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.

TRIP Day 1: “I remember green, blue and red”

17 Aug

This entry is a part of series summarizing a trip to rural and remote villages in Bangladesh to observe the impact of micro-credit program. Iain Guest, the Executive Director of Advocacy Project, joins us. To read the whole story, start in the reverse order beginning with blog titled “Trip: Washington to meet Dhaka”.

Saidul headed towards the airport to pick up Iain while I was left to finish some work and then to pack. Around 5pm we meet at Saidul’s house where his wife, Maksuda, spent most of the day preparing scrumptious snacks which only took us few minutes to devour. We were eating fast also because we had to get to the port to catch our overnight boat, and the journey to the port is the crucial one because one never knows how much time to devote to it: 30 minutes if everyone left town and there is no traffic, and anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours in a normal traffic flow.

Introductions were fast at first as everyone was double-checking their baggage to make sure nothing was forgotten, but once we settled into our boat cabins, the interview began. Iain was jotting down notes and we were all listening about Saidul’s childhood and what lead to his blindness. He said that he was sick for a while due to a fever and his sight was getting worse with time passing until one day it was gone all together. He cannot even remember any faces or things, but he still has a recollection of some colors especially green, blue and red. He said that his mother thought he wouldn’t survive, but he recovered and set out to get an education and carry on with his life just like any other person.

With the assistance of his friends who read books to him so that he can transcribe them in Braille, he finished high school, university and then masters in philosophy. Upon his masters, he worked as a professor for several years but all along he was planning to form an organization to represent and assist people with disabilities.

We sit there listening and taking notes about his life and the obstacles he overcame, and not once did I feel that he was disabled. He is fully capable of achieving his dreams and to call him disabled would be an insult because he is only visually impaired. This is the same message that is he arguing and hopes others will see as well, that persons with disabilities don’t need services and welfare, they simply need basic human rights just like everyone else. I think about that as we were served a typical Bangalee dinner of rice, fish and vegetables which was so delicious we were licking our fingers clean, and I was back to the happy mode.

After dinner, Iain and I stepped out onto the deck to enjoy the views of so many boats passing by illuminating the river and to finally cool off in the breeze of the open air. Few minutes of talking, Iain felt like an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and the while conversation floated so smoothly we did not notice the morning was creeping in. Recalling the memories of Bosnia during war was what possessed our minds, but we did not forget that both of us are working on a completely different issue now – advocating for the human rights of persons with disabilities.

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Posted By Danita Topcagic

Posted Aug 17th, 2008

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