Standing by the little ones

Rubia Begum was the mother of three deaf children –Yeshmin Khatoon (14years), Ayesha Khatoon (8years) and Naaz Khatoon (6years). She and her husband were both deaf.

During a survey conducted in 2012, Rubia Begum’s family was identified by CINI. She was the sole earning member of the family and worked as domestic help. Her husband, who was also deaf, had died in 2011.Theirs was a typical family where the parents and the four children were suffering from hearing disability.  Even Rubia’s own elder sister, her husband, as well as their daughter and son-in-law have impaired hearing.

Rubia’s eldest son who is 16 years old, studies at a residential school in Kerala. Her eldest daughter, who is now 14 years old, left Kolkata Municipal School after class IV and presently comes to our youth centre located in Topsia for vocational training. The other two daughters, one aged 8 years, and the other 6 years, study at Monu Memorial School (Bengali medium), in classes II and I respectively and were beneficiaries of the BLF project. Rubia Begum was a very active mother of the project and used to attend all the meetings and trainings regularly.

Rubia worked as a domestic help and earned Rs 6000/- per month. She was staying with her daughters at a rented house and had to spend half of her monthly income on rent. She used to collect left over food from the houses she used to work at to feed her children. The staff and volunteers of the BLF project also helped her to get food and clothes for the entire family from different sources.

Rubia Begum was unwell for some time and went for a checkup to Chittaranjan Medical College on 11th April. There, she was diagnosed with severe jaundice and doctors considered her situation critical and advised her to take admission. She was given intravenous saline immediately. But she refused to stay at hospital as there was no one other than herself to look after her children back home, and signed a bond for not getting admitted as the doctor had suggested.

Her condition worsened by the next couple of days as no medical intervention was done. She breathed her last on 16th April 2016, five days after she went to the hospital, leaving her children alone. Her distant relatives are presently taking care of the children and have decided to keep them confined indoors for 40 days as per their ritual. They had decided to distribute the children among themselves, i.e., each of the three children will be put into a separate family. CINI staff members visited the house immediately to provide required mental support to the children. The idea of placing the children in separate families did not seem right at the time of grief. They children were growing, and might also have received abusive treatment. With this in mind, we tried to convince her relatives to keep them together and if possible in a residential set-up run by the government. The relatives were not at all convinced and asked CINI to not interfere. But CINI staff visited the children almost regularly and kept holding dialogues with the relatives to convince them. Finally, the relatives could be mobilized and they agreed to put the three girls together in a home as decided by CINI. Sarva Shiksha Mission Kolkata runs residential schools for distressed children in Kolkta. CINI approached them, but they refused, citing that the residential staff would not be able to communicate with the children and hence would not be able to provide support. Finally, after much apprehension they have agreed to keep the children in the residential school run by CINI where staff (ISL interpreter) will provide the required support.

Now the children are placed safely in the residential school from where they are getting school education and shelter support at the same time. Although not able to shed the tragic memories completely, they have started smiling again.