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     Volume 1 Issue 5 | September 2, 2006 |


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Cover Story

From Chittagong

Bringing Smile to the
Faces of the Distressed

Saami Rahman

When I asked Ms. Nasreen for her photograph, so that I could put it on the cover story, she amiably told me that she didn't want her to be publicized through the media. In fact, she said she didn't usually meet newspaper reporters, and she had permitted me to write about her only because I was about the same age as his her sons and she had taken a liking to me.

“I cannot walk now, but I believe, there will be a day, when I will walk on my own legs.” These words were spoken by Mr. Nurunnabi when he was interviewed by a reporter of the TV channel NTV. He believed, and he succeeded. He was handicapped and was unable to walk, but his disability is history now. Now he is perfectly normal. Thanks to NCDP (Nurture's Centre for Disabled and Paralyzed), thanks to Ms. Nasreen Baqui.

In her early 40's, Nasreen Baqui (Shipu) is working for a noble cause. She has a vivacious personality. Daughter of the renowned barrister, Mr. S. H. K. Milky, Nasreen commenced her academic career in St. Scholastica. She completed her matriculation level in 1978, and Intermediate studies in 1980. She stopped in the middle of her honours course on Management in Chittagong University, when she gave birth to identical twins, Yasir and Yamin.

In 1994, Nasreen Baqui founded Nurture's Centre for Disabled and Paralyzed in the more peaceful part of the city at North Halishahar, Chittagong. Single-storied at the beginning, the premises have expanded further, and now consist of a separate building with an air-conditioned mini operation theatre therein. The building is still under construction as the upper floors are being built. The main building houses about 25 patients who receive treatment daily under the supervision of a team of physiotherapists. It also consists of a small office and a separate room, where minor surgeries are undertaken. As for major surgeries, they are carried out in the Chittagong Medical College and in the event of the patients' inability to pay for it, Nurture finances the operation. As a matter of fact, most of the patients in Nurture is treated free of charge. The staff team is comprised of 12 members, mainly physiotherapists, a few of whom are volunteers from France and Netherlands.

As a treat for the local children, most of whom live in the nearby slums, there is a school run by Nurture, where they are taught by a handicapped man on a wheelchair, Mr. Shyamol Chakma. But the children don't bother about who teaches them, as long as they can come to school. Their smiles broaden when the music class begins. The children sing rhythmically to “Amra shishu, amadero achhe odhikar”. Their voices bring life into Nurture. Their voices raise the hopes of their teachers.

The parents of these children cannot afford to send them to proper schools, since they earn a small amount of money, most of which is spent on food. Nurture has made their dreams of going to school come true by providing them free education, besides stationery and books, which are also complimentary. Nurture has plans of expanding the school from a single room to some more and to provide an advanced curriculum for these students.

Another of Nurture's speciality is that, it trains its patients so that they can be financially independent and also grow in self respect. Patients are trained to do embroidery. They make skirts, trousers and shirts, besides other items. The patients are also trained to operate computers. They are taught the basic skills, such as MS Word, MS Excel, and MS Paint etc.

It's Nasreen's care and love for her patients that sets her apart from the rest. She not only arranges the treatment of her patients, but also teaches them a way to earn a decent living. For instance, when Mr. Siraj, aged nineteen, was admitted to Nurture in 2003, he had lost all of his hopes and it seemed that life had lost all its meaning for him. He had passed his 'Dakhil' exam with a GPA of 4.17 and was on his way home on a tempo (a three wheeler) in the town of Feni. It was the 9th of November 2002; the tempo collided head on with a cyclist. The tempo turned over and it was then that the dreams of Mr. Siraj ended. Or so he thought.

Ill-fated Mr. Siraj was severely injured and was immediately taken to the local Feni hospital. Later he was transferred to Chittagong Medical Hospital where on the seventh day of his treatment he was informed that he would recover within three months. But actually it took more than three months, before he could join Nurture with his shattered dreams. The staffs of Nurture were amazed to discover his talent in studies. Especially, his handwriting and his aptitude in creative writing greatly impressed Nasreen. “Some may sympathise with me on me on hearing my tragic story while some may shed tears, but it was Nurture who gave me a second life and a chance to prove myself.” said Siraj. The eldest of the siblings, Mr. Siraj was the one to whom his father, a retired government employee looked up to but all their hopes were shattered after he met with the accident.

However, fate had better plans for Mr. Siraj and his family. He was treated with the utmost care by Ms. Nasreen and her staff. While he steadily recovered from the injury, he was also attending a course on Computer Graphics funded by Nurture. He successfully completed the course and was able to make a fairly satisfactory living. When he left Nurture in 2004, still on callipers, he was full of gratitude to Ms. Nasreen and her staff.

Mr. Siraj is not the only success record of Nurture; there have been a legion of patients who have walked out of Nurture with a new ray of light in their hearts. Mr. Mohon Lal Das, a former worker in the ship-breaking yard, works in Nurture as a book keeper. He fell from a height of 40 feet which caused an acute spinal injury. Had it not been for Nurture, his life would have been restricted to a pair of crutches. However, now he is not only a patient, he also helps with the accounts of the organisation. Another example is Mr. Shyamol Chakma. He moves about in a wheel chair but takes classes as mentioned earlier. Nurture has also received female patients who were forsaken by their husbands. Parvin and Jahanara were both abandoned by their husbands after similar accidents had made them disabled.

Because they couldn't perform household works and also because their husbands either didn't want to or couldn't afford to pay for their treatment, they were left uncared for in the Chittagong Medical Hospital. They were later transferred to Nurture. Now, although they walk on crutches they have learned to embroider and are making beautiful clothes.

Both of her sons were selected for admission in the famous Imperial College, London, but Ms. Nasreen chose not to send them there, because she thought it would be wiser to invest the fund on her patients' treatment. She thought may be her sons were good performers in their academic work due to the good wishes of her patients. This incident, I believe, will enable our readers to gauge the depth of Ms. Nasreen's kind heart. As for her sons, they were selected by NUS (National University of Singapore) and were also offered a grant of 65% of their tuition fees.

I was curious if there was any incident that caused her to undertake such a mammoth task of helping people. She replied, “Whenever my children fell sick, or if I fell sick, I could always go to a doctor since I was pretty solvent. But then it struck me that poor people also fell sick, and they were unable to meet the doctor's fees and fell in great distress. I thought about them and I couldn't bear it. It was then that I decided I should do something for these people.”

Ms. Nasreen also wants slum children to get better education. She hopes that every year, the better schools of the town, like C.G.S., Sunshine Grammar School, Mastermind International School and Ispahani Public School would each take one student from her c lass-room and educate them free of charge. She believes that, if given a chance, anyone could be a star, so why couldn't her students perform just as well as other students who come from the higher classes in society? She presents to our consciences a question.

In her free time, Nasreen likes to listen to the songs of Rabindranath Tagore. Her favourite personality is Mother Teresa. Asked if there was any memorable incident in her life, she said that there were many incidents in her life worth mentioning. So to tell me one and leave out others wouldn't be fair. However, she told me that she felt happiest when she saw smiles on the faces of her patients.

Ms. Nasreen Baqui emphatically said that she would continue to give people hope, bestow light on their dark hours and be their support to the best of her ability till the end of her life. Our best wishes are and will always be with her.

To The Readers: As we look around us, we can find many other Ms. Nasreens who are working relentlessly, just to see a bright smile on the faces of helpless people. In this world, we are continually under attack by the competition to stay up to date. We are moving so fast that we fail to look at the powerless who wait for us to stretch our hands. When we turn the television on, we see poverty all over our country. I'm sure that all of us, at any point of our lives, have felt that may be, may be we could make a difference; a small, yet a difference. I am addressing all the readers, and also all my friends who are reading this, please be generous. What joy is greater than the joy of helping others? Please make a contribution, however small that may be. If Ms. Nasreen can dedicate her life to her patients, why can't we think for a single moment about her patients and donate something? We all know the answer. Yes, we can.

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Come, let's make a difference.

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