Amna Raheel – Fighting to Make A Difference
By Amna Raheel
When I came into the world, it was a joyous moment for my family. However, my parents’ world collapsed when I turned two. I was about two years old, when I was labelled as a ‘different’ and ‘special’ baby. When my parents found out, like any parent would do, they stretched out all limits, only to find me some help. But nothing did it. In Boston, doctors at The Children’s Hospital declared that I have a disease called Muscular Dystrophy. A disease for which no treatment has been found because doctors don’t even know why it exists.
Initially, my parents were devastated by the reality. My parents didn’t just have to take care of me, but of my two elder sisters as well. They spent their days crying and worrying, praying to Allah to give them the strength to accept the harsh reality. But as time passed, my parents and sisters learned to deal with it. My family decided that they will help me live life like a normal person.
My family members were my pillars of strength. Without their support I don’t think I’d be where I am today. My family’s constant and unconditional love and support is what pulled me together. They support me unconditionally and have given me the freedom to make my own decisions and have a voice for myself. It is what kept me going. It is what made me realize I am Amna Raheel. A person. An individual. A human who has the right to live in this world, just as much as the rest of the nine billion people.
Today, I’m twenty-five years old and I’ve completed my BS commerce degree from IoBM. I’m highly ambitious and I don’t see myself as different from anyone else. I’m extremely social and think I have a pretty normal life, just like any other person my age. I must admit, it definitely hasn’t been easy, particularly the challenges that stem from the lack of infrastructure and other facilities that restrict accessibility. But if there’s something I have learnt through all the obstacles, is the importance of hard work and endurance. I believe that nothing is impossible- you just need to figure out a way to do it. My wheelchair may have caged my body but my mind is still free. I still think strongly, feel deeply and live fearlessly.
I still remember that one day my parents sat me down and told me that I’ll have to make a lot of life changes as I’m growing up because living in a city like Karachi is not easy since accessibility is limited. But at the same time, I refused to be defined by the inaccessibility and promised myself I’ll fight to make every place accessible for myself.
One of the reasons that I feel people who are wheelchair bound are hesitant to get out of their houses and become independent in Karachi is because there are no ramps and facilities in most places. Many times I have to be carried up and down the stairs in my wheelchair which hurts my ego every time and I lost a piece of my confidence. Why is it so hard for the government to make it compulsory for every building, every hotel and shopping mall to have ramps/lifts as a part of their infrastructure? Why can’t the public transport be made wheelchair friendly?
“If I can break one stereotype in Pakistan that would be to make the wheelchair bound feel a part of the society, apart. People who are wheelchair bound are not special and shouldn’t even be labelled that way.”
We are very much like normal people. We feel the same, eat the same and think the way others do. In our city, the wheelchair bound are treated differently. They are looked upon as people who are helpless and need to be saved. Trust me, we can be our own hero. We can save ourselves. There is nothing wrong in calling someone wheelchair bound but treating them differently because they are wheelchair bound is extremely heart breaking and confidence shattering for that specific person.
Honestly, I’m a nobody right now. I don’t think I’ve made a difference even though I’ve lived half of my life but I feel that if someone won’t highlight these issues then the wheelchair bound will never be a part of the society. I have a dream to build a school for children who suffer from MD or other diseases which have restricted their mobility but don’t have the resources to attend regular school. I want to provide them with a safe haven wherein being different is totally acceptable. I want them to be able to dream big and truly believe that they can achieve those dreams. I want them to take inspiration from each others’ experience and realise their infinite potential. Most importantly, I want them to be happy like I am.
“Life is all about making the most of what we have. It’s not always easy, but if we learn to accept the hand we’re given, we begin to lead inspirational lives. I’m just an ordinary girl, trying to make a difference.”