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Valerie Taylor: The guardian of hope
Valerie Taylor was a twenty five years old lovely British woman when she first arrived at the then East Pakistan in 1969. Voluntary Service Oversees was a philanthropic organization of British youth like her that took her all the way from Kent1-a county in South East England into Bangladesh. She started giving physiotherapy to people with spinal injuries. Her interest in caring for the paralyzed was due to the fact that, she saw negligence and malfunctioning of society to care for such patients. She had started working as a physiotherapist in Chandragona Hospital, near Chittagong. Later she would be running a center devoted solely to cure paralyzed patients- one of its kind in entire South Asia. At the verge of the outbreak of chaos and anarchy in 1971 she was evacuated by the then East Pakistan authority.
Valerie Taylor was born in 1944 in the home of William and Marie Tailor. She began volunteering in Bangladesh with a 15 months contracts with the volunteer charity organization VSO. But Valerie made a vow to herself that she would devote her life for the cause of humanity through her voluntary physiotherapy in Bangladesh.
In September 1971, amid the turmoil of war, she managed to enter Bangladesh again. The war-laden country perhaps needed her service more than anything. In 1973 she went to England again. This time she went for raising funds for a center for rehabilitation of paralyzed people. She stayed in England for two years before returning in 1975. It took four more years before CRP- Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed was able to start its first operation in 1979. During this time, Valerie worked in the Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital in Dhaka and it was in the grounds of this hospital that CRP had its first premises, two abandoned cement storerooms which were used to treat four patients. Since then, the CRP has developed to include a 100-bed hospital, in addition to providing other rehabilitation treatments. CRP moved to Savar in 1990 after eleven years operating through all the various moves from one premise to another and Valerie has continued to work tirelessly.
Since its establishment, Valerie worked day and night, relentlessly trying to improve the capacity of CRP. In the early days she used to go door to door for raising funds. Sometimes the donors were not-so-generous and they used to chastise and neglect her often.
Developing it brick by brick, she was able to make the centre stand on its own. Now it has a capacity of 400 beds2. . Later Valerie was able to establish the permanent building where CRP stands now in Savar- an outskirt suburb of Dhaka.
CRP with a mission statement “To promote an environment where all disabled people can have equal access to health, rehabilitation, education, employment, the physical environment and information” -is now treating and rehabilitating poor Bangladeshis suffering from neurological disorders. CRP has now become a big organization with multiple branches in Mirpur, Gonokbari, Manikganj, Moulvibazar, Gobindapur, and in Chittagong. Started with voluntary services, CRP now operates with a fully fledged institute- Bangladesh Health Professions Institute (BHPI) which offers diploma in physiotherapy and is affiliated with University of Dhaka. BHPI has a rich library and a quarterly journal publication.
Valerie opened a school for disabled children in CRP premises naming it after her parents ‘William and Marie Taylor Inclusive School’ in 1990. The new school building built in 2003 combines CRP's students with special needs and students from CRP's mainstream school which accommodates staff members’ children and local children.
Once Valerie was ousted from the leadership body of CRP- the only sweetheart she loved through her entire life. She did not want CRP to be a profit-making business. Later she got back her post, but by that time, CRP’s charitable character was damaged mostly.
She adopted two disabled girl named Joyoti and Poppy.
She was given Bangladeshi citizenship in 1998. In 1995 she received Order of the British Empire Award, 1996 Arthur Ayar Gold Medal, in 2004 the BNP-Jamaat government awarded her the highest civilian award of Bangladesh “Ekushe Padak”. In 2011 she received Sheltek award, in 2013 she received $100,000 humanitarian award launched by Rotary International District.
Valerie, therefore, is one of those fairies from our childhood fairy tales, who with a magical wand turned a land of dead into a terra firma of glowing humans. A country where attaining basic human rights is a challenge for many; being born with disability leads numerous to enduring humiliation. Over the years, Valerie, with her ocean of love and rock solid fortitude has been the ambassador of hope for those people. She gave them love, she gave them care and most of all, she gave them dignity. When Valerie smiles, we see smile of the distressed and the hopeless. Thus, one Valerie Taylor becomes our guardian of hope.
1. bn.wikipedia.org/wiki/ ভ্যালেরি_টেইলর
2. bn.wikipedia.org/wiki/ ভ্যালেরি_টেইলর