Archive | June, 2014

Bethan Williams – Hadisa – a wonderful young lady

18 Jun

Children in Crisis is sorry to say that after years of dedicated, professional service, Bethan Williams, Programme Manager for Afghanistan, recently left Children in Crisis. As a parting gift Bethan wanted to write a blog about a cause very close to her heart…

 

I feel honoured to be a part of the life of such a brave father and wonderful young lady. 

6 months ago I only had 1 sister, now I seem to have 3. The first new one didn’t surprise me too much since my now husband and I had been planning our wedding for a while but the third one was a bit more of a surprise.

I gained the third sister late one Tuesday night a few months ago somewhere on the A40 in a taxi from Heathrow. Hadisa is a 16-year-old Afghan girl I originally met in Kabul in 2012. Hadisa was born with a severe facial deformity and  it’s only as a result of the dedication and care paid to her by her loving father that she’s alive today.  Children in Crisis originally met Hadisa in 1997 just after we’d opened our office in Kabul and under the Taliban regime. Hadisa’s father brought her to a hospital supported by Children in Crisis where she was seen by two surgeons from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The surgeons decided that Hadisa’s case was so severe she would need to come to the UK for treatment. The medical plan was always for three operations, one to ensure the hole in Hadisa’s brain was closed to reduce the risk of her contracting meningitis, the second to further improve her medical chances and the third to give her the features of an adult face.

Hadissa with her father during their current stay in London.

Hadisa with her father during their current stay in London.

Hadisa and her father came first to the UK in 1998 and then her second trip took place in 2002 a few years before I joined Children in Crisis. I’d heard about Hadisa before I met her, Hadisa’s story is well known within the organisation, particularly how, when Hadisa and her father returned to Afghanistan her father would cycle Hadisa and her two younger brothers on his bike to attend the Children in Crisis school we were running in Kabul. When I took on the management of the Afghanistan Country Programme in 2008 it was clear that we needed to fulfil our promise to Hadisa and her father, to ensure she had her final operation.

Hadisa with her father outside the Children in Crisis office in Kabul, Afghanistan after her second operation.

Hadisa’s father cycling her to the Children in Crisis school in Kabul, after her second operation.

After a review of her situation in 2006 the surgeons advised that she would need another operation in around six years. This was fed back to Hadisa’s family by our team in Kabul. Right on time in January 2012, Hadisa’s father got on the phone to our Office Manager in Kabul and wanted to know what the plan was. When I first met them both I was confronted by a bright Afghan school girl, dedicated to her studies. In one of our meetings Hadisa passed me a note that she’d written in English with the help of her teacher ‘please, please help me. Things are very hard and people are not kind to me’. Although Hadisa has the full support of her father, other members of her family and the wider community are not so kind. In those early meetings I didn’t have much opportunity to speak with Hadisa, we mostly discussed the logistics of getting them to the UK, feeding back reports I had received from the surgeons, requesting additional health checks and finally, in October 2013, asking them to make the trip to Pakistan to secure their UK visas.

Finally after all our meetings, with the support of our team in Kabul many of whom remember Hadisa as a baby and the charity founded by the two surgeons who originally met Hadisa, Facing the World, I found myself in Heathrow Airport arrivals waiting for Hadisa and her father. We almost missed them as they confidently pushed their trolley of luggage into arrivals. After the long process of getting everyone into the taxi plus luggage and everyone’s seatbelts on, we were on the road. Hadisa claimed she didn’t remember anything about her two previous trips to London until we saw a red London bus ‘I remember that!’ she proclaimed before she turned to me and said ‘can I call you sister?’, then turned to her father and asked in Dari ‘can I call her sister’. Since that night I’ve had a third sister.

Me, with my newest sister

Me, with my newest sister

I’ve learnt how brave Hadisa is, she told me that she never cries because she wants to stay strong. It is only in our conversations here in London that I appreciate the full extent of the discrimination Hadisa has faced. From the moment she was born when the nurse called her father into the delivery room and said ‘this is your daughter, what would you like me to do with her?’ to the time her Uncle in Peshawar suggested to Hadisa’s father that if they took her to a crowded market in another part of the city they could leave her there and she wouldn’t be able to find her way home.

With the help of Afghans in London, Hadisa now has a laptop and after we managed to get them on the internet under the guise of allowing her father to watch the Afghan news it wasn’t long before she was playing me YouTube videos of ‘Afghan Star’ the equivalent of The X Factor whilst her father looked on despairingly and rolled his eyes.  It’s likely that Hadisa will have to have three procedures when she’s here in the UK, one of which she has already undergone. In her style, Hadisa wooed all the nurses who didn’t want to say goodbye to her with her thank yous for everything and her excellent English. It’s a joy to have my Afghan sister here in the UK and I’ll cherish these months and the joy she’s getting from them. I feel honoured to be a part of the life of such a brave father and wonderful young lady.

 

Update:

Subsequent to Bethan having written this blog Hadisa has undergone further surgery. We are pleased to announce that she is responding well to treatment. Hadisa is due to undergo her final procedure on 19th June. She and her father will return to Kabul as soon as she has recovered from her surgery.

 

Learn about Children in Crisis’s current work in Afghanistan here.

Support Children in Crisis’s work here.

 

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