“Learn from yesterday, live for tomorrow”
“Learn from yesterday, live for tomorrow” is key to a successful life. I learn every day from people around me and get inspiration to move on. I, Azima Zaidi was born in 1993 with a physical disability. My hands below wrist and legs above knee are absent. This disability has fortunately never created any barriers along my way. Despite my disability I’ve enjoyed every moment of my life. For me it has been as unpredictable as a mystery box. In today’s competitive world I learnt to survive, and the best way to do that as my parents say is through education! Especially for people with disabilities education is food for life. “Educate yourself to such an extent that people have no choice but to follow your footsteps” states my dad. If today I’m educated, confident and independent, it’s all because of my parents.
Perhaps the best first step my parents took for my grooming was to put me in a normal children’s school. This experience made me realize that we all may be different physically but from the inside we’re the same. I was modifying into a unique person, in search of my shining future. The journey is proceeding, meeting success on its way and hopefully there’ll be more. That moment is still vivid in my mind when my mom received a letter from the founder of a prestigious organization ‘The House of Charity’ in hope of taking me to Houston, TX for my free prosthetic treatment. That was the first roller coaster spin of my life! Traveling to U.S without my family for four months was worth returning tall and happy. “The world looks so beautiful from up here” I said on receiving my first prosthetics. I discovered new culture, diverse people, my capabilities and how to be flexible towards changes. After the first trip, my visits to Houston increased. There I designed template for UNICEF calendar in 2003 followed by my interview on ‘abc’ news channel. I indulged myself in community service projects, assisted ‘House of Charity’ in welfare work and for a while studied in U.S middle and high school.
I also sold a couple of my art masterpieces, which taught me communication skills. The desire to work for people with special needs rose in my mind after my YES (Youth Exchange and Study) program (2011-2012) experience. I, along with 107 kids, was chosen from almost thousand kids from all over Pakistan to travel to U.S on an exchange year for one year.
We lived there with an American host family, attended an American high school and captured all opportunities to best represent our Pakistani culture. I was living my dream! One of the highlighting accomplishments was that I was selected as a CEW (Civil Education Workshop) participant In USA and travelled to Washington DC for various seminars. There I was interviewed by ‘Voice of America’ to share my U.S experience and encourage other disabled students to apply for such exchange programs. I expanded my social circle by making numerous foreign friends as it taught me a lot about their customs. My host school named ‘Oak Hill’ in Eugene, OR supported me throughout and I got a chance to blend myself in by participating in various extracurricular activities.
I was given privileges like power wheelchair for school, a wheelchair ramp and stair chair at home, laptop for school work, a personal bicycle and much more. Not to forget my MIUSA (Mobility International, USA) experience. The activities I performed were the ones I never thought I could do. Like challenge course, skiing, swimming, riding bicycle, bowling and visit to accessible schools. That indeed was a cherry on top. They made me believe in myself. I knew nothing was impossible.
Now that I’m back I have great goals for future. I managed to complete my last year of O’levels from Beaconhouse school and ASAS academy, Islamabad. Now my foremost dream is to graduate from American high school, work on health, education, development and introduce facilities for disabled people. All I need is a forum!I cannot live in U.S forever but I surely can convey the positive ideas which I got from there to my people here. That’s the least I can do. I believe everyone on earth is living for a reason, so by that logic I too have a task to perform. It’s time for a change, a change for good.
Written by: Ms. Azima Haider Zaidi