Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Remembering Abdullah

Published November 02, 2010
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Over twelve years ago Salalah witnessed a horrible car accident involving a group of teenage boys driving at an insane speed without seatbelts. Abdullah, one of the accident's survivors, ended up spending six months on a wooden board at the hospital in a failed attempt to heal his crushed spine. When he was finally released in a wheelchair, he knew he would never walk again. After many months of depressed isolation, he rallied, and finished his high school diploma at home. Then he decided he was going to university. He was discouraged by almost everyone, but he chose to fight and went up to Muscat to apply for a scholarship. A senior official at the Ministry told him to give up, claiming someone paralyzed from the neck down would never make it through college. Never one to give up, he kept fighting.
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He was finally granted a scholarship to study at Dhofar University. I remember the first day his personal helper, Babu, wheeled him through the campus gates, and most students stopped to stare like it was some sort of freak show. Abdullah held his head up high and started attending classes. During those first few weeks, most students avoided Abdullah because, at the time, Dhofaris had no idea how to deal with physically or mentally challenged people. Any person with special needs was kept 'hidden' at home and away from society. The first time I met Abdullah was during registration week at the University. Babu pushed his wheelchair up to a bench where I was sitting and he asked me cheerfully if he could be 'parked' next to me until Babu returned with registration forms. We ended up chatting for an hour, and that was the beginning of several years of friendship.
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University life was not easy for Abdullah. It took a while for students to get used to seeing him around campus, but after the first few weeks, his classmates started talking to him and once they realized he was a completely normal person, his circle of friends began to grow. He decided to study management information systems since he was able to use a laptop despite the fact that his fingers had been crushed in the accident. He had a pencil with a small rubber attached to one end. He would hook the pencil into his only good finger and use the piece of rubber to hit the keyboard.
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Abdullah was extremely bright and spent many hours a week tutoring other students. He also became involved in social work and charity campaigns at the University, many of which he himself had initiated! He excelled in his studies and made the Honors List semester after semester even though he had to spend weeks at a time in the hospital every year.
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He had a charming personality and a wicked sense of humor. His close friends at the University knew how much physical pain he was in even though he rarely showed it. Only he knew what it was like to wake up in the morning and feel completely helpless and paralyzed. To overcome his frustration, he spent his time and energy reaching out to others. When someone passed away, Abdullah was the first at the funeral. When someone was in trouble, he was the first to offer help. Even when my own mother was undergoing surgery in Muscat (at the other end of the country!), he somehow managed to appear out of the blue in the surgical ward with a bouquet of flowers on his wheelchair table and a smile on his face. On our graduation night in 2007, when he was wheeled out on stage to receive his degree, the applause was deafening and every single person in that auditorium was on their feet (many with tears streaming down their faces).
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Abdullah passed away two years ago today, and even though he is no longer with us, his friends I have vowed to keep his memory alive. He had no idea how much he inspired people, and we all feel blessed to have had someone like him in our lives. He told me once that his dream was to set up a rehabilitation centre in Salalah for people like him. He wanted young men and women with special abilities and needs to have a choice. He took it upon himself to make a difference. After graduation, he spent most of his time trying to make his dream come true.
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Despite Abdullah's and many other people's efforts, there are still thousands of children and adults with special needs hidden behind locked doors in Dhofar.

11 comments:

  1. Suzan thanks for the amazing article.we will never forget Abdullah. May he rest in peace :(

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  2. May Allah reward him greatly in the akhira for his patience durning pain, for his reaching out to others in their time of suffering and for being a beautiful and warm hearted human.Ameen.

    If only we took time to learn more about his life and his struggle maybe we will appreciate what we have and say alhamdulillah.

    I wish i could thank him but i cant..so i thank his mother for installing good manners and a warm heart.. barak Allah feech Umm Abdullah.

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  3. Thank you Susan for your article. Abdullah my friend and esteemed student was the most courageous young Omani man I have met and he has enriched my life tremendously. God let him be an inspiration to so many, not just to me but to so many others. In his way the ripples he set in motion in the pond with his pebble is perhaps way larger than he ever thought it would be. Thank you Abdullah for your loving way – I am thankful and humble that I had the honor of getting to know Abdullah and spending some of his precious time with him!
    If you want to read more go to...
    http://www.annemarieprofanter.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57&Itemid=90&limitstart=1

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  4. Thank U for the article , I Didn't know him personally but i heard about his challenges .
    May he rest in peace

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. I will work for his dream. Allah Kareem!

    http://howtolovedavey.blogspot.com/2010/11/children-in-my-life.html

    http://howtolovedavey.blogspot.com/2010/09/for-sake-of-dhofari-blind-girls.html

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  7. he sounds the person who would be the one to turn to at any time

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  8. Susan - I hope you are ok - and am looking forward to your December post

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  9. OMG! I cannot believe he is not in this world anymore. May his soul rest in peace! He was one of the most most most courteous students in the uni. It's just a shame I couldn't meet him after I left the uni.

    Tuned in to this page after a long time.

    Susan, Good work , Keep it up!

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  10. Thanks a lot for your impressive article. Yes, Abdullah was a very nice person. I know him personally when i was at DU. He's really a man of challenge. I am using the verb present simple, because, i believe that his image is still in many people's minds.

    We all should learn many things from him.In fact, I was in Muscat when he died. Friday was Abdullah death at Al Khoud graveyard; many people were at the Funeral, either the people who know him or the once who heard about him. That was on after Jumaa Prayer.

    Considering the fact that Abdullah was a popular person among students, teachers and staff, I would suggest to DU if they can mention his name, in somehow, during Open day, or any activities at DU. i think that will let people remember him, and, at the same time, inspire young people that where there's a will, there's a way.

    Thank you once againg for remembering him.

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  11. Really nice article. Written with Zest and care. God bless your efforts to spread the message of Abdullah and his life. It is inspiring. Another message to be spread is... Speed Thrills but Kills... Thanks

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