It was such a privileged opportunity to visit Fountain House in Lahore. The visit was organized by Shiraz Mirza from Kingston, Surrey, UK. He’s really been supportive of my work in all the fields.
He organized a press conference where I had an honour of telling Media about World Eating Disorder Action Day. The first World Eating Disorders Action Day will take place on June 2, 2016 and generate information virtually in over 20 countries around the globe.
From the press release received this month and year, Co-founder of International Eating Disorder Action said
“The first ever World Eating Disorder Action Day sends a powerful message to policy makers across the globe on the need for action, underscore the fact that eating disorders don’t discriminate and at the same time give hope for successful intervention.”
I wonder how I can put Fountain House visit into words, if my trip to turkey left me speechless, this visit also had a very strong impact on me.
Lahore Mental Health Association (LMHA) was formed in 1962 to mobilize efforts & resources for the uplift and promotion of mental health in the country and in the bid to achieve that aim, Fountain House Lahore was established as a project of LMHA. Fountain House was commonly and popularly funded by people with the same interest to seeing vast majority of people recover from the deadly mental illness.
A fountain of Happiness, my experience there on visit saw beyond that and if given the opportunity, I will name it, Fountain of Grace, Fountain of Hope, Fountain of Restoration, Fountain of Light And Fountain of…oh! I need to breathe.
Fountain House is dedicated to the recovery of men and women with mental illness by providing opportunities for members to live, work, and learn.
There at Fountain House I saw mercy, compassion, care and love. This is traceable to history Rockland State Hospital in Orangeburg in the late 1940s at, New York where six patients formed a group that met in a hospital “club room”. There they shared their stories, read, painted and participated in social functions together. Later, they joined together to re-create the supportive group, “We Are Not Alone,” they had formed in the hospital, meeting on the steps of the New York Public Library. They believed they could offer each other support in life’s challenges and sustain their social community. They hoped that their successful recovery would gradually change society’s perception of people living with mental illness, leading to broader understanding and a reduction in the stigma.
The group they created speaks to what remains the central problem for people living with serious mental illness today- social isolation. In 1948, with help from their supporters, they bought a building in New York City. And both hope, rejuvenation and inspired the name “Fountain House.”
People with mental health are faced are lack of care, love and understanding. Many are being despised, cheated, scorned, mimicked, and relegated in the society; they are treated like they are trash and are constituted or tagged burdens to the family. In many parts of the world particularly the third world countries, people with this kind of eating disorders are ruled out of the family in decision making and property overseeing and belongings and many fail to give their children in marriage to families where they notice that this ailment, or illness or disorder has happened. To worsen it all, many wicked and perverse remnants of the falsehood against the truth of connecting to Allah even pray or cause a no solution event for these poor souls.
Mentally unhealthy souls are also harmful to themselves as they cannot reason well on their own and harm themselves more severely or work into risks without any great intention but one worse off than the soul’s existence except they are handled with care and love like I mentioned above. The simple task of caring for them, listening to their wish and complains, engaging them in recreational activities are all taken care of by the well incorporated or organized selfless Fountain of happiness, seeing to it that members get their desired happiness and gear them towards recovery, lighting a brightness at the end of their tunnels.
In conference room, Dr. Syed Imran Murtaza told us:
“some people have been here for 25 years. It costs 1,000 rupee a day to have them here. The government gives us 25,000,000 a year, which is easily spent in a day on medicine, feeding, and treatment. But we are happy to have them here, it’s a blessing”.
With this visit a sense of satisfaction prevailed over my mind, body and soul that this is a place of compassionate good people.
Eating Disorders are very misunderstood mental illnesses. 70 Million People worldwide suffer from this ailment and this includes Muslims too. The problem in Muslim world is lack of understanding and awareness of this illness and therefore hundreds of thousands of people suffer in silence in isolation. People fail to understand the suffering of these people. These people who suffer at times are seen as simply self-centred selfish people.
Here in Fountain House I saw uniqueness, people were being given strength and made to believe in themselves. They are not chained up or locked like in past and still today when people with mental illnesses such as Bipolar and Schizophrenia are locked up or put in chains with the belief that they constitute a nuisance of themselves. There is this belief that has been going on in centuries that people like these are not supposed to be allowed to reach out to people in the streets, Yes, good thinking, but, in lieu of granting them an atmosphere where they can interact, express and heal gradually they are always in bound. This is tormenting as this provokes them and cause them to grow more wild and vile.
The reverse as we learn is different here in Lahore, Thanks to Fountain of real Happiness.
Ayesha Imran Murtaza, Our visiting Officer who brilliantly looked after us and gave us the tour of the Fountain House told us:
“No we don’t lock them up, or chain, we allow them to move around freely.”
Ayesha Imran Murtaza took us for a visit around the Fountain House, so we all can see the reality of mental illnesses, the suffering, the care and the work that goes behind it. Eating Disorders are also psychiatric mental illnesses and they too belong to this fraternity of mental health family. It was a great opportunity to see and learn from here and see how people were managing their illnesses and learning to take a step towards living a life. Life is for living for celebrating.
“Fountain House is a work of people. Everyone contributed a poor of poor, even if it meant buying a single brick for 200 rupees and donating it to us, this is how centre in Sargodha was built one brick at a time, the foundation the work all supported by people”
Our visit started off from Royal Kingston rehabilitation Centre, established by Shiraz Mirza. Shiraz as the first Asian Mayor in the Borough who has selflessly helped the needy financially as well, the establishment and creation amenities to the reach of those lowly in the borough and back home.
The fried of the helpless and the needy see all he’s been doing as a second chance to completing his assignments. When he was interviewed in press room, Shiraz Mirza told us “the money was raised through charity cycling and great number of people participated in this event to make this centre a reality”.
In Royal Kingston Rehabilitation Centre, I saw beds in neat rows, all neat and tidy and a private room where a member who’s severely ill and can’t stay in a ward can stay here with family. Dr Rozeena Khan very kindly told us about the patients and their needs.
We were introduced to father of the ward, “no smell here, I make sure it’s always clean and their personal hygiene is my main priority”. He tells us proudly.
We were then taken to Art Therapy Room and Music Therapy Room. Where the members of Fountain House have an opportunity to develop their skills, work on them, find their inner talents, explore them, flourish them. Here brilliant art work was displayed. The Music teacher proudly told us of programs these members put together and how soulful and harmonious those musical sessions are.
Look at this work, so beautiful, human eye will fail to capture the real beauty of it? The emotions, depth and hard work that have gone into this work of art are far immeasurable to any allotted amount of money for the brilliant work of art displayed.
We saw the kitchen, where people cook with pride. Aisha told us: “all our purchases are from Metro, we provide good quality food”. The Master Chef made us taste his delicious Chicken Korma and Fresh bread from clay oven.
We saw the dining area where people were waiting for their lunch and visited the area where school children enjoyed their lunch.
This young boy now an adult was a child when he came to fountain house, he recognized Shiraz Mirza and instantly hugged him and all those men around him. He displayed so much affection.
He then gifted his amazing work of art a painting to Shiraz Mirza. This was one of the most beautiful and a very touching moment of the visit.
Visiting secure women’s area of the Fountain House was real eye opener.
The problem people and girls especially young people who suffer from eating Disorders is lack of availability of such places and avenues where they can go and recover at no cost or little cost. Here in secure women’s section, men are not allowed to enter without permission. Here women walked around. We were shown their beautiful handy work; they had made purses, pouched and mobile phone pouches.
And here as I gazed around the room I saw a figure from yesteryears, Roohi Bano, an actress a veteran of Pakistan TV Industry a victim of mental illness.
It was the first time, where I couldn’t say much. I wanted to speak about ED but couldn’t. I saw these challenged people and how despite being left here they were managing themselves. We saw the library, where they studied. We saw the mosque, where the top section was devoted to religious studies and spiritual healing.
We learned about Quranic healing. This Fountain house is like a small city, everything from mosque to pharmacy to garden area here. A secure place
Who Heals Our World ?
And it was such an honour to visit the gift shop to meet this beautiful soul, an outcast in Pakistani/Muslim culture. People who are born with a challenge but have beautiful spirits. However, we as a society fail to recognise them as part of us, as a marvel of Allah’s creation. We either call them a man or a woman or in between or a person born with conflicted gender identity and with a curse. She came out and greeted us and despite her illness runs the gift shop successfully and with honesty. She’ll put any shop keeper to shame with her dedication to work. People who fall into these categories are oppressed not only in Pakistan but all over the globe.
If the trending celebrities of the world today constitute people with transgender identities, those who used to be intimidated socially, morally, superstitiously, ignited against for their confused identities, choices and events in their lives have come to the limelight to break the chains of oppression and relegation, we know them, we listen to global news on their achievements, oration and vibrancies. You will notice that many of them came out in large numbers like they were all kept somewhere in silence for centuries long. If this outbreak could ease off the worrying souls of these kinds of people then, we Muslims have a long way to go too by caring and giving freedom of association to our outcasts. People who were born as men and have feminine behaviours naturally and /or vice versa. They possess an image of Allah too and only He can only explain why He has created them that way. Hence, the reasons for His commandments.
My message, we humans are a great manifestation of God’s work, so, you are not also to forget that a verse from the Holy Qur’an says:
“Truly Almighty Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Qur’an 13:11).
How do these people change what is in them if we cannot bring them back to their very self?
In numerous verses of the Quran, Allah describes Himself as being extremely generous, merciful, and forgiving towards His creations.
Message Islam doesn’t judge anyone by their actions by their words… how do you know who’s more loved by Allah. When you look at another human being, look in awe at their goodness, don’t judge them by their words or actions. They could be very dear to your Lord, the Lord of love, mercy, and compassion.
We ended our visit by feasting on a meal which was prepared in the kitchen of fountain House.
We said our good byes.
What is astounding about this trip, how unprepared I was? I wasn’t ready to see such things. I wasn’t aware of this.
My experience with people has taught me how people with mental health have great anxieties about their future; they worry about their care, and becoming completely dependent on someone else. Dr. Imran told us; “here in Pakistan there’s a divide, we either care or we don’t”.
In Step 12 of recovery From Eating Disorder I posted that it includes the third stay—administration to others—that guarantees a proceeded with recuperation and an abatement of sins. Caring for there also is a manifestation of the presence of Allah to our daily life. Come to think of this, if service is required of us all these while, don’t you think it is highly expedient that we take it all, with no levity but with all dignity, first, we put ourselves in the shoes of these people in question, those like the ones in the fountain who are yet to have this selfless service to restore than. You may not be in Pakistan or other places that accentuate this kind of service but, you can start something where you abide.
Furthermore, in Step 12 we said;
“Be pious as you consider approaches to serve, looking for dependably to be driven by the Allah. In the event that you are willing, you will discover numerous chances to share directions of Allah’s standards you have learned. You will discover approaches to impart your confirmation to others and chances to serve them in numerous different ways.”
We have Service to do, we need serve others ‘cause their lives depend on us.
Today, as I conclude the writing of this post, I can say I’m proud to meet people who truly serve. This visit to Pakistan has made me learn so much and I am still learning. We are very privileged; our plight is not as same as people of Syria. Honestly, before we complain, we should really look at the blessings we have around us and trust me we’ll be ashamed to complain about anything. It’s our duty to make our place of living our society a better place. And that’s where Step 12 comes in Service, serve and serve, no matter where you live, south east north etc…
In words of late Dr. Douglas: “The whole world is my family”.
I guess that you are not also to forget that a verse from the Holy Qur’an says:
“Truly Almighty Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Qur’an 13:11).
Islam on Helping “You cannot attain to righteousness unless you spend (in charity) out of what you love.” (The Holy Quran 3:92)
I want to thank Shiraz Mirza from depths of my heart for this opportunity for this visit. I want to thank everyone from Dr. Syed Imran Murtza to Lubna to Ayesha Imran Murtaza, Dr Rozeena Khan, the associated press, to the Master Chef and every member of Fountain House for honouring us and blessing us.
One day I hope to see a centre where every country around the world can offer the same service to people who suffer from Eating Disorders. I want to see a secure setting where people regardless of gender, age can go and recover and get their life together. I want to see their pain and suffering ease. I want young girls to stop feeling the only way out of this illness is suicide or living with this illness and having a destroyed body mind and soul.
I will refer here to some of the lines I had earlier posted in the Last step on the Steps to Recovery; ’When you do something for someone else or share the message of hope and recovery, your responsibility is to encourage others who struggle to turn to Allah for guidance and power. In addition, you should not be reluctant to encourage them to turn. Great blessings can come from Allah through those. As you try to help others, you must understand that it will be difficult for them to remain in recovery if family members do not support them or do not understand that recovery takes time.
Anyone can recover.
In your enthusiasm to help others, be sure to keep a balance between sharing the message and working on your own program. Your primary focus must continue to be to apply these principles yourself. Your efforts to share these ideas with others will be only as effective as the recovery you maintain for the needy.