St Albans charity shop owner changes lives for deaf children in Gambia
PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 March 2016
Five years after giving up his business – later replaced by a Tesco Express – in Hatfield Road, a St Albans man is celebrating the opening of another education unit for deaf children overseas.
Mohammed Akhtar, 64, founded the Kashmir Deaf Children’s Trust (Kadect) in 2001, a charity set up to help deaf children in India and, more recently, Africa – a goal which has been repeatedly met for more than a decade.
The charity has two shops in Hatfield Road dedicated to raising money to set up and run schools for young people in Kashmir and in The Gambia.
Mohammed, who owned the former Madina General Stores before making way for Tesco, explained: “The Gambia is a very poor country compared to Kashmir. So I decided to try and help them too, by opening a second charity shop in St Albans about five years ago.
“I started the charity because I have a deaf daughter, Shabana, who was born in St Albans, and I wanted to help because I was born in Kashmir, and there was no facility for the deaf.”
The charity’s first school was established in 2004, followed by a second school for the deaf in Chakswari, also in Kashmir, in 2014.
In 2012, Kadect established classrooms for the deaf within a mainstream hearing school in Basse, a town in The Gambia. Last year, this educational facility was made permanent, after the charity built a unit at the same school.
Mohammed said that previously, there had been no such help for the deaf in that part of the country, adding, “I thank God we did that, as it has been very, very successful, and this year the local government has taken it over.”
He went on: “I want to thank everybody in St Albans, and those who have come in to our shops and brought in donations, or bought donated items. People have been very kind.
“Without you all, this would not have been possible. We want to thank everybody, and ask them to continue helping us as we are in the process of opening a second deaf unit in The Gambia in the near future. Nothing gets wasted here.
“I would also like to thank our volunteers, as without them, we wouldn’t be able to run the shops six days a week.”