A place for everyone, even if your face is dirty!

Harris

I have become acquainted with an inspirational boy who visits Sambhavna. His quick-witted sense of humour, insatiable desire to learn and curiosity for life never ceases to amaze me. Harris spends hours with his head in an English book, copying lines of text, asking me what words like suspicious, Archimides and the past-imperfective tense mean. Impressive for an 11-year-old, but even more so because for Harris, life is not straightforward. He suffers from albinism, a condition that means he has no pigment in his skin, hair or eyes. This means he cannot spend time in direct sunlight and his vision is severely compromised. People with albinism are often excluded from peer group interaction, particularly in childhood, and may be subject to ostracism and  ridicule within their communities. Below, Harris tells us why Sambhavna is important to him. Thank you Harris, for being you!

My name is Harris (Shahanaz, Harris and Lorraine, left). I am 11. I live with my mum, dad and baby brother who is one. In three years I would like to go to England because I don’t think there is a caste system there. I would also like to go to the jungle in Africa.

I have been coming to Sambhavna for seven years, since I was four-years-old and I came to the inauguration of the new building.

The gas tragedy is hard for people and they have a tough life. My aunt has been visiting Sambhavna for 10 years. She has problem with her face, and was affected from breathing in the gas. She used to go to Sambhavna when it was at DIG Bungalow on Berasia Road.

My mum breathed in the gas, but she cannot get compensation from the government because she had some problems proving that she was affected. I think this happened to lots of people.

I like Sambhavna because it has a beautiful garden and good people. Nobody acts like they are a superstar here and I think it is such a good place. The doctors don’t ask for money or bribes for treatment, and people do not shout or beat you here. It is the only place in Bhopal were things are like this.

Sambhavna is important because it is honest and doesn’t charge money. You can read the books here and nobody shouts at you or asks you what you are doing. I read lots of books here, and I have so many friends. I like to volunteer, and I have met so many foreigners and am learning English. I am proud to come to Sambhavna and help people. It is very important to me. My friends here think it is good that I play, learn and work here. Sometimes my aunt says she thinks I have a girlfriend at Sambhavna. . .but I don’t!

Sambhavna is the best place in Bhopal. No-one says you are dirty and horrible  here, no matter what you look like or where you are from. If people are disgusted by the way that you look, then the whole world should be disgusted by them. At Sambhavna, if you have a dirty face people will not tell you to go away, they will tell you to come in and wash your face.

I hope everyone will read this article, please come and and volunteer here.

Sambhavna’s librarian, Shahnaz says: One day I was working in the library when a little boy came in. He looked very fair, like a foreigner. He looked around and then he left the room. I called him back and asked him what he was looking for. He said his name was Harris, and I told him that we had many children’s books. I gave him a book. He leaned down with his head very close to the book to try to read. I asked him why and when he removed his glasses I discovered he had albinism and that his eyesight was very poor. I asked him why he came to Sambhavna and he told me he has many friends here and he likes it very much. He comes to the library all the time now and reads books. He shares jokes and is much more confident. His English has also improved alot. All the staff at Sambhavna are his friends.

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We believe Dow & DuPont must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.