Saturday 27 February 2010

Local hero series

Shameer at the foot print workshop at the Institute of palliative care, Calicut

The Blue Yonder is starting a series of stories from destinations that have inspired us, stories of local heroes who fought against all odds. We introduce you to Shameer.

Shameer was a young and vibrant high school student enjoying his life when fate intervened to change his life forever. Whilst climbing an aracanut palm tree, Shameer fell to the ground and was never the same again.

Shameer had been living in one of the most picturesque villages of Kerala, Mukkom in the Kozhikode district, with his mother, sister and grandmother. The family had great expectations for him as he was the sole male member of a traditional Muslim family. He was supposed to lead the family financially and emotionally. However, following the accident, the family had to face the reality that Shameer had lost his mobility and he needed support to live. This came as a complete shock to him as well as his family members.

' I managed to survive! I don’t know. The courage and support provided by palliative care people really helped me to survive,”' Shameer.

Even during his most difficult initial years, Shameer tried hard to survive and take care of his family. He engaged in many vocations, such as making hand made products, copying music CDs according to the requirements of the local people and earning a little bit of money.

However, the needs of his family were greater than what he could provide them with. Even in her old age, Shameer's grandmother was forced to work as a domestic servant in nearby houses in order to feed the family.

Thirteen years have passed since the accident, and now Shameer has only his grandmother at home. She is now more than eighty years old, neither able to look after herself nor Shameer.

Now, however, circumstances have changed a great deal. We find a cheerful Shameer surrounded by young intelligent friends, sharing stories, debating issues, leading an active social life, working to finish projects and earning enough to live and care for his grandmother. His strong will power helped him get to where he is today.

These days, Shameer works with the community based rehabilitation project 'Foot Prints', a project by the Institute of Palliative Medicine, Kozhikode. Now he is a trained person in different vocations such as paper bag making, eco-friendly bamboo pen production, artificial jewellery making and more. He also finds the time to engage in two of his favourite hobbies: painting and photography. He has many friends like Aayaz, a college student and his neighbour who regularly visits him. Athira, Aswathi, Junaiz, Althaf, Babin... the list is long. He met these students at Footprints camps, and even though many of them are residing or studying far away from his village, they somehow find time to visit him at least once in a week.

'Now I do not consider myself a disabled person. I am earning,occupied and I have a social life. I have participated in some of the programmes held in Kozhikode last year with the help of my friends like the musical programme by A R Rahman and the talk by former president Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam. I have friends always ready to help me and I talk to them whenever I want. My mobile phone helps me to keep contacts and I don’t have to depend on anyone now to meet the expense to charge my mobile and other expenses because I am earning just like others,' says a proud Shameer, clutching a mobile phone in his hands.

His future looks bright.
The Blue Yonder is partnering with Palliative care movement in Calicut to set up another unit of travellers' forest in the Calicut campus and also to bring in interested travelling volunteers to work in foot print workshop. The first step of planting by travellers will be inaugurated on the 5th of June 2010, which also happens to be the world environment day.

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