Photos: Zahedul I Khan
Thirty years ago, when Valerie Taylor had made the decision to stay back in Bangladesh and devote herself to the cause of serving the paralysed and for those suffering from spinal injuries, all she had was an abandoned warehouse of the Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital to run her centre. Today, the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) has grown to include more than 100 beds in addition to providing rehabilitation treatments. The centre also includes recreational services including vocational training for the poor and a sports area. For eleven years, Valerie and her team were moving around from one place to another and providing treatment to poor patients. "We were 'gypsies' for a long time before we bought some land for ourselves," says Valerie. CRP is now spread over more than 15 acres of land in Savar.
CRP has grown to include more than 100 beds in addition to providing rehabilitation treatments.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, this year, CRP plans to celebrate with family and friends - former workers, patients and donors who have been supporting this organisation for the last three decades. "We are still coming up with ideas for events and celebration," exclaims Valerie. "CRP plans to arrange an event every month. This month there is going to be a get-together of all former and current employees. Many, who had worked with for a decade or so, are now settled abroad. They have come CRP to Dhaka for the celebrations as well.
There have been several ups and downs in the last three decades, says Valerie. "I won't lie and say that everything has been smooth," says Valerie. "We did face several major obstacles while running this establishment. However, what has been gratifying is that CRP has lots of supporters and friends who have always been with us." About a year ago, several organisations, media personalities and supporters had been outraged when the board of trustees for CRP arbitrarily removed Valerie, the organisation's founder and main promoter, from her position as coordinator citing her engagement in activities that are "prejudicial and detrimental to the interest of the CRP". According to inside sources, however, the board removed Taylor as the coordinator because of a two-and-a-half-year disagreement between her and a section of the board who decided to raise the fee for the patients by several folds making it increasingly difficult for the large body of "ultra-poor" patients of the organisation. Thanks to the petitions and continuous efforts made by the media and CRP supporters, the crisis was resolved and Valerie was restored to her rightful position in the organisation. "We were driven to go on and never give up, in spite of all the obstacles that we faced over the years," exclaims Valerie.
Besides several diploma courses, CRP now boasts three new Bachelor of Science programmes on Speech Therapy, Occupation Therapy and Physiotherapy. "We just had admission tests and plenty of students applied for these programmes," says Valerie. "We hope to have more next year." Affiliated with Dhaka University, these programmes have gained a lot of popularity amongst young students. "Every year we have trainers and experts who come in from different parts of the world to work here voluntarily," adds Valerie. For instance, this year, CRP has a specialist in speech therapy all the way from Canada. "However, I was shocked when I could not find a single specialist in Bangladesh in this field."
Many refer to Valerie Taylor as Mother Valerie, simply because of her loving nature and a continuous effort to protect the weak and poor. In her mid-sixties, Valerie still dreams of spreading CRP to all the five divisions in Bangladesh. "That's my vision now," says a smiling Valerie. "Which might just take another 30 years or so."
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January 30, 2009