Monday, April 29, 2013

Giving Voice To The Deaf

DEAF REACH

This past weekend Zoha and I attended a fundraiser and thought to share this experience with you.

It was one of the various emails we all get in the inbox about many a fundraiser happening in the community. It was to be at Antun's Hicksville, the All Pakistani Banquet Hall.  Food has become a lot better since taken over by Pakistanis (Read Shaheen).

Zoha received it through the Alliance network. It was about an organization running schools for the deaf in Karachi. As it is an issue close to our heart, we discussed and decided to attend it. I did not think it will be so different than what I would have thought of it.

It was arranged with the help of a local Pakistani organization PACOLI, http://pacoli.net/index.html Pakistani American Community of Long Island. It has been around for a while and has undergone several reorganizations and changes, and is now without any physician in a leadership post, perhaps a first for any Pakistani diaspora organization. But that is besides the point.

Just the fact that a project like that is happening in the middle of our cities is commendable in its own right. The race and ethnicity of the founders is important however. I am surprised at my own ignorance that while we all know and hear about the Greg Mortensons, Todd Sheas, Ethen Caseys and others like them, I had never heard of Richard Geary. And here is this guy who is living in Pakistan for all the times I had lived outside the country, starting an organization from scratch and building it into a state of the art school system for the deaf.   His partner is his wife who again, is an outsider. Amazing story and equally amazing is our ignorance of  it.

Although the world over the old "Deaf" is being replaced by "hearing impaired", the name Deaf Reach has a resonance to it. Perhaps that is the reason the name of the schools is Deaf Reach.  The organization is Family Educational Services Foundation. http://www.fesf.org.pk/ It has a highly interactive FB Page. https://www.facebook.com/deafreachkarachi?fref=ts

It is a touching story of a white American man and his Filipina wife. They had a deaf child. It changed their life in more than one ways. They first started a school in the Philippines and then moved to India. Some stroke of fortune (for Pakistan) brought them to Karachi and somehow it was difficult to go back to India. They decided to stay in Pakistan instead and start a school. There may be more to it, as far as the story is concerned  but the matter of the fact is, that Heidi and Richard Geary have made Pakistan their home. Their initial school of around 12 children have now grown into many schools across Sindh and one in Lahore. They are about to open, if not already opened, a branch in Turkey!

I was moved by the work they do and the commitment they have shown in a far away foreign land. Their own son, unfortunately died in a car accident a few years back when he had moved back to the USA.

Now they have been gifted a land in Rashidabad. Many would know about the Rashidabad and the story of a father and his colleagues in PAF who have created an oasis of education in the desert of Singh in memory of his son Rashid who diverted the plane away to save innocent lives when his plane was to crash and in the process paid with his  life. In Rashidabad they will have a state of the art School for the Deaf.

It was heartwarming to see these young kids, who would have been without much of education or self esteem, now learning Urdu, English, Pakistani Sign Language and skills to be a useful member of the society.

Astonishing to know that a whole KFC opposite Urdu College is run by these hearing impaired children. Amazing.

After the presentation, which was very moving, and left everybody teary eyed, there was a stand up comedian Saad Haroon.

This is the first time the organization is making a reach out to the diaspora in USA. Their funds are collected through I-care Foundation, which I know personally by working with Fatimid, that it is a well reputed organization. 

Over all an evening spend well and worthwhile. Thanks to all the organizers.

And heartfelt thanks to Richard Geary. He can be reached at r.geary@fesf.org.pk .

Donations can be made online by visiting the weblink. http://www.i-care-america.org/family-educational-services-foundation/