Kaleem was 8 years old and lived with his family in a village located on a high mountain in Balakot, Pakistan. His father was a school teacher. In 2005, a devastating earthquake hit northern Pakistan. His father, brother and 29 out 31 of his class fellows died under the crumbling school. Kaleem broke his back and became paralyzed from the waist down.
His remaining family slowly restarted their lives. Although his brothers went back to school, Kaleem could not, as his school was located on another hill and he could not walk to it because of his paralysis. He sat alone in his mountain home in his wheelchair.
A few children in Los Angeles heard about his story and decided to help him. These included Lisa and Jackie Ruggerio, Haider Ali Vanek, Manal and Sara Antabali and their friends. They raised money for him, wrote to him and sent him gifts.
With the help of donations they raised, a village teacher was hired who visits Kaleem every day. And so Kaleem's home education started. Now, there is hope that, although in a wheelchair, living in a remote mountain home, Kaleem will have a chance to a better life.
If you would like to help Kaleem, become his friend or communicate with him, let us know. We would be so grateful if you would!
Please see video of our trip to Kaleem and his mountain home.
From right sitting, Kaleems home tutor, Kaleem and Haider Ali Vanek. Standing, Kaleems brothers and cousins.
Wahab Jan is a 35 year old Kashmiri lady, who became paralyzed below her waist, during the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
She also lost control on her bladder and bowel functions. Wahab lives with her husband and two daughters in a remote
mountain village in Kashmir. Her youngest daughter and mother-in-law died during the earthquake.
From right, Komal Iqbal, Wahab Jan, Wahab’s husband and Dr. Zahoor, in the mountains of Kashmir in 2007
When I, Komal Iqbal, was a student at UCLA, I volunteered for the ‘Spinal Cord Injury Project for Pakistan Earthquake Rehabilitation’ - SCIPPER (www.scipper.org) and made a trip to the earthquake-devastated areas. This project aims at rehabilitating women like Wahab Jan. I met Wahab during this trip and the following are excerpts of a letter I wrote during this journey, to Dr. Zeba Vanek, my friend and director of this project.
Friday, January 26, 2007 1:53 AM
Before I begin my assessment on the past 2 days, I would like to take this moment to express my sincere gratitude to our guide Dr. Zahoor, the country director for SCIPPER, for all his cooperation and understanding.
Yesterday was probably the most exciting and adventurous day of my trip so far. We left Islamabad for Muzzafarabad, Kashmir at 6am, driving for about 3 hours. The windy and bumpy roads got me extremely motion sick and I was pretty much about to through up by the time we reached our destination. In Muzzafarabad, we shifted into a colorful, decorated jeep, which would drive up the mountain. We passed through beautiful scenery, UNICEF schools, UNDP shelter homes, and scattered graveyards. The roads were extremely bumpy and narrow, seeming as if our jeep would tip over any minute. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride... it was very entertaining and more adventurous than the Indiana Jones ride at Universal Studios!
We reached the top of the mountain and were told that the jeep could not drive any further, so we had to walk. Being the overprotected American that I am, I was scared for my life walking down the muddy, slippery slope, tightly grabbing hold of Nisa, our companion’s hand. I remember when I exclaimed, "Oh my God, I can't do this!” Dr. Zahoor said "Don't worry, you are on your way to do good deeds... angels are holding you and won't let you fall". Once he said that, I felt relieved and more confident to move on.
To meet me, Wahab Jan had been carried down the mountain to a low cost, and very low quality hotel. We met her husband and a curious neighbor waiting to see Wahab's guests from America. Wahab had a big smile on her face and did not match the same description I had read about her. She looked happy and healthy, in a much-improved state than the March 2006 case history. Wahab sat on a bed against the wall with her legs crossed and complained of severe back pain. Wahab's wish was to go back home to her two daughters where she could live in a location closer to the main road. Her husband told us it takes about 3 hours just to buy her fruit, and during those 3 hours Wahab remains alone with no one to look after her. They said the money they were receiving from a SCIPPER donor was very helpful and without it they would not be able to survive. They were very thankful for everything that had been done for them and asked me to send their salaam and sincere duas to everyone who had helped them.
By the time we were done, it was evening time and we had to leave for Islamabad. In another 3 hours of windy/bumpy driving and talking about scary stories inspired by the dark mountainous surroundings, we safely reached home. Our original plan was to go to Balakot today, but since I wasn't feeling well, we postponed our trip to Balakot to tomorrow. Insha'Allah I will send you updates on Balakot tomorrow on our 4 patients. Attached is a picture of Wahab.
Wahab Jan lives in a remote, treacherous mountainous terrain. It is very difficult for a paraplegic to survive in such anenvironment. Her wheelchair can barely move where she lives in and because of the remote location of her home, even amobile phone signal does not reach her. Three people are needed to carry her on a charpai (bedding made from ropes) formore than 4 hours on foot, through mountain slopes, followed by a 5 hour jeep ride to the city of Muzzafarabad. She issocially isolated and cut off from medical care. To increase her chances of survival and improve her quality of life, sheneeds to live in a location closer to a main road.
Wahab Jan has became paralyzed below her waist for life. She has also lost control on her bladder and bowel functions.After a prolonged period of hospitalization, Wahab Jan returned to her remote and isolated moutain home. She and herfamily have struggled financially since the earthquake and for their basic needs have been receiving Rs. 6000/- per monththrough a SCIPPER donor since 2006. Despite the tragedy that has befallen her, Wahab Jan remains keen to make themost of her life. She has a caring family and is likely to do well with medical support and a home adapted for a paralyzedperson, located close to an accessible road.
Please join us in our efforts to raise funds to build a home for Wahab Jan, which is adapted for a disabled person and
located in a more easily accessible location. It is likely to cost approximately USD 10,000/-. Any contribution will be
Kulsoom Bibi's Story
Kulsoom is single and was 38 years old in 2005 when she became a paraplegic during the earthquake. She has a 10th
grade education and worked as a Lady Health Worker before she became paralyzed. She now does embroidery work.
She has been living with her sisters family in a rental home. Donors have been sending her Rs. 6000/- per month since
2006 for her immediate needs. She saved a little every month and with the help of a contribution made by another donor,
she bought a piece of land in Mansehra in 2011. Her home has recently been built. She hopes to do embroidery work with
other paralyzed patients in her new home.
The picture below shows Kulsoom Bibi in a wheelchair in her new home in Mansehra, KPK in 2011.