Mir Salim was eighteen months when he fell ill with typhoid and lost his eyesight. He passed his class 12th examination in 1992 and undertook training in nutrition at the Helen Keller International at Dhanmondi, Dhaka. For three years, he taught English grammar to high school students in private classes in Banaripara. He has always been good at it, he admits with a touch of pride. He also communicates regularly with Braille magazines in USA. Salim now works as a community organiser with BERDO in Banaripara.
His work is challenging and problems are plenty. The devastation caused by Cyclone Sidr means that people mistake micro-credit for flood relief. Induction of new members is a slow process that requires a great deal of confidence-building and motivation. He says that motivation, in fact, is a double-edged sword. The indolent are difficult to motivate and the industrious fail to see the merits of enrolling in BERDO’s Community-Based Rehabilitation programme. Once enrolled, people look for quick benefits – a grant, a sewing machine, scholarships for students etc. Awareness levels about disabilities are low and superstitions are rampant in Banaripara, like in most other parts of Bangladesh. Disability among children is often seen as a result of gunaah (sins) committed by other members of the family. His greatest challenge, he says, is to explain to prospective and current members of BERDO that disability is not a curse.
The nature of these problems means that Salim has to wear multiple hats – that of a community worker, an education adviser, a negotiator and a disability rights advocate, at different times of the day. He plays scout and travels to neighbouring villages to identify disabled children who do not attend school and negotiates with teachers who are often reluctant to allow disabled children to enrol into local schools. He shares his knowledge in matters of nutrition and hygiene and also accompanies disabled individuals to the District office to help them register their complaints.
Watch the video below to know why the teacher at the local school thought Nantu (a physically challenged child) could not, and what it took Salim to convince him that Nantu could:
P.S.: Salim has an interest in people, places and the animal kingdom. When not sorting out problems of the villagefolk, Salim reads old Braille editions of National Geographic.
Posted By Abhilash Medhi
Posted Aug 8th, 2009