Small things make a big difference for young Tasnuva and her charitable family
2018-08-01 15:09:12 -
By Laurel B Lujan

A young girl’s health struggles inspired her family to start an organisation that has grown from helping the differently abled to feeding the homeless in Ireland.

Eleven-year-old Tasnuva Shamim was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, microcephaly, epilepsy, cystic encephalomalacia and an intellectual disability. Inspired by her difficult journey, her parents Shagor Ahmed and Nasrim Ahmed Shamim — who moved to Ireland from Bangladesh in 2003 — founded the Tasnuva Shamim Foundation Ireland on 1 January 2015.

“She really struggled for eight years, big time,” says Nasrim of her daughter’s heath issues at the time she and Shagor started the foundation, which originally focused on providing support for the differently abled and their families.

“For people with disabled children, it is not easy to [do things like go to] work,” says Shagor of what grew their empathy. “Suddenly I will have to run home because sometimes [Tasnuva] has a problem [at any time of day].”

While their focus is on taking care of Tasnuva and their other children, the Shamims express their gratitude that the Government helps by providing a nurse who visits during the week. It’s what inspired them to give back and try to help others who don’t have access to the same support.

Over time, that mission expanded to “anything we can do for the needy”, says Shagor, under the guiding principle of ‘promoting love, care and unity through community interaction’.

The issue of homelessness in Dublin is now a particular cause for the Shamims’ foundation, once they were confronted with the reality on the city’s streets. 
Beginning with a few plates of food and the help of some friends who gathered to pass them out despite the poor winter weather, by the end of that first month, Shagor had a fully fledged foundation working alongside soup run providers Hope in the Darkness.

With Shagor’s help, their food runs on four days a week were bolstered by extra handouts on Fridays, aided by a team of dedicated volunteers. And Kinara in Clontarf, a restaurant specialising in high-end Asian cuisine, also pitched in with sizeable donations of rice in tandem with FoodCloud.

“We got the food and our donations [by] our members helping us, and Tesco Malahide gave us more than enough food,” Shagor says.


Meanwhile, the inspiration for it all is thriving beyond expectations. Tasnuva goes to a mainstream school and, besides not getting homework, she shares similar experiences of growing up to her sisters. The school she attends also provides much-needed supports to help her socialise with her classmates, so she does not miss out on a full life.

Tasnuva’s parents are grateful that she has finally found comfort despite her condition – and were recently able to treat her with an aeroplane flight.

“For over five years she has not been on an aircraft [but] she’s very big now and she had a wish to go,” Nasrim says, explaining that it is not always easy to travel with disabilities. But Tasnuva’s body language indicated that she was excited by the experience.

“Tasnuva had earphones on, she [can’t] see but she can hear so when the pilot was talking and the plane was moving, she was moving,” Shagor added.

As Tasnuva’s life improves, her namesake foundation continues to grow. There is now an office, thanks to Gannon Homes, and there are plans to open a homeless centre as well as a youth centre to promote support and interaction within the wider community.

“[But] we can’t run an organisation without volunteers,” Nasrim says, as she and her husband express their thanks to those who have already helped so much by donating food or their time to help those differently abled, whether the homeless or individuals like their daughter.

“It’s the small things that make a big difference,” Shagor says. “So this is how we help people and this is how we make friendships.”
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