One morning a school van halted next to my car at a traffic signal. The letters AJBT on its side attracted me to know about it. I noticed in car smartly turned out small children in spirited conversation. They were uniformed like any other school children except that they all were blind. AJBT stands for Aziz Jehan Begum Trust for the Blind and it was established in 1989 as a, not for profit, organization. My memory took a trip back several years when I first met Ms Salma Jan, a remarkable lady who began this project.
She had come to visit one of my senior colleagues. She became my patient when my colleague left for another city. She was in her middle-age and carried an air of subtle elegance. During our conversations, she revealed what was the motive to commence Aziz Jehan Begum Trust for the Blind. She further told how she started Aziz Jehan Begum Trust for the Blind.
Her mother had turned blind in her old age. She asked Ms Jan to do something to help the blind in Pakistan. This is known truism that few opportunities were available to the blind to help in those days. It was difficult to support them achieve as much independence as possible in life. The few places available were limited to imparting instruction in Braille. Economic self-sufficiency remained a distant dream for many.
Ms Jan decided to begin a project which would provide education and training to the blind to help them achieve literacy and become competent at vocations. Her aim was to not only introduce modern technology and other resources toward that end but to make it available for every blind.
She inspired volunteers and donors to help out and acquire equipments, furniture and premises. In addition to standard Braille, volunteers read out books which were recorded as audio books. Computers were then used to make blind children computer literate.
Her vision of making a model institution was realized when a large area of land was acquired to construct purpose-built buildings. Aziz Jehan Begum Trust for the Blind now does a sterling job of educating blind children. Its alumni have gone on to pursue further education as well as achieving academic distinction. While she was working on realizing her vision, Ms Jan developed respiratory failure and had to breathe oxygen for much of the day. It did no deter her. She continued with her passion. Meanwhile she taught herself how to use a computer and made a website for Aziz Jehan Begum Trust for the Blind! It was a simple, free online job, but for someone with no prior experience and not the best of health, it was quite an achievement!
For those who can’t afford it, Aziz Jehan Begum Trust for the Blind provides uniforms as well as transport. Ms Jan related the attitude of one well-to-do family to a child who was blind. His mother asked for free transport; Ms Jan pointed out that they have a separate car for transporting their children to school. His mother replied that the car was for the use of the other children only!
Sadly, Ms Salma Jan passed away a few years ago. The baton passed on to Col. Jeddy who is doing a fine job with his team in running AJBT.