The kindness of strangers

The kindness of strangers
Post by Saba Ahmed’s uncle Shahid Pechuho alerting Aman ki Asha Facebook group members about his niece’s plight

Citizens of Mumbai open up their arms and hearts, raise Rs 4.5 lakh for a sick Pakistani teen

 “A 15 year old patient of Wilson’s Disease Saba is reaching Mumbai for life saving treatment from Karachi today along with her mother. Her family doesn’t have enough monetary resources to pay for required one month stay at Jaslok Hospital. Kindly help save this child’s life by your donations. For further details please contact Dr Aabha Nagral, gastroentorologist Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road Mumbai,” read Shahid Pechuho’s post in the Aman ki Asha Facebook group on April 23, 2015.

He made a similar appeal on the Aman ki Asha Facebook page, providing the phone numbers and other details of the hospital.

Wilson’s Disease is a rare condition that leads to a harmful buildup of copper in the body’s vital organs. Saba Tarikh Ahmed is Shahid Pechuho’s niece. Doctors in Karachi, initially unable to properly identify her rare illness, had even administered high doses of incorrect treatment.

Once the disease was diagnosed, Saba’s mother Nazia Tarikh Ahmed made arrangements to take the child to Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai hoping to halt the effects of her daughter’s debilitating illness. They arrived in Mumbai with only Rs 80,000 in their pockets, well short of the amount of funds needed for the proper medical treatment.

Aman ki Asha page followers and group members responded to Shahid Pechuho message with concern and conviction. Many group members offered to provide emotional and financial assistance.

“I’ll visit them soon,” said one group member, wanting to help make Saba and her mother feel more at home.

“There are friends in Mumbai who can possibly organise local support. We can look at resource mobilisation,” said another group member determined to initiate helpful grassroots efforts in Mumbai.

As word of Saba’s plight spread, complete strangers living in Mumbai began to come forward with donations, contributing an initial Rs 1.6 lakh to Saba’s treatment fund at the hospital where a team of medical experts is going out of its way to help Saba.

A report in the Mumbai-based magazine Mid-Day detailing these acts of kindness and stressing the short fall led to more donations flowing in. In a follow-up report, Mid-Day wrote that the amount raised, Rs 4.5 lakh, was enough to continue Saba’s treatment in Mumbai, where doctors recommend she remain for at least two months.

Donors ranged from Shabia Walia, a social worker from the Bluebells Community to actor Juhi Chawla.

Another donor, Kersi Dubash who contributed a lakh explained his actions with, “I have a textile business in Pakistan and visit the country often. I am just returning the love and affection that I get there.”

Though Saba will have to receive medication for the rest of her life, she is currently responding well to her initial treatment and is in better spirits. Thanks to the spontaneous acts of kindness of a few citizens of Mumbai, and to effective coverage of the story on the part of journalists and peace activists operating on social media platforms and beyond, young Saba’s ailment is now under control.

Saba’s mother Nazia is exceptionally grateful for the help they have received. “The donors in Mumbai are angels who extended help in our hour of need,” she says.

“Saba is improving and both the daughter and mother are feeling at home,” says Shahid Pechuho, who believes his post in the Aman ki Asha Facebook group was instrumental in generating an interest in the case, leading to the helpful media coverage. “I really expected this magnanimity from Indians and was optimistic. Thank you Aman ki Asha.”

This story serves as a reminder of the awesome power of the effective practice of journalism and activism. It is also a reminder of how Indians and Pakistanis respond to each other on a human level, something that has been demonstrated time and again, even in the face of India and Pakistan’s fierce historical rivalry.

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