Shawwal / Dhu'l-Qa'dah 1423 H
Volume 16-01 No : 193
Camps \ Workshops
Lilianne Donders plans to walk her camels to Oman to raise funds for the Palestinian people
Lilianne Donders is called the “camel rider”. This is one tough lady. She has fought breast cancer and walked with her camels from Syria to Tehran (Iran). Now she is all set to traverse the sands once again with her companions-the camels. Lilianne has decided to walk from Tehran to Oman to raise funds for the people of Palestine. Another inspiring reason for this journey will also be to take her two white camels back to their homeland, Oman. When she was in Oman for many years, Lilianne discovered her true calling while learning about the Bedouin culture, educating them and being a part of their everyday life. At the end of her stay in Oman, she felt more enlightened. Oman was a turning point in her life. She says: “ I was fascinated by the Bedouins and their lives behind the mask. I got the chance to understand them and while doing so, I was able to travel through Oman extensively.” Lilianne’s love for camels began in Oman where she received a gift-two camels-as a token of friendship. But it was in Syria that Lilianne’s bonding with the camels began. She found them to be intelligent, loyal and very loving. She says: “ They learn fast and soon I discovered that they could switch the lights in the house on and off, open doors, drink water and tea from bottles and protect me from the slightest hint of danger.” When Lilianne discovered she had breast cancer, she was very upset and for a long time refused to accept it. She narrates her experience, “ I did not want to admit it, but I realised that I was being stupid. I went to London and received treatment. It was a difficult time, but I wanted to get through it and not dwell on it.” She fought cancer bravely. Took up yoga and did everything to strengthen her mind and body. In the year 2000, she took a journey of 1600 kms over a period of two-and-a-half months to Tehran and made it her mission to raise money to support the Bedu women in the desert around Palmyra, Syria. And today, she is all set to walk again for a cause. She plans to walk her camel friends to Oman to raise money to help re-build a hospital in Palestine. Liliainne believes she has had a rewarding life and continues to reach out to people in whatever way she can.
Where there is a will, there is a way, goes the saying. Muslims too should develop a sense of commitment for themselves and for the society!
(The writer is associated with Gulf News Tabloid)
For Jinnah, his handicap was a challenge and rather than wasting precious time in self-pity,
Heralding the integrated system of education two decades ago and infusing self-confidence in the minds of the visually disabled students in Madurai region was just a beginning for 57-year old S.M.A.Jinnah. Born on July 8th, 1944 in Eruvadi, a tiny hamlet in Tirunelveli district, Jinnah lost his mother at the age of five and was deserted by his father and brought up by his maternal uncle. Following an accident at the age of 14, Jinnah lost vision in both his eyes while he was studying in the 8th Std and discontinued schooling for the next five years. He resumed schooling at the age of 19 in the school for the visually handicapped in Palayankottai and completed matriculation in 1965. Jinnah passed his B.A degree with a first class and a gold medal in 1969 from American College, Madurai, followed by a M.A degree with a first class and gold medal in 1971 from Thiyagarajar College, Madurai. His handicap did not deter his spirit and the government of Tamil Nadu appointed him as a social worker during 1971-1974. Jinnah believed in earning his bread and butter through sheer hard work and so joined as headmaster in the Government School for the Blind, Madurai in 1974 and continued as headmaster till 1980. To be of more use to the visually handicapped, he opted to work as a teacher than a headmaster in the year 1980.
For Jinnah, his handicap was a challenge and he decided to set up the Hellen Keller Education Society for providing integrated education for the blind children along with normal-sighted children. This was followed by the National Federation for the Visually Disabled, a self-help movement. “ The purpose behind all such efforts is that disabled children should not feel segregated. Integrated education would place them in a position of exercising equal rights and opportunities,” says Jinnah who is also the founder of the Indian Association for the Blind (IAB) which has to its credit the IAB Higher Secondary School for the Blind to satisfy the needs of outgoing students from eight primary schools in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. While there are over 100 students studying in the IAB special school, 125 students who had opted for integrated education are currently put up in 12 schools and 14 colleges. Jinnah has employed 30 visually impaired people in his own institution. Besides, he is responsible for placing 102 visually impaired people in government jobs and around 500 people in private firms.
Jinnah’s one-year post-graduate diploma qualification in “Teaching for the Visually Disabled” at the Boston University, USA, that followed the conferring of the International Rotary Award in 1981, has put him in good stead in running the institution. It was a momentous occasion for Jinnah, now the general-secretary of the Madurai-based Indian Association for the Blind, to savour the honour of personally receiving the “Role Model National Award’ for the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities, from vice-president Krishnan Kant last year. This was followed by the “Millennium Award” from the All India Confederation for the Blind, “Best Employer of Disabled Award” and also the “Best Rehabilitation Centre Award” for the disabled obtained by IAB. Jinnah’s Indian Association for the Blind which had a humble beginning in January 1985 with 12 inmates has today over 320 inmates. ‘Self-reliance’ is the keyword that Jinnah stresses upon and at no point he wants the visually disabled to feel different from the rest of the society and he is all set to work round-the-clock for the cause of the uplift of the disabled. With support from his wife and two children, Jinnah hopes to devote his life to make lives of the disabled brighter and better.
Indian Association for the Blind, Higher Secondary School and Rehabilitation Centre, Alagar Koil Main Road, Sundarajanpatti, Madurai-625104. Ph:0452-822845, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org