Amin Maktab. A sanctuary for the ostracised. A refuge for the unacknowledged. An abode for the dismissed. An institution that symbolizes hope in the utmost sense. Despite the dark hallways that encompass Amin Maktab, they are juxtaposed with the humanity radiating from its inhabitants. Initially established as a Special Education School, the philanthropic community of Amin Maktab has since evolved from 1985 to have autonomy over their purpose and vision by having their proper infrastructure credited with the provision of credible facilities for over 100 challenged children.
On 11th January 2023, our Kaizen Lions-in-Service community collaborated with Special Olympics Pakistan, another organization mirroring the sentiment of their mission as Amin Maktab to empower special needs individuals, conducting a visit to Amin Maktab for educational purposes along with the motivation to cultivate their empathic abilities and gain awareness of the environments which special children require for their unique needs. Throughout the visit, Kaizen students interacted with children with a range of disabilities i.e cerebral palsy, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Down Syndrome, etc.
However, the purpose of the visit was not just to sympathize with the disabled community but to to become cognisant of a plethora of the unique qualities adopted by special needs individuals, which made them special not because of their innate biological conditions but because of their unwavering spirit and determination to not be defined by their circumstances.
This aspect alone shatters the stereotypes generally held by the majority of the Pakistani community in their regard for the special needs community. That unfortunate stereotype is signified by notions of absolute dismissal of mentally challenged individuals leading to their marginalization from the structure of mainstream society. This is because it is generally believed that such individuals are not considered capable of being categorized into fundamental social structures of society due to their innate conditions. To make matters worse, such beliefs lead to the discouragement of progress and learning for the special peoples’ community which is crucial for their improvement and integration into the infrastructure of our society; leading to the lack of funding for launching initiatives that emancipate their cause.
In the course of the visit, the special needs community of Amin Maktab demonstrated a variety of skills that perhaps even the average Pakistani individual does not possess. From a room full of such individuals fluent in the art of embroidery such that their handwoven articles are bought and displayed in known art exhibitions to being accomplished athletes representing Pakistan on international grounds.
It is notable to mention that, alongside witnessing such optimistic progress from special needs individuals, another aspect that could not go unnoticed was the absolute altruistic devotion and resolute commitment displayed by the faculty members of the institution towards the special community residing in it. This is further emphasized by the constant presence of psychologists and assuring attendance of speech therapists combined with their unfaltering attention towards the progress of the challenged children of Amin Maktab. Often, such persons go obscured in the process of empowering those who are mentally challenged but it is imperative that we utilize appreciation for their essential contributions to those who find themselves vulnerable to the vicious attitudes of our society.
In conclusion, the visit proved to be thought-provoking and humbling for the people who participated in it. Perhaps, the most pivotal aspect was how much the experience embodied in the form of gratitude amongst ourselves. Amid deadlines and demanding work, it is a miserable predicament for human beings to find themselves engulfed in constant melancholy fueled by self-doubt amalgamated with constant destructive self-criticism that one forgets to practice gratitude over the prosperity and opulence life has to offer. It is significant that we remember the inhabitants of Amin Maktab at such times and realize that if such disadvantaged individuals hold the capacity to surpass the intangible limitations levied by societal expectations, so can the average individual provided that appropriate actions and attitudes are adopted.