Life savior gives new life to survivors of APS

16 December 2014 shook the foundations of Pakistani nation. The murder of 144 children of Army Public School Peshawar in a terrorist attack was unprecedented in the annals of history. A large number of people came forward to condemn the attack and help the families to recover from their loss.

A person living in the US who wishes to remain anonymous stepped forward and changed the lives of some children. A writer and a blogger she has helped a number of injured students to recover by sending them to England for treatment. The children have recuperated remarkably well. She wished that her name may not be disclosed. Following are excerpts of the interview.

What was your reaction when you came to know of the attack?

Shock and a deep sense of pain; for many days I was unable to sleep. I kept looking at my children and pictured the kids who would never return to their parents.

How did you get involved in helping children of APS?

When I first heard about the incident, I was heartbroken. The fact that I’m a mom to young children aroused a deep sadness in me. I kept thinking of the parents that had lost their children. Something in me kept telling me I had to reach out and help. I asked friends in Pakistan to connect me with people on the ground. Before long, I set up a Facebook page called Pakistanis Against Terrorism, and started the process of networking with the goal of finding relief for victims’ families as well as survivors.

How far were doctors hopeful of the recovery and how much did it cost?

The children who went overseas for treatment could not possibly have been treated in Pakistan. Doctors suggested there was no further treatment at any hospital in Pakistan. I would prefer not to disclose the amount spent on this.

How many children did you help return to normal life?

The children are far from returning to normal as yet; they’re still struggling with the trauma. Through the Fb page we managed to send Ahmed Nawaz, Waleed Khan and Ibrahim to UK. We’ve lost touch with Ibrahim. Waleed Khan still needs a number of many surgeries and support. Ahmed Nawaz had a bullet cut the nerves in his arm. Recovery for all is slow.

What hurdles did you face in contacting the families and them to have trust in you?

I had to call around and check the APS survivor website, the hospitals, look all over Facebook, connect with one survivor and have him connect me with others.

I was lucky to have the help of others in Pakistan, namely Sheema Ghani, Beena Sarwar, Salman Khalid, and Arfa Qazi (Shaheed Tahira Qazi’s daughter) as well. This was a collective effort which I couldn’t have done alone. Once I got the victims’ information, I had to call a few times to establish trust but I’d say they were willing to hear me out because they were in a desperate situation.

What did you learn from the survivors of APS and families?

I’m in awe of their strength and positive attitudes. Despite their huge losses, they spoke to me largely in a calm manner and were very grateful for any assistance. To be honest, many of the families only asked for prayers and never requested monetary help. They taught me a valuable lesson, i.e. patience, perseverance, positive thinking, trust in the higher power, and the willingness to continue to have an unwavering faith.

Did Malala Yousafzai and her father help these children as the kids have had pictures taken with them?

Yes. She and her father were very forthcoming. However the details of their work can only be taken from them or from the survivors who interacted with them.

How much do you think have the children recovered physically and emotionally?

They’re unbelievable strong, overall. There are a few who feel let down by the Shuhada Forum and such bodies. But overall they are very positive and determined to make a difference through education. The students and teachers who were physically harmed are still dealing with health issues. They are certainly scarred emotionally. But they look at the incident as a second chance to live and have big plans for the future.

Did they share their feelings about the incident with you?

Yes. That is how I was able to assess their state of mind.

Do you have a message for the children of APS?

I’m incredibly proud of you all. What happened to you was something very few would be able to come to terms with. Your strength and determination to not only make peace with your fate but to actually go out and move mountains gives the rest of us the strength to cope. I cannot even begin to imagine your struggle, physically and emotionally. The scars are too deep. But your strength is truly inspiring.

Are you running NGO?

I am a humanitarian/writer/blogger and write articles that touch upon intercultural and inter-faith issues. The idea is to encourage people to rise above their individual struggles and find the strength to make a positive difference in their lives as well as the lives of others.

R Umaima Ahmed

Umaima Ahmed is a member  of staff

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