Supporting Farzana towards a brighter futurePublished Date: 31 Oct 2018
Smiling, Farzana holds up a drawing and signs to her teacher that it’s finished – she looks like any other happy, carefree 10-year-old schoolgirl. But just one year ago, before she was taken in by our partner Children In Need Institute (CINI), it was a very different story. Farzana, who is deaf, didn’t smile. She didn’t know how to hold a pencil, and couldn’t communicate with even her closest family as she couldn’t speak or use sign language.
Her short life has been traumatic. Abandoned at three by her mother after being diagnosed as deaf, Farzana was brought up by her grandmother Amina Bibi, living with her father, aunts, uncles and cousins in Kolkata. While Farzana’s two siblings were sent to school, Farzana remained at home. Because she was deaf her family neglected her and saw no point in trying to teach her anything.
Then three-year-old Farzana vanished, presumed kidnapped. After 10 months of searching, one of her uncles spotted her in someone’s car, and alerted police who rescued her. Traumatised from her ordeal, Farzana withdrew into herself. She had no way of talking about what she’d suffered during those missing months and refused every attempt to communicate with or comfort her. Her family lost all hope for Farzana. She remained isolated, shying away from playing with other children. Two years on, Farzana’s father left home. She remained a sad, lonely little girl.
But at nine years old, Farzana’s life was turned around when the CINI centre opened its doors in January 2014. On the first day her family took her along to get help. Initially Farzana refused to stay without her grandmother, so the centre began home schooling Farzana twice weekly. She received counselling, was taught how to draw and began learning Indian Sign Language (ISL), along with her cousin so she could help Farzana. Over the months they taught Farzana basic life skills, including hygiene and good behaviour. Gradually Farzana emerged from her shell, developed an interest in drawing and crafts, and began to mix with other children in her community.
She has now started school and with continuous support from a volunteer, supervisor and ISL interpreter, Farzana’s confidence and happiness has blossomed. She has learned shapes and letters, can match words with pictures and write her own name and address. Her cousin, sister, school teachers and classmates receive regular training in sign language and other ways to help communicate with her and support her in lessons. At last Farzana has friendships, joy and hope for what the future might bring.