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Web Desk
May 16, 2018

A Pakistani woman helping other women


Web Desk
Wed, May 16, 2018

Farzana Shoaib came to Karachi some 18 years ago .

She came to the city to help her daughter take care of her young children. 

But as time passed and things grew more and more pressing for the family, she prayed for an opportunity to arise, where she could work and primarily stay within her four walls.

A few years later, this came to fruition.  Her neighbour at the time – Fatima – was an elderly lady without anyone to look after her.

 She slipped and fell in her bathroom, left lying helpless, hurt and hungry for 4 whole days.

 But hope was given to her in the form of Farzana, who, after her rescue, took Fatima in, where she lived for three and a half years until her peaceful passing. 

However, it was only when two other women came to her, asking to be taken in too, did Farzana realise the gravity of the situation; she felt deep in her heart that this is what she should be doing. And so, using all of her savings, Bint-e-Fatima Old Home Trust(named after Fatima) was established.

At first, Farzana had no intention of taking in more than 5-7 women, and that is how she started off. 

Yet now, 45 women live in the house converted into Home. 

The women get the basic amenities of shelter, food and medical care. 

But most of all, they have a sense of belonging and community, which is most important to them and is also what they enormously lacked. 

The residents are either homeless or neglected senior citizens who in the absence of caretakers, have been living on their own, and are spending their remaining days in poverty, misery and sickness.

The job at this magnitude, although immensely rewarding, does not come without its share of hardships.

 There are many expenses that Farzana has to bear – gas, water, rent and taxes to name a few – all of which have to be managed with whatever funds are available. 

“We do not rely on donations, but we are very lucky to survive on what we get from the families of a handful of our residents. 

Thanks to God, we are able to manage. Of course, not all of the residents have families, and even if they do, not all come to visit, let alone send monetary help. 

This abandonment, more than anything, is what Farzana finds very disheartening. There are a few women whose families brought and left them here, who are more than able to care for them, but do not.

However, Farzana takes great solace in her faith, believing that this is her duty in life. 

She only desires that elderly women all over are better cared for, and often provides counselling to families in the hopes that they stay together if they can help it.

 If not, she is always willing to provide them a home. 

“I am happy for people to learn about Bint-e-Fatima, and I will always provide the best care that I can for these women, because they are like my children now.”

 However, Farzana – who residents and staff alike call “Ammi” – urges those who can do something about it, to not neglect their duties, just as she is not neglecting what she now considers hers. As more and more people come to know about what BFOHT is doing, she hopes that this awareness does not go to waste. “Everyone has to play their part in righteousness.”

She hopes for the youth to raise their voices; to take initiative. Farzana gives the example of the Robin Hood Army, a service she finds commendable for distributing surplus food from restaurants to less fortunate people. 

(Her son – who also works at the Home – is thankful on the days they deliver food to Bint-e-Fatima as his mother gets a day off from the kitchen!)

 She believes that the first step to accomplishing any kind of change is by seeing first-hand the work that is done.

 This is why she encourages an open-door policy at BFOHT; anyone is invited to visit between 09:00 AM and 05:00 PM. 

It is the hope that this transparency will lead to people willing to extent a helping hand, so that she is able to sustain operations.

“Do something for your mothers,” are the parting words that Farzana wishes to share.