DHAKA, April 3, 2018 (BSS/UNICEF FEATURE) - "Please treat us as human being. We don't want to survive seeking mercy. Rather want to grow with full potentials so that we can lead lives like other members of the society," said Mahzabin, a 15-year old differently-abled girl.
She added: "We want to acquire knowledge, get education so that we gain the capacity to run our lives. You need to create a favourable environment for us. We have talents. Even we are specially-talented in many cases."
Mahzabin said she could not earlier attend school as the authority refused to admit her for what they said had no arrangement for children like me.
"I want to complete my studies so that I can enter my professional life like others. Please prepare a curriculum suitable for us," she continued.
Mahir Binte Mahmud, another specially-abled student of Autism Welfare Foundation (AWF), said she was admitted at AWF in 2005 at the age of five and started studying there.
"Now I am at SSC level. I have passed PSC and JSC successfully. I learnt music and dance in this school and take part in sports and other programmes. I have also learnt computer," she said.
Mahmud said BSRM donated her a computer and she was presently engaged in research work through it. "This will help me a lot. I wish to be established as a working person in the future," she added.
Similar worries and expectation was heard from many differently-abled children of age up to 17 years and their parents. Among them, 160 students are getting education, training and support from the Autism Welfare Foundation (AWF).
The foundation, just shifted to its newly-built complex at Basila in Dhaka has 70 teachers and trainers who are relentlessly working to discharge their services under the guidance of Dr Rawnak Hafiz, chairman of AWF.
The four-storey AWF complex over a land of 23 kathas was inaugurated to give better facilities to the specially-abled kids in an open atmosphere as, besides specious class rooms, it has been equipped with all modern tools and arrangement like research centre, lab, computer lab, swimming pool, music class rooms, etc.
The complex was inaugurated at a ceremony on Friday in presence of philanthropist industrialist Runner Group Chairman Hafizur Rahman Khan, AB Bank Chairman MA Awal, Head of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility and Communication) Ruhi Murshid Ahmed, who have been extending continuous support for the development of the foundation for providing better facilities to the students.
Sabrina Islam, mother of 17-year-old girl Tahsin, said, "I, along with my entire family, have been walking with the guidance of AWF for last 17 years. Under the guidance of Rawnak apa, I think AWF is the right place that will give a safe home to our daughter."
She said: "I am glad for this complex. Establishment of the rest of the facilities needs to be completed for making this place fully capable to support them. Teachers are the main guardians here. They support us giving advises event at phone calls."
Sabrina said this is really wondering that the especially-able children pass the entire day during the school time from 8 am to 5 pm.
"They often seem to be physically tired but always remain cheerful because they love staying here for the environment that is very much favourable for their mental health. They are even safer here than home," she added.
Marium Manwar, a teacher at AWF, said that she has been working at AWF for the last 17 years. "Initially there were seven teachers. We have to face many challenges and Rawnak apa taught us how to nurture the special kids. The students are given ideas for innovative works," she said.
She said the children are participating in various competitions and winning awards.
"Though sometimes we get tired physically, but enjoy working here for dedicating more for the special children. One of our former students is now working here. One got married after developing improvement and is now passing married life happily," she added.
At the inauguration programme, Dr Rawnak Hafiz said, "Our dream comes true. Dream makes people live. Parents of specially-abled children are always worried about the future of their children. They especially think about the safety of the children during their absence."
Dr Hafiz said Autism Welfare Foundation was established in 2004. "We have now got our own complex over a land of 23 kathas donated by Runner Group of Companies in 2012. Later, AB Bank Limited extended their hand to build the complex," she added.
She said the construction of the complex started in June, 2015. BSRM also came with its extended hands to support the foundation. The complex has been constructed equipped with all modern and updated facilities.
Still some works are being conducted. Constructions of swimming pool, multipurpose hall, and vocational training centre are yet to be completed," she further said.
"Most importantly, it is needed to build a dormitory for the children for housing them in the future to ensure that they remain safe in absence of their parents," she continued.
Hafizur Rahman Khan said he personally and his group feels better to work with AWF and the special children. "From the bottom of my heart, I feel attached with them and always ready to extend hands for their support. The board of Runner Group always supports me to make contributions to the foundation," said Khan.
Ruhi Murshid Ahmed, Head of CSR and Communication of BSRM, said everyone needs support for making dream come true. These special children also dream to be successful in life. BSRM will help their dream come true, he said.
MA Awal, chairman of AB Bank Limited, said, "AWF has made praiseworthy contributions to the society by this time. AB Bank provided support with finance and transport to the students. The bank helped the foundation in constructing the complex and will stay beside it in the future.