Catholic Center In Karachi Helps Empower, Give Skills To Disabled

2007-08-10 00:00:00

Cookie Lewis spends a lot of time teaching poems and drawing at a Catholic home for physically and mentally handicapped kids.

The 18-year-old Christian girl has such an affinity for the other children at Dar-ul-Sakoon (Home of Peace) that she dreams how great it would be to become a special education teacher at the center that she calls home.

Empowering and helping patients like Lewis to try to live normally and even make a living is an important goal for the center, which is run by sisters belonging to the Franciscan Missionaries of Christ the King.

Dar-ul-Sakoon in Karachi, 1,150 kilometers southwest of Islamabad, is home to 150 mentally and physically disabled people, 80 percent of them Muslims. They range in age from 1 to 50, but most are children and teenagers.

Lewis, who finished 10th grade and is one of just two patients who completed primary school, told UCA News, "I took the name of our nun as my surname, because most of us have no parents and we consider this place home."

Life has not been easy for Lewis. She was born without a nose and a cranium. Two ball-like outgrowths on her head were finally removed by surgeons overseas. After many operations in Australia, she now has an artificial nose and half of a cranium has been grafted into her head.

Besides arranging surgery and physiotherapy for patients, the center also tries to help the capable kids look after themselves, develop skills and even find paid employment. But care is the only option for many.

Most residents have serious disabilities, so Sister Ruth Lewis and her team of five other nuns exercise great calm and patience. "If we become impatient, they become aggressive," she explained to UCA News. A little attention can help bring great change in the patients´ lives, she added.

A few like Lewis seem capable of supporting themselves and others, and the nun said the center arranges transport for those who are "eager to study."

Sister Lewis noted that the center paid Lewis 800 rupees a month for her school studies and about 400 rupees to Alamin for his studies.

Alamin, 27, finished 12th grade and simultaneously completed nine years of fine arts studies. Holding a beautiful oil painting of natural scenery in his deformed hand, he told UCA News, "I have not decided about religion, but I love everything God has created."

Mustaffa, another disabled young man, works an hour a day as a special sports instructor at the center. With this part-time job and similar work at another institute for the disabled, he earns almost 3,000 rupees monthly.

He told UCA News that when he first came to the center two years ago, he got lost trying to locate his family´s house. Police found him and handed him over to a welfare trust that took him to the center. He says it is "my real home."

The center has also served by sending people abroad to compete in the international "Special Olympics" for the physically and mentally challenged.

Jacky Master, who works in the human resources department at Lakson Tobacco Company, won one gold and four bronze medals in several swim competitions. He was born with a brain deformity and recently injured an arm in a motorcycle accident. He now exercises regularly at the center´s physiotherapy room.

According to Sister Lewis, the example of these three patients at the center who work professionally encourages the others. However, she pointed out, "While they now are less dependent to some extent, they still need care."


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