Pakistan’s Special Needs People

By Sonya Rehman

Photos: Saad Sarfraz Sheikh

On the outskirts of Lahore, one of Pakistan’s largest cities, a non-government organisation has been running a centre that houses people with special needs.

Founded in 2001, Roshni Association provides a safe haven for individuals whose families are unable to financially and emotionally support their loved ones.

Its founders, Shahida Perveen, a Pakistani social worker, and her husband, Hamid Hannesen, believe that there is still little awareness about special education in the country. They have been focusing on therapy in adults and aim to meet those requirements.

There are currently 50 students at the centre, which charges no fee. Families, however, may contribute whatever little they can.

The centre also houses foreign volunteers who live on campus and work closely with the community. Currently, Alexander Kuehne, from Germany, Micha-Joel Seitz and Anna Natascha Steiner, both from Switzerland, lend their hands in the society’s day-to-day activities.

Students are also encouraged to participate in activities such as wood, textile, and art and craft workshop.

The centre also has a five-acre garden where organic produce is grown and cultivated, and sold in the market earning extra income.

Al Jazeera

Alexander Kuehne, from Germany, has been working for Roshni as a volunteer since 2009. His main duty entails managing the society's organic farm and engaging students in farm work. "It's a privilege to be here. It's a lot of work but it also brings a lot of joy," Kuehne said.
Alexander Kuehne, from Germany, has been working for Roshni as a volunteer since 2009. His main duty entails managing the society’s organic farm and engaging students in farm work. “It’s a privilege to be here. It’s a lot of work but it also brings a lot of joy,” Kuehne said.

 

Gohar Ali joined Roshni when he was 14 years old. In 2013, Ali won a silver medal in the 100m race at the Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Games held in Australia.
Gohar Ali joined Roshni when he was 14 years old. In 2013, Ali won a silver medal in the 100m race at the Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Games held in Australia.

 

Ali plays a game of catch with his classmates on the lawns of the society.
Ali plays a game of catch with his classmates on the lawns of the society.

 

Kausar Katherine Parveen is Roshni's sole female student out of 50. Parveen has been a part of the Roshni family for almost eight years. She enjoys embroidery.
Kausar Katherine Parveen is Roshni’s sole female student out of 50. Parveen has been a part of the Roshni family for almost eight years. She enjoys embroidery.

 

Aliya Saleem, the principal, has been working at Roshni for the past two years. She is a trained psychologist and says that there must be more awareness for dealing and coping with children and adults with special needs in Pakistan.
Aliya Saleem, the principal, has been working at Roshni for the past two years. She is a trained psychologist and says that there must be more awareness for dealing and coping with children and adults with special needs in Pakistan.

 

Organic vegetables are grown and cultivated at the farms located in the premises of the centre.
Organic vegetables are grown and cultivated at the farms located in the premises of the centre.

 

This was one of the first buildings where Roshni was initially established 10 years ago. It is currently being used as a wood workshop for the students.
This was one of the first buildings where Roshni was initially established 10 years ago. It is currently being used as a wood workshop for the students.

 

A picture of Roshni founders, Shahida Perveen and her husband Hamid Hannesen, hangs in the main office.
A picture of Roshni founders, Shahida Perveen and her husband Hamid Hannesen, hangs in the main office.

 

Ghulam Sarwar has been working at the centre for around 10 years. He initially joined Roshni as an assistant baker at Roshni's organic bakery. "It has been a great experience," he said.
Ghulam Sarwar has been working at the centre for around 10 years. He initially joined Roshni as an assistant baker at Roshni’s organic bakery. “It has been a great experience,” he said.

 

Kuehne bathes a buffalo at the society.
Kuehne bathes a buffalo at the society.

 

Masood Sadiq Khan was Roshni's first employee. In the early days, he used to walk from house to house, distributing pamphlets about the association and its work. "In Pakistan, we don't have any understanding of people with special needs. Here the students are loved and respected," he said.
Masood Sadiq Khan was Roshni’s first employee. In the early days, he used to walk from house to house, distributing pamphlets about the association and its work. “In Pakistan, we don’t have any understanding of people with special needs. Here the students are loved and respected,” he said.

 

Micha Joel Seitz is an undergraduate student in Switzerland who divides his time between college and visiting Pakistan every few weeks to volunteer at the centre. "My parents were totally fine with me coming to Pakistan even though they only read and hear about the bomb blasts etc. in the news," he said.
Micha Joel Seitz is an undergraduate student in Switzerland who divides his time between college and visiting Pakistan every few weeks to volunteer at the centre. “My parents were totally fine with me coming to Pakistan even though they only read and hear about the bomb blasts etc. in the news,” he said.

 

The main building of Roshni Association.
The main building of Roshni Association.

 

Students at Roshni are encouraged to use facilities such as the art, wood, and textile workshops, and participate in organic farming and baking.
Students at Roshni are encouraged to use facilities such as the art, wood, and textile workshops, and participate in organic farming and baking.

 

Anna Natascha Steiner, a volunteer from Switzerland, has been working with Roshni for eight months. She came across Roshni while researching countries, such as India, where she could get involved in social work.
Anna Natascha Steiner, a volunteer from Switzerland, has been working with Roshni for eight months. She came across Roshni while researching countries, such as India, where she could get involved in social work.

 

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