July 5, 2018

Story of Sporsho Braille Prokashona

Diversity is present everywhere. Even in our perspective of life. Some of us are not sure what to do with life while some of us are too busy with our own lives. But in between these two brackets of people there is a third one. They are fewer in number. These are the people who find peace and happiness in empowering other people. Sure enough, the world needs more people like them. Recently, we interviewed one such person, Nazia Jabeen, the Founder of Sporsho Braille Prokashona. This is the story of her experience on how Sporsho began and how its existence has life changing impact on people.

Every great idea is formed from a realization. The realization of the need of a problem to be solved. That’s how Sporsho was born too. When she was asked about the formation of Sporsho, Nazia had an emotional story to share. In early 90s she had a terrible road accident with her family where her husband severely injured his eyes. She travelled around quite a bit for her husband’s treatment. That’s when she realized the pathetic condition of the visually impaired.

In 2002, she decided to braille print books for the visually impaired. So she printed her first book in braille. The following incident was heart-rending. The kids were taking the books in their hands, turning the pages. But they could not read the books. That is when she decided to dedicate her life in serving the unsighted.

Then she faced the biggest challenge. There was only one braille printing press situated at Tongi, Dhaka. It remains closed most of the time. 6 years went by she was yet to print her first book. Finally in 2008, she met Fahima, a braille typewriter. Nazia teamed up with Fahima to publish her first braille printer literature book. Today, there are over 14 braille printing presses all over the country. It is definitely a reflection of the amount of work being done.

One of the outstanding topics we discussed was how Sporsho was named. Even though Nazia claims that she did not give much thought while naming it, I would say Sporsho was named with profound dexterity. The word ‘Sporsho’ means ‘to touch’. The visually challenged people read by touching and feeling the books. Hence, the name. The name is very emotional yet it portrays what the organization stands for. You read the words by touch and the words touch your heart.

The stratification is striking. On one side there are perfectly fit people like us who are not always the most enthusiastic about studying and learning, and on the other hand there are the less fortunate people who don’t have books to read.

After launching her book in 2009, the acceptance was beyond striking. The bumpy surfaces of the book was levelled. Such was the number of times the kids had read the books. That’s when she felt the inspiration to push on and continue changing the lives of the sightless.

Fast forward 10 years to 2018, Sporsho has just celebrated their 10th anniversary. And they have enlightened thousands of lives along the way. The biggest achievement of Sporsho from the last 10 years was that they have helped people to dream! Sporsho has sighted goals for the unsighted. They have gifted the sightless with a dream and vision to look forward to. They have evolved themselves into a third eye for the ones without one.

How has Sporsho impacted people’s lives?

Morzina, a visually impaired resident of Dhaka travels to Dhanmondi from Mirpur every day. Nomita Haldar, an acid abuse victim is teaching at the Baptist Missionary School and illuminating the lives of the people who have never seen the dark. Rupom, a brilliant student is studying at Notre Dame College today and ‘Nazia aunty’ is his favorite. Another aspiring dream is that of Ripa Tabassum who wants to be a news caster. Like these stories, Sporsho has blessed these less fortunate people who were shunned by our society to dream again.

We are perfectly fine people blessed with a vision. Yet we indulge in wrongdoing all the time. The local bus thrusts forward every morning when the driver sees Morzina, a blind lady waiting for someone to aid her in getting on the bus, why? Because it will take an extra couple of minutes to get her onboard. These people are visually impaired but physical fine. They are even playing the most popular sport in our country, Cricket! Against all odd they are pushing forward. It is our moral obligation to be beside these less fortunate human beings and extend our hand of help. It is high time we stopped thinking about ourselves and started thinking about us. Only then, the world can be a better place to live in.

From occupying corner stall at Bangla Academy to securing the prime stall at book fairs, Sporsho has gone a long way since its establishment 10 years back. But they have a long way to go. Recently Sporsho published books on health science covering essential taboo topics like breast cancer to raise awareness amongst this isolated tribe. Sporsho plans on inaugurating a knowledge center which will be a library full of braille printed books. Moreover, they are collaborating with Prime Minister’s Office and A2I to print and provide academic books all over the country. If they read, they will learn, if they learn, they will be able to join the workforce and develop into self-sufficient citizens.  

One might be tempted to wonder what type of work can the visually impaired do? This is a long list actually. A person without sight can have a magical voice and thus be a great potential vocalist. Starting from working in call centers and being receptionists they can do a plethora of jobs which will empower themselves and drive the economy.

But this path to fulfillment has been full of thorns. Corporations are never interested in sponsoring such ventures because ‘The blind won’t earn enough to save in banks.’ ‘If they cannot see why will they buy high end products?’ These days, corporate social responsibility has turned into corporate marketing responsibility. If well-being of the society is not a priority, then the total existence of jargons like ‘CSR campaigns’ is a big question mark.

Inevitably, Sporsho Braille Prokashona is still being funded by Nazia and her family. To expand their network of aid they need funding, they need donors. Otherwise, another whole hearted venture set for healing a country will choke in the cusp of capitalism.

Amidst all the obstacles, Nazia still has a simple dream, a dream to ease the lives of the visually challenged. Today she pursues her dream by publishing story and literature books which blossoms smiles in the faces of the people our ignorant society has left behind.

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