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22nd January 2012

A story of hope

Yeasmin is one big story of hope. She has broken down cultural barriers and achieved happiness that she never imagined was possible. Her story is one that will touch your heart and will hopefully inspire many others struggling against prejudice.

Yeasmin is a little more than 3ft tall and 22 years old. She first came to Hathay Bunano when she was 17. She had been living at the Centre for the Rehabilitation for the Paralysed, a truly inspirational NGO doing incredible work for those who are both disabled and poor. In Bangladesh if you are just over 3ft tall then you are considered disabled. Yeasmin lived at home as a child but was taken to live at the CRP when her father died, when she was just 12 years old. She didn’t want to live in an institution – she wanted a life. She learnt some vocational sewing skills but there was not enough sewing for her to make any money. Then in 2006 she heard about Hathay Bunano and wanted to learn to crochet. At that time Hathay Bunano were running a training course in the CRP and Yeasmin joined in this.

Whilst the CRP does great work in rehabilitating people for return to the community it cannot be a long term institution for adults. Whilst Yeasmin had lived there for 5 of her childhood years she clearly could not stay there forever and there was concern for her from all those around her about the next step. There were two other ladies, Jolly and Shima, in wheelchairs at the CRP who were also doing crochet work with Hathay Bunano and who also had reached adulthood. At that time we suggested trying the very bold step of setting up a residential room in the Hathay Bunano complex and having Shima, Jolly and Yeasmin both live and work in the complex. Yeasmin, whilst short, was capable of cooking and shopping and would be able to look after the other two ladies. And so they moved in.

This worked well for a year or so until our landlord at that time decided that it was not good for his reputation to have disabled ladies living in his property. I can’t explain this in a nice way because there isn’t a nice way to explain it. At the time I was horrified by his intention and simply didn’t understand it. I remember when we were first told that we would have to leave the complex, feeling nauseous for days. I’m quite stubborn and prepared to fight alongside those who need help and so for a while we chose to stay at the building. We stayed until the landlord turned off the gas connection and deactivated the lift! Clearly it was no longer safe for the disabled ladies to be in the building and so we set about moving.

We found a new building in its own grounds and thought that this would be secure for our work and the disabled ladies. We had been moved into this building for one day when the new landlord came to visit and told my husband and I that he didn’t want disabled ladies in his building. I’d become more immune to this attitude in the passing years but still it was a huge blow. We had only just moved. It wasn’t possible to move the whole office again and so we needed to find a new solution.

My husband’s family have a property in a village area about 1 hours drive out of Dhaka and so we discussed with Yeasmin, Shima and Jolly and agreed that they would move to the village and would live and work there. Yeasmin, along with the house caretaker would look after Shima and Jolly. And so they moved to Sonargoan and lived very happily for three years. In fact so happily that Yeasmin met a male friend, Hamid, while living in Sonargoan. They fell in love and married. He didn’t see her disability. He saw only her lovely smile and sunny personality, that she was capable and strong and had a secure and well paid job.

And the story continues…. Yeasmin and Hamid had a beautiful baby boy who is not disabled in any way. Yeasmin, Hamid and baby now live in a house close to the current Hathay Bunano head office, where Yeasmin currently works while her baby is in the creche, and her husband has secured work in the construction industry. Yeasmin couldn’t be happier. She earns enough to care for her family, her husband also earns and they have a savings plan. Yeasmin is organised and determined as ever and is already making plans already for her baby’s education and future.

It is almost unheard of for poor disabled women to marry and have children in Bangladesh. A real story of hope against adversity. We are all so happy to see Yeasmin live her life to the full and provide a great role model and beacon of hope to the disabled in developing countries around the world.


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