huqquq Allah is meaningless without Huqquq-ul-Ibaad. The latter is not possible without compassion and self-help. Islam is not implementable without submission to these two qualities, without them, there can be no practice. Islam without practice is a negation of God. The Holy Book is truly valued only when its prescription is followed.”

As one of the most active philanthropists in the world, Abdul Sattar Edhi is devoted and committed, and is known to work through holidays. How do he and his family manage this? “This is not our work, it is Allah’s (swt) work. And Allah (swt) gets His work done by whomever He Wills,” explains Bilquis Edhi. “Edhi Sahib has undergone only two grades of academic schooling and I have undergone only eight. There are no qualifications for (humanitarian) work. We only need to have a humanitarian perspective and do beneficial work.”

The Edhi couple and their family do not do all the work alone. They have a trained team of employees and volunteers. “We hire the staff and train them. There are also volunteers who get less salary-wise but do quality work. And, Masha’Allah, Allah (swt) has helped us greatly. No matter how much we accept His favour and thank Him, it is insufficient. We, humans, have no power to do work on our own without His help.”

“So, does the staff always work with as much sincerity, enthusiasm and selflessness as you two?” I inquired. “No. The employees sometimes cause trouble. No one is perfect. I keep telling Edhi Sahib: ‘You wish everyone was Sattar Edhi Sahib, but that is difficult – everyone has their own priorities be it home, family or children.’”

Another secret of their success is that they start their work early morning after the morning prayers and breakfast thereafter. Although most of their time is spent serving humanity, you will never hear them complaining or see them in low spirits. So how do they keep themselves motivated? “We are content and satisfied with ourselves,” shares Bilquis Edhi, “we keep doing our work and do not brood on criticisms.”

Despite their international fame, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Bilquis Edhi and their family continue to live a simple life. Indeed, Abdul Sattar Edhi is known to own two traditional Shalwar Kameez. “We have never really thought of who we are or what status we have. We just consider ourselves ordinary human beings and we work like common folk. Allah (swt) has saved us from arrogance and ostentation (Riya Kari),” says Bilquis Edhi.

The journey to establish such an unparalleled network of welfare work was not completely smooth. “We have never encountered any obstacles that have stopped us. Allah (swt) has always taken us ahead. He has never let us fall back. People have opposed us a lot and have resorted to narrow-mindedness and accusations. But Edhi Sahib says that their purpose is to distract us from our work. If we fight back, we will waste time. So he says: ‘Our work should be our response. Such people will be defeated and humiliated, when they see our work.’ Obstacles are a part of life,” says Bilquis Edhi.

In his autobiography, Abdul Sattar Edhi says: “When the anxiety at the vastness of the areas I must cover overwhelmed me, I took courage from Prophet’s Muhammad’s (saw) example. He was confronted with enormous opposition and more hypocrites than friends.”

Commenting on the numerous awards they have received, Bilquis Edhi says: “It is the work that speaks.”

In the end, Bilquis Edhi prayed for the success of “Hiba” magazine and wished to give a message to women: “Women should live life on the principles of simplicity, honesty, hard work and punctuality and should adhere to their limits (Apni Chaddar Mein Rehna Chahye). A good woman and mother is the minister of the home. Islam has not stopped women from work, but they should not cross Islam’s boundaries in any work they do.”

May Allah (swt) reward the Edhi family for their work and bestow His Mercy upon them, and may He grant us the same spirit of charity. Ameen.

Edhi Welfare Foundation, the largest welfare organization of Pakistan and one of the largest and most successful health and welfare networks in Asia, started as a tiny dispensary in 1951. Today, Edhi Foundation has over 300 centers across the country in cities, towns and rural areas. Services provided by Edhi Foundation include: baby cradles, destitute homes, welfare centers, highways projects, warehouses, field ambulance services, air ambulance services, marine and coastal service, blood and drug banks, cancer research hostel, missing persons service, home for sheltering animals, graveyard services, Edhi emergency posts, prisoners aid, refugee assistance and international community centers.

Bilquis Edhi has personally given 18900 children up for adoption.

Edhi Foundation is in the Guinness World Records for having the largest private ambulance service network in the world.

The couple have received around 250-275 awards and Abdul Sattar Edhi has also received an honorary doctorate from IBA.

Speech Language Therapy Training School

slt-logo“The most Gracious (Allah)! He has taught (you mankind) the Quran (by His Mercy). He created man. He taught him eloquent speech…” (Ar-Rahman 55:1-4)

Indeed, Alhumdulillah, for most of us talking and hearing comes naturally. In fact, we don’t even consider it an extraordinary skill. let alone a blessing to be grateful for. However, in Pakistan’s population of over 155 million there are approximately 20 million people suffering from communication, swallowing and/or hearing disorders.

How does it feel not to be able to hear the birds sing or the waves lap against the shore? What does it mean not to be able to enjoy delicious Biryani or Haleem? Can we understand the frustration one feels, when he or she is unable to express, let alone talk or sing? No, we don’t and most of the time we offer some pity and move on with our lives.

However, there are some individuals who could have done the same but Allah chose them to serve His creation – and that’s exactly what they are tasked to. An extremely busy man, Dr. A. G. Billoo, has a prominent name in the pediatrics world and also chairs the position of Vice President at Speech & Hearing Association of Pakistan (SHAP). Ziauddin University and SHAP have established the first ever Speech Language Therapy Training School (SLTTS), where clinics have been operational since May of 2006.

Nestled in a corner stands SLTTS’ modest building near Ziauddin Hospital, Clifton. You may have driven past it several times without noticing it probably. I know I had. It is the people and their purpose that make it so remarkable. Once inside, you will learn that it is a sound treated and air-conditioned custom built structure, occupying a 5000 square feet of space and offering multiple opportunities for the disabled.

I arrived at SLTTS at 3:00 pm as per my appointment, anticipating the usual wait that would follow. Surprisingly, almost immediately I was ushered into the quiet and serene passage leading to many rooms. Here, I was warmly greeted by a beaming Amina Asif Siddiqui – the in-charge coordinator of SLTTS. Hailing from Mumbai, Amina is a renowned speech language therapist and audiologist, who has helped hundreds of patients overcome multiple speech, language and hearing related challenges.

Right away, she led us into another dimly lit quiet passage with chairs lined up against the wall and facing a huge see-through glass, where a class was in session. However, this class had just one patient – an old gentleman working along young Dr. Mariam H. Syeda, an MSc. in speech language pathology from Boston. The class participants were not aware of our presence due to the tinted glass in between; however, we could observe them quietly.

Amina explained that this was their observation gallery, where family members of patients were seated to observe the teaching skills and techniques that the therapists applied to their patients. After class, the patient’s relatives (parents, spouses, children, etc.) would apply the same teaching methods at home as an extended day to day learning. Eventually, over time they themselves would become equipped for effective communication with the patient. In case of young patients, sometimes therapists sat in the observation gallery to observe how parents communicated with their kids.

For children, they have a specially furnished space with toys called Play Therapy Room for the purpose of providing experiential language skills. The therapy offered here helps parents to transfer and carry over the learnt skills into day to day life

Our next stop was at the Audiology Room, another sound proof room with double wooden doors to ensure that all external noise is blocked. With specialized equipment and techniques, Dr. Najum-ul Haq, a clinical audiologist from Australia, ascertains the auditory thresholds of patients. This is followed by the language therapy recommended to the patient.

Amina explains: “The sooner a child’s disability is diagnosed, the faster we can get to work. In foreign countries, hospitals are equipped to test babies at birth for speech and hearing related deficiencies. Unfortunately, in Pakistan the youngest baby that can be detected of such disorders at SLTTS is 6-7 months of age. Indirect therapy may be commenced as early as 3 months of age – the baby’s parents can be taught appropriate strategies of communication. 1 ½ to 2 years is the most suitable age to work with for successful results in therapy. But most of the time parents bring their kids much later than that, and it is difficult to train kids, yet not impossible, as miracles do happen.”

Speaking of miracles, I asked: “How does the team remain so dedicated and motivated?” Dr. Maryam answered: “The patients’ families fight against all circumstances. It’s their love for the patient and trust in the therapist that make miracles happen. There have been patients, who were hit in the worse imaginable traffic accidents and were reduced to a flattened body. With uncompromising patience and months of hard work the patients get revived and recovered. From a limp and lifeless body to a newly restored person – Allah (swt) grants them a new life!”

A very significant part of their therapy also comprises of pulling the patients out of depression and trauma, especially in cases, where patients were not born with disabilities but gradually developed them or suddenly met with an accident. They were fluently speaking and simply stopped talking one day. It’s like losing an ability instantly and learning to develop and use it all over again.

Patience is an integral part of their therapy. Dr. Maryam shared a case, in which it took her six sessions to get her patient just to lick a blob of ketchup sitting on his upper lip with the help of using the tip of his tongue.

Lastly, we visited the Voice Therapy Room with equipment imported from abroad through donations of individuals from our community. This highly specialized equipment is used to evaluate and treat disorders of voice and speech, such as inappropriate pitch, nasality and even stammering.

I was also informed about a monumental milestone of SHAP and ZU, which is a collaboration to establish and conduct the first four-year Bachelor’s programme in speech language therapy in Pakistan at Ziauddin University, Clifton, Karachi. Their aim is to increase awareness in the general public of the strengths and needs of people with communication difficulties.

Young girls and boys with completed A levels or HSC (pre-medical) and fluency in written and spoken English and Urdu have a promising future here. The students would receive clinical training at the hospital premises and in community settings along with a strong theoretical grounding. Upon completion, the students will be able to assess independently a variety of speech/language and swallowing disorders in adults and children. They will formulate functional goals and implement therapy procedures to facilitate communication skills and improve swallowing.

This programme will also offer SLTTS its future therapists, increasing the number of faculty members to meet the current demand. An additional objective is to offer therapy also in regional languages.

SLTTS has great aspirations and a qualified and diligent team. The community should come forward to help them reach those aspirations especially in case of finances. The equipment for therapy and evaluation costs Lakhs of Rupees. SLTTS has the expertise, and they strive to bring it to all those disabled individuals out there regardless of financial stature. They do offer therapy to the under-privileged class too thus enabling them to live an independent and more fulfilling life. Please, support them. That’s what Momins do!

“-Say it is He Who has created you, and endowed you with hearing (ears) and seeing (eyes), and hearts. Little thanks you give.” (Al-Mulk 67:23)

Speech and language services offered by SLTTS

1)      Aphasia (e.g., language disorders after stroke)

2)      Articulation and phonological disorders

3)      Communication deficits due to:

4)      Autism (PDD), cerebral palsy, cleft palate/lip, Down’s syndrome, mental

5)      retardation, hearing impairment

6)      Communication after Laryngectomy

7)      Cognitive / language deficit due to traumatic brain injury

8)      Cognitive rehabilitation (attention, memory, awareness, Alzheimer’s, degenerative diseases)

9)      Dysphagia (swallowing difficulties in infants and adults)

10)  Dysarthria

11)  Stuttering

12)  Voice disorders

Address: Plot # BC-06, Block – 1, KDA Scheme 5, Clifton, Karachi

Phone: 021-6011164 / 111-335-111

E-mail: slt@zmu.edu.pk

Date Palm Education System

Vol 4-Issue 3 Date palm education systemAllah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Amongst the trees, there is a tree, the leaves of which do not fall and is like a Muslim. (…) It is the date-palm tree.” (Bukhari) This was the inspiration for the name of Fozia Ahsan Farooqi’s school – Date Palm Education System. Disillusioned by the emphasis on fancy campuses over quality education by most schools, Fozia Ahsan wanted to build a school, which highlighted the holistic development of the child, making him what the Prophet (sa) desired of a true Muslim.

“Children are like flowers, they need to be nurtured with care,” Fozia Ahsan explains. The date palm is symbolic to her mission: “Its roots (a symbol of emotional stability) uphold the trunk signifying academic excellence, leading to a value based approach to life – the leaves and fruit of the date palm.”

In her seventeen years long teaching experience, Fozia Ahsan has had the opportunity to observe and evaluate the learning development of children. Her observations helped her to develop a series of books entitled “Urdu Ka Guldasta” (“Urdu’s Bouquet”) published by the Oxford University Press (one of their online bestsellers) and devise Urdu school syllabi as Urdu coordinator at Generations’ School, where she previously worked. As she taught children, she continued to work on the methods for making learning easy and fun. She applied different learning techniques in the classroom, noted their effects and then worked towards having other teachers apply them as well. Fozia uses her experiences to make education a nourishing experience for the students of Date Palm Education System.

In order to infuse values into our society, Fozia’s school curriculum includes a daily class introducing to students the lessons found within the Quran. Various Ayahs are taught and their meanings adapted to meet the understanding level of students.

For parents, who desire their children memorize the Quran, Date Palm Education offers a Hifz program. The Islamiyat teachers are proficient in Tajweed and are Hafiz themselves. The school plans to make the memorization of the Quran a part of their regular academic timetable, so that the entire Quran would be completed by the time children would graduate. Fozia Ahsan understands that just as regular academic subjects are taught gradually through out the schooling years, the Quran should also be taught steadily, so that it sits firmly in the child’s mind.

Fozia Ahsan also realizes that for providing academic excellence you need excellent teachers. Dedicated teachers should know their subject well and have passion for teaching. Furthermore, she feels that many teachers simply are not informed about the tools that can make teaching an enriching experience. As a trainer for the Teachers’ Resource Center, she has seen first hand the positive effects of workshops for teachers. Thus, after the school hours and during school vacations, Date Palm Education System organizes for teachers and interested parents workshops on such topics as child counselling, working with teenagers and using audio-visual aids in teaching Islamiyat. By equipping teachers with the necessary skills, she hopes to improve our overall academic culture and ensure a better future for our children.

Date Palm Education System currently has classes from pre-nursery to grade 5 and plans to grow with addition grades every year. May Allah (swt) aid Fozia Ahsan and her team at Date Palm Education to achieving their dream of nurturing the children of today into the Momins of tomorrow. Ameen.

Date Palm Education System

B-277, Block A

North Nazimabad

Karachi

Phone: (+92) 21-6635451

Junaid Jamshed‘s Media Musings

Vol 4- Issue 2 Junaid Jamshed unpluggedAzeem Pirani and Atefa Jamal recount Junaid Jamshed’s narration of his life in the media

His was not a story of a boy with a song in his heart; rather, Junaid Jamshed doesn’t recall being an ardent music listener at all. Living within a protected environment as a child (his father being an ex-air force officer), Junaid was a studious boy, who enjoyed sports and even played under-19 tennis for Pakistan. It was at college and later university, where he met music lovers and proficient music makers, that he discovered his ability for reproducing songs and soon taught himself to play a guitar for making music of his own.

Junaid’s interaction with the media began as a member of Pakistan’s first official band the Vital Signs. This group of professional musicians worked together for three years, before they caught the media’s attention. Music journalism was in its infancy then and matured with every step the Vital Signs took. The band worked hard to market itself. With no radio FM available then, they relied solely on television and print media. Once Pepsi took them under their wing, they no longer worried about economic stability and concentrated on their music.

Being a ground breaking band in Pakistan, the Vital Signs were celebrities and the first to taste the glamour that came with the role. What helped them to avoid becoming addicted? When Shohaib Mansoor, whom Junaid describes as a visionary, asked them about the basis of their money making, fan following and fame, they replied: “Our work.” To this, Shohaib added: “Don’t go after any of these three things. You will receive them all, but only on the basis of your work.”

“So we always focused on our work all the time,” explained Mr. Jamshed, “and, thanks to Allah (swt), we always considered the running of our houses more important than glamour. Man gets destroyed by the glamour world, when his focus shifts away from his work.” In fact, the Vital Signs made it a point not to discuss the matter of fame, so their only disagreements were about the work itself (sound of the music, etc.). Thus, they worked together for 13 years and remain good friends even today.

“But no doubt, there is a lot of glamour in this field,” Junaid Jamshed pointed out, “but it [glamour] is an unnatural life; it is a life of disobedience to Allah (swt), so there can be no Barakat in it. How can there be any? If I live in your house and disregard your every word, will I ever be at peace there? There will always be some problems to face. Similarly, no one can live peacefully in this world, while disobeying Allah.”

The Vital Signs eventually disbanded, because some of its members felt they had lost the appetite for the work. As most Pakistani music fans know, Junaid continued making music as a soloist.

But then, much to the media’s surprise, he began to change and announced that he would stop making music altogether. The media world was in an uproar. What brought about this sudden decision?

Junaid explains that he met an old school friend Junaid Ghani. This Junaid did not chide nor question his music making; rather, he silently made his presence felt in Junaid Jamshed’s life. All he asked from Junaid Jamshed was to participate in some Dawah work for the Pakistani Dawah group the Tableeghi Jamaat, in order to introduce people to Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa). As this seemed simple enough, Junaid Jamshed began to enjoy doing it. However, while going door to door with Dawah, he also found many people unwilling to give him the time of day. Used to catching the media’s attention easily, this disregard of his presence deeply wounded him. “Then there was [also] Allah’s help, which is necessary,” Mr. Jamshed observed, “if you don’t lead your life according to the Deen, then no matter what plan for success you may have, you are ultimately going towards disaster and will face the effects of that disaster in this world and in the Hereafter.”

His Dawah work and several strange incidents continued to shake Junaid, giving him the strength he needed to turn away from music making. Once, for example, he was approached by a smart young man desiring to learn music. Junaid tried to dissuade him, when much to his astonishment the young man told him that he was a Hafiz of the Quran and had shaved his beard to be more like Junaid. Stunned, he realized that his music making was corrupting the Ummah itself.

Furthermore, he observes that the media makes a person seem like a public commodity. The gossip and fan following had disastrous effects on his family life. Junaid found his family drifting away from him, and he was constantly stressed by this.

When Junaid Jamshed finally announced his departure from music, the media’s reaction was severe. Although initially he gave up in front of the immense pressure from the media and sponsors, later he did manage to stand his ground.

Shaitan made him worry about what to do next. By Allah’s (swt) Mercy, Junaid Jamshed now runs a successful chain of clothing stores popularly known as J..

Surprisingly, he is still working with the media. How did this come about? At the suggestion of Mufti Taqi Usmani and the support of Maulana Tariq Jameel, Junaid Jamshed released two albums of Nasheeds (musicless recitations for praising Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa)) as an alternative to musical (Haraam) songs. He also gives Dars on television and is using the media towards making people aware of the Islamic banking as an alternative to the conventional (Riba based) banking.

The media attention now aids Junaid in Dawah and working towards gaining Allah’s (swt) pleasure. His family can clearly see and appreciate his efforts for the Deen. Though the people using the media for spreading good are assisting each other, Junaid Jamshed cautions: “One should not set out in the way of doing good on ones own; rather, he should ask for elders’ [wise people] advice and then do it. Otherwise, the efforts to spread good would spread Fitnah instead.”

Junaid Jamshed aptly concluded his narration by explaining Surah Ar-Rad (13:11): “Allah will not change the condition of a people, as long as they do not change the state of themselves.”

Junaid Jamshed aptly concluded his narration by quoting from Surah Ar-Rad: “Allah will not change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their state (of goodness) themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allah).” (Ar-Rad 13:11)

Fear of loss obstructs the desire to turn away from sin. Junaid Jamshed observes that Allah (swt) will test one’s firmness of faith but then: “When Allah decides to make someone His friend, He makes that person beloved and respected by the people. Then, He exalts Himself and His Prophet (sa) through that person. An example is the Sahabahs – every Hadith first quotes the name of the narrator (Sahabah) and then the words of Allah and His Messenger. Such is the manner of respect Allah bestows upon His friends.”

 

Pakistan still sees Junaid Jamshed in the media eye, still holding a microphone, still using his voice. Now, however, he speaks for the pleasure of Allah (swt).

Voicing Their Silence

Vol 4-Issue 1 Voicing their SilenceImagine landing at an airport in a remote corner of Europe. At the immigration counter, you are bombarded with questions in a language you’ve never heard before. You try to communicate with the immigration officer the best you can, but he just doesn’t seem to understand. In fact, even the people queued behind you seem to be unable to comprehend your language and start getting irritated by the hold up. Eventually, the officer pulls you aside, so he may deal with the others in line. You stand there feeling helpless, angry, and humiliated. This feeling would give you an inkling of what most deaf people often feel, when dealing with the ‘normal’ people.

Difficult enough as it is to live among the ‘hearing,’ finding a decent job is almost impossible. Unfortunately, Karachi has very little to offer its hearing impaired citizens, other than a few schools teaching the universal sign language. Now, KFC Pakistan endeavors to bring them into the work arena for proving to the public that they are an able and capable task force. KFC has opened an outlet dedicated and operated by the hearing impaired.

This KFC outlet is specially equipped to be run by the hearing impaired – for instance, the bells, which are used to alert a cook, have been replaced with flashing lights. This outlet does more than give the deaf a vocation; it seeks to educate its customers about bridging the communication gap between them. The walls are decorated with images displaying the signs for such simple phrases as “thank you “and “I don’t understand”. The menus at the counter show the orders with the images of items and their sign language equivalents, so a customer may simply point out his desired meal, and for less inhibited, ‘sign’ the order.

Setting up a facility, which caters to their vocational needs, doesn’t mean that things have been smooth sailing for KFC’s team of 32 hearing impaired. Vigorous training to run the restaurant and serve the customers cannot build the courage and confidence they need to deal with ‘normal’ hearing customers. “They have had to deal will all kinds of customers,” explains Ahsan Farhan Naqvi, assistant business manager at the branch. There are those customers, who are very encouraging and specially come to dine here for supporting the staff; however, many have demonstrated much impatience, which naturally disheartens the team. In fact, a number of the initial hearing impaired team quit soon after the restaurant launched.

Currently, the outlet has some ‘hearing’ members, who supervise the running of the outlet and do deliveries. As learning sign language takes some time, they have been provided by communicators proficient in the language to act as mediators amongst the team and customers when necessary. Many from the hearing team are keenly learning the sign language through their everyday interaction with the rest of the team. But in the forefront at the counters, you will be greeted by a smile from the hearing impaired.

Ahsan explains that the KFC Gulshan branch team consists of educated and very capable young people. They can operate computers, fix electrical equipment, and have been handling most of the branch’s maintenance work as well. Karachi is lacking in opportunities for them, which is why they are thankful to KFC for providing them with the platform to bring about a positive change for the future generations.

Furthermore, KFC also offers its hearing impaired team career growth opportunities. As they strengthen their capabilities within the branch, they can apply for positions further up the KFC career ladder, just like any other ‘hearing’ employee. This symbolizes KFC’s promise of not making distinctions among its employees, which is difficult for most organizations dealing with the deaf.

Most organizations, in fact, are unwilling to take on the challenge of setting up a work environment conducive to the needs of the deaf at all, and many of the hearing impaired themselves hesitate to go out of their own home environments. Ahsan explains that though the schools for the deaf teach them sign language, they do not help build a strong command of reading and writing Urdu and English. This handicap decreases their chances of securing any meaningful employment.

Bringing this hearing impaired team together was not as easy as simply putting an ad in the papers. Forms for potential employees were initially sent to the “Deaf Reach Centre” (which teaches computer literacy) that eventually circulated them to other schools for the deaf. The response was slow at first. Many of the deaf, like most young people, were initially anxious to take on the world. However, their first interaction with the real world had been so daunting that they hesitated to consider this to be a true opportunity. Currently, though, there are over a hundred applications in pending, Alhumdulillah.

There are many young and proficient individuals out there, who can see, think, read, and write but just can’t hear our language. They need jobs. KFC has taken the lead in improving their futures, and others need to follow through for expanding their horizons. Allah (swt) has said: ”Who is he that will lend Allah (swt) a goodly loan, so that He may multiply it to him many times? And it is Allah (swt) that decreases or increases (your provisions), and unto Him you shall return”(Al-Baqarah 2: 245). A little investment in this world to overcome our handicap – our inability to communicate with the deaf, which can give us great returns in this world and the Hereafter. Insha’Allah (swt).

 

Islam Encourages Working in Spite of Disabilities

Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum (rta) was one of the early converts to Islam – a Sahabah, Muezzin, Muhajir, and governor of Madinah. He even bore the standard for Muslims during Jihad. He did all this in spite of his handicap – he was blind. He would, in fact, speak of his handicap as an advantage by saying: “Place me between two rows and give me the standard. I will carry it for you and protect it, for I am blind and cannot run away.” The Prophet Muhammed (sa) and his Ummah respected and accepted him as he was – a man worthy of honor.

Educational Research Institute (ERI)

Image ERIEducational Research Institute (ERI) was formed by a group of individuals in 1995. Since its inception it has been striving to bring about an effective change in the educational system through its various services. ERI’s efforts are now slowly trickling into our bi-polar educational system in Pakistan through an integrated curriculum, teacher training programs and consultancy services for schools. To get a first hand view of this organization, I approached several of its members.

Mrs. Safoora Naeem, Principal Usman Public School System and Deputy Director of ERI

How far do you think there is a need for an institute like ERI in the educational system of Pakistan?

There is a tremendous need for developing our own curriculum and books. All the books, which come from abroad, are based on statistics and data collected in a totally different environment. We don’t have any data or statistics available catering exclusively to the Pakistani market. So there is a dire need for this kind of research work. Realizing all these aspects of education, ERI was founded, and ever since we started we have been quite successful in all these areas.

What has been the people’s response to this institute generally?

The people’s response is quite good; especially those who are more inclined towards Islam and realize the need of Islamic teachings in the curriculum and teachers’ development. These people are quite impressed by our services. But apart from them, even other people visit us, so the response has been, overall, tremendous.

What problems did you encounter, if any, in the initial stages of running ERI?

When any institute like this starts, the initial problems are usually manpower and funding. We still face these two major problems because most of the people can understand lots of other works, which are beneficial for the society, but they do not understand the need and benefits of educational work. And it is not easy to explain to them either.

What ambitions do you have for ERI in the future?

At ERI, we are quite ambitious and are looking forward to opening our own teachers’ training college, where we will provide a proper degree or certificate to the teachers. The government does provide this service in the form of the B.Ed and C.T. degrees and various kinds of training too. In reality trained teachers usually complain that when they join the schools, they do not get the opportunity or tools to practice what they are taught. On the other hand, some teachers just assume that whatever they are studying is just going to remain as knowledge and not going to be put into practice. So we lose all the effect of that kind of training. At ERI we are aiming at opening a college where we will offer B.Ed with a difference; where we can promote the skills in the teacher to an extent where she goes into the classroom and then makes a difference.

Mrs. Razia Shamsuddin, Principal of Saba High School and Deputy Director of ERI

What exactly do you try to communicate through the books of your institute?

We feel that we don’t need another English textbook; there are plenty in the market, which deal with appropriate tasks and skills. But what we find is that they do not carry the concepts we want to teach our children. So the ERI books are teaching concepts plus all the other necessary skills.

Is your scope of operation confined to Pakistan or have you marketed your products abroad as well?

As far as I know, there is a school in Jeddah, which is using these books. Last year, when we went over to the ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) conference, we gave a short presentation to them. They were quite impressed with the kind of work going on in Pakistan. They requested that our Islamiat books should be translated into English. We are currently working on it to come up with a consistent piece of translation.

ERI has a consultancy service for new schools. Can you elaborate on the features of that consultancy service?

Consultancy includes setting up of the whole school, i.e. classrooms and soft board material. Consultancy continues for six months. It includes selection of teachers and a principal; all the documentation that a school is supposed to have is provided; selection of students; plus teacher training program. Also, there is a training program for principals. Teachers and principals can visit our schools as well.

How can rest of the brothers and sisters support you in your mission?

We need a lot of helping hands in the form of experienced teachers with an Islamic background who want to serve children through their experience. We would like them to come over and do whatever small work they can, either editing or writing or translating the Islamiat books, either at ERI or from home. Since we are an NGO, and ERI does not sell books, all the expenditure has to be met through donations. We would be very grateful to people who can donate either their money or time.

I put the same question to Mrs. Safoora Naeem and she added that, “We would really appreciate it if the people who are well-versed in computers volunteer so we can take some help from them.”

Dr. Nasreen Ahsan, Deputy Director for Curriculum at ERI.

You introduced the concept of integrated curriculum. Can you elaborate on that?

It basically means to integrate science, social studies, social sciences, religious teachings, mathematics and languages into one subject so that students don’t have to go through separate things. They go through one whole curriculum only. And this is best elaborated in all the pre-primary level schools where you have this kind of curriculum. But when we talk of integrated curriculum we mean that we take all the six disciplines according to our own ideological basis. Our concept of integrated curriculum is that you integrate all of your religious teachings into all the six disciplines.

The concept of integrated curriculum obviously led to the need for having your own personalized curriculum. How did you go about it? How did you decide the priority of subjects?

When we wanted our personalized curriculum we had to do everything from scratch: research, proofread and compile. We didn’t have any material, so we had to create our own. We started by writing books for the Montessori level. Then we compiled them and tested them out in the classrooms practically. And as it was put into practice in the classroom, many problems came into our notice so we revised the curriculum accordingly.

It’s about 10 years since this curriculum was put in the classroom and taking this as a basis, we started to work on the pre-primary books. We have completed that and now we are working on the primary and secondary books. We have only done English and Islamiat. We still have a lot of work to do in Social Studies and Science.

ERI is currently in the process of launching its own website. Once that happens, you can volunteer for this organization from your home using the online form to register as members or volunteers. Right now, for additional information or to volunteer, you can request their brochures from:

ERI Head Office

Address: B-223 Block I North Nazimabad Karachi 74700

Phone: 021-6624151

Fax Number: (021)-6626236

Email Address: eri@cyber.net.pk

ERI Society Branch

Address: 196-D, Block 2, P.E.C.H.S. Karachi

Phone: 4312141