Danita Topcagic

Danita Topcagic (Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organization - BERDO): Danita was raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but moved to the United States with her family at the age of fourteen as a refugee. She is passionate about humanitarian work and earned her BA in international relations from University of Missouri – Columbia. Danita received her MA in global finance, trade and economic integration with a focus in international development from University of Denver.



Children Scream “Zoooooo”!!!!!

22 Jun

For all pictures visit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/26685510@N08/

I am not a big fan of zoos for reasons obvious to animal lovers and animal rights activists, but since there aren’t too many opportunities where to take students who are blind and visually impaired, we decided to go to zoo anyway. I did suggest to go to a music venue or a game park which all students can enjoy equally, but limited financial resources keep recreational activities to a minimum and at a low
budget.

The center where I am staying is running a school for blind – The School of Happy World – which is two years old and only has seven students. The students range in ages from 7 to 12 and are either in first or second class. Only one student lives outside the center with his family, and the others live here, far away from their villages and families. Still they are quite lucky to be receiving an education since the government schools are ill-equipped to provide education to students with disabilities, and therefore they are excluded from schools.

The School of Happy World is a home to six children and every once in a while there is just enough money for a field-trip. Some of you have asked me “How will
they enjoy the zoo since they can’t see?”, and it is a valid question to ask. Some of the students in the group are visually impaired so they share with others what they see. The system this group of students has developed is astonishing. They help each other move around by holding hands and informing each other of obstacles on the road such as steps or mud puddles, they help one another to the bathroom and the ones who can see explain quite enthusiastically and descriptively everything around them.

There were other components of the zoo which made this a memorable visit for the students and I, which were the powerful smells of animal waste and their unanswered howls. Animal rights aside, this alone can be a guide for the blind persons because all
throughout the zoo you can hear animals howling. I assume it is because of the poor conditions in which the animals are living. This is the dirtiest zoo I ever visited and I could continue for pages about the animal abuse there, but it is necessary to remember that in a country like Bangladesh there are human rights which still need to be granted and protected before one can begin to think about issues as animal rights.

About 13 million people in this country are disabled, including physical, speech and hearing, visual and intellectual impairment. Sadly, most of these impairments are due to malnutrition, lack of clean drinking water and no access to affordable health care. Furthermore, most of these impairments are preventable with minimal health education and some basic services. Because of such a high rate of disabled persons, it is hard to believe that government hasn’t done more to prevent these impairments or to provide services to persons who are disabled so that they could have a chance of earning their own income. This is why it is admirable to look at The School of Happy World and their objective to educate these children to be self-dependent.

Although, the size of the school is very small, their hopes are big and with increased funding they are prepared to accommodate more students. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even have enough resources to create an environment for these children where they can play more and will be able to learn many other things outside of this center?! For now, their basic needs are met which is more than you can say for millions of others who are still waiting for their turn.

Posted By Danita Topcagic

Posted Jun 22nd, 2008

6 Comments

  • Tait Robinson

    June 24, 2008

     

    Very cool experience to share with them!

    Few questions:

    From what you know so far, is there much stigma attached to being disabled/blind? Maybe more/less with older people than kids?

    Do they wear sunglasses or cover their eyes or walk the the ubiquitous cane/pole like they do here in the states?

    Heard of anyone who has a seeing eye dog?

    What was the kids’ favorite animal or noise, and why do you think?

    Sorry for playing 20 Questions with you, just curious really….stay cool and dry!!

    Tait

  • Danita

    June 24, 2008

     

    Taiters-Answers!!!

    1. There is much stigma associated with disabilities. They are considered a shame and burden on families and communities because they aren’t able to earn an income. This is mostly due to the fact that education system isn’t developed to offer assistance to them and without any education they are jobless, and many are forced to beg.
    Don’t know if there is much difference to how they’re treated if younger/older.
    2. They don’t wear sunglasses, maybe because they are too young to be aware of other people’s opinions, maybe because no one here is suggesting that they wear them and that could be because it is an additional expense. The executive director, how is blind, wears sunglasses.
    About the canes, they don’t use them, and the exec director said that they will in the future but my assumption is that they don’t want to buy them yet because it is an expense they can forgo especially since children rarely leave this center.
    3. No dogs for assistance. I hardly saw a dog on the street, and I wonder why. Mostly I have seen blind people assisted by friends or family.
    4. Favorite animal noise, at the zoo it would be the tiger…but at home I noticed they imitate frogs a lot.
    KEEP THE QUESTIONS COMING! and you ought get a blog yourself with all your experiences.

  • Danita

    June 24, 2008

     

    Pictures from zoo, and others
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/26685510@N08/

  • sabina besic

    June 25, 2008

     

    what is their favorite subject in school? and their favorite game?

  • Danita

    June 26, 2008

     

    All but one said favorite subject is English (I think they were just being polite), and the other one said math.

    However the sad thing is these children only have 4 mandatory classes, and 2 optional classes. Mandatory classes are: English, Bengali, math, and social sciences. The optional classes are general knowledge and religious studies.

    But in a country where more than half of the population is illiterate…this isn’t so bad after all.

  • Laura Ruggeri

    June 28, 2008

     

    Hello Danita,

    Thank you ever so much for including me in your news update and giving me the link to your blog. Your blog narrative is powerful! It is incredible to hear about your work in Dkaha!

    I am sorry that I didn’t have the opportunity to see you before you left NYC. Please let me know when you are back in the city. I would love to catch up with you then. Again, I want for you to know how touching and profound I have found reading about your life and your work in Dhaka to be. Clearly the difference you are making in the lives of those children in Dkaha who have the privilege to work with you will be indelible. I wish you my best with your continued success! Congratulations and Good Luck!

    Best wishes,

    Laura

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