Having moved to Canada 14 years ago, Shakhlo Sharipova did not immediately manage to get comfortable in a foreign country. She was often overwhelmed by depression, and her soul asked to go back to her native Tajikistan. Her special son Ayub, who became that very beacon, stopped her not to break away. Today, Shahlo is a respected resident of Toronto. And recently, the mayor’s office of the city awarded her a special award for her significant contribution to society.
Shahlo Sharipova is the mother of four children and the grandmother of two grandchildren. The eldest son Ayub has a complex form of autism. When the boy was 7 years old, Shakhlo had the opportunity to go to Canada. For her, this was a chance to improve the life of her son, because she herself did not have the necessary knowledge, and in Tajikistan, not the best conditions were created for children with special needs.
A qualified ophthalmologist specializing in the treatment of glaucoma, Shahlo sacrificed her brilliant career in her homeland and left the country.
She recently received an award from Toronto City Hall for her work. However, in order to receive this calling, Shakhlo had to search for his destiny for a long time in a foreign land.
“I’ll be waiting for you on the 1st floor in the lobby”
In Canada, her son Ayub was provided with a full support program and special therapy. And everything would be fine, but Shakhlo began to visit depressive moods. The barriers to finding work, the lack of friends, and the opportunity to engage in social activities to which she was so accustomed, reinforced the longing.
Shahlo tried to find herself – she took courses in ultrasound technology and received an education in management. But all this did not give her complete satisfaction from her work, because she had something to compare with.
The woman did not stop and took volunteer courses in the social sphere. And then she was invited to the board of directors of the Iroda public organization, which has been helping children with autism in Tajikistan for many years.
Online meetings with the children’s parents cheered up Shakhlo, and she again felt needed and useful.
Then I thought: if I help and support Tajik mothers, why can’t I do it here in Canada? And I decided to act, – says Shakhlo. – I hung an invitation sign in my high-rise building, where I invited everyone to talk about children with special needs.
“I know that many of you are not very friendly to my special son, but I would like to tell you about him and much more. I will be waiting for you on the 1st floor in the lobby,” she wrote.
And then she printed out information flyers and handed them out to people on the street during rush hour.
Shakhlo’s efforts were not in vain. Gradually, about 70 families gathered and soon a whole network of support for autism appeared. The woman shared useful information based on her experience of motherhood.
By this time, Shakhlo managed to establish contacts with local officials, who took her initiatives with interest.
From children’s camps to helping the poor
In the first year of the pandemic, when Canada was under a strict lockdown, Shahlo managed to organize inclusive camps for children with autism with special needs. She spent them outdoors. She also invited brothers and sisters of special children, providing families with the opportunity to respite and relax.
Last year, the woman was supported by a local school, offering to hold similar camps on its territory. This year, Shakhlo plans to organize the camp in an expanded format.
Children’s camps are not Shakhlo’s only initiative. During the pandemic, she and a team of volunteers helped the elderly who, due to the strict lockdown, found themselves in a difficult situation.
– We began to prepare and deliver hot meals to the elderly to the door. We also did the same during Ramadan. Fundraising came to the rescue again. Every week we prepared almost 500 containers of food,” the woman says.
In total, during the pandemic, Shakhlo and his team prepared more than 4,000 hot meals. In addition, she organizes various charity events and helps families and the elderly in need with basic necessities and food.
Help for migrants
Parents pushed Shahlo to register his activities and in 2020 the public organization Thorncliffe Park Autism Support Network (Thorncliffe Autism Support Network) was created.
So far, there is enough money only for the implementation of projects, Shakhlo admits, and he has to work without a salary.
But she has ambitious plans for the future and many interesting ideas.