Here’s the first of a series of profiles of Sambhavna staff, volunteers and users of the Sambhavna Clinic, in order to give you dear readers, an idea of the people behind the faces we often see online, in newspapers and in the media leading the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (see www.bhopal.net for more on the campaign).
This week Shahanaz, who works in the library and looks after volunteers, gave us her story.
NAME: Shahanaz Ansari
TIME AT SAMBHAVNA: 3½ years
I was one and a half years old when the gas leak happened. My Mum ran with me and my brother, while my father stayed behind to lock up the house. I have been very susceptible to respiratory infections since childhood, and often have watering eyes. My haemoglobin is also very low. I can’t say for sure it is because of the gas but I think it is.
What do you value most about Sambhavna?
That we take care of people who are still contaminated by the water supply, who are affected through generations with congenital defects. Sambhavna is protecting the future of these people. The documentation centre is also very valuable as without it we would not have proof that there are problems caused by the gas.
What do you think Sambhavnas main needs are at the moment?
We need funds to increase the facilities we currently have for patients. Right now we cannot register short-term patients, only those who need long-term care. Also we have to send people to other hospitals for some tests e.g. X-rays. We would like to establish satellite clinics in the bastis so that it is easier for people to access care.
What would you like to say to people reading the BMA website?
We need you to come forward and give us your support; not just financial support. You can come to Sambhavna as a volunteer, donate useful equipment or books for the library, subscribe to a journal for us or raise awareness in your country to avoid this type of accident happening again. It doesn’t matter how small your idea is. It WILL help.
How do you think your life would be without Sambhavna?
Boring! I would be a helpless person. Now people come to me with their problems and I can solve them. People talk to me about their health and their memories of the gas disaster and I love to help them and share my knowledge.
What are your hopes for the future of Bhopal?
I hope that the government will do something solid to get rid of the contamination; and that they will provide for the many children who have physical and mental disabilities because of the gas. I would like the chemicals at the factory to be cleaned up but for the structure to remain, as it is a place where people will be reminded of what happened here. They wont forget about the pain and tragedy.
What are your hopes for your own future?
I want to work at Sambhavna forever and help it to grow.
Interview by Lorraine Close, volunteer from Scotland