Captain Stories: The Opportunity of Adversity

There are a number of profound experiences a person goes through that truly have a significant impact and can possibly change the course of your life. The death of a family member is one of those times. Ten years ago, I had a small business in Pakistan, but the money was just enough to get us by. When my father got sick and was admitted to the hospital, the doctors informed that they couldn’t treat him as there was no cure for his illness. All I wanted to do was make him better – but I couldn’t, I was helpless. I had to take him home and he passed away the next day.
Even as I was overcome with grief, the hardship didn’t stop there. I didn’t have enough money to give my father a proper burial, not even the Kafan, a cloth in which the body is wrapped in. I was standing outside my home one day, trying to figure out how I could at least arrange for the Kafan, when someone asked me what was on my mind. They kindly offered to help me and I accepted. That was the precise moment when I made a promise to myself: If God blessed me with more at any point in the future, I would help those who are less fortunate.
I started a small flour mill business and I worked non-stop for a year until I saved close to PKR 6,000. That’s when I was offered the chance to come to Dubai by a certain individual in exchange for a large sum of money. Unfortunately, once I arrived in the country and paid him, he cancelled my visa and took off with my money.
I had to quickly find a job to be able to stay in the country. I started working at a security company, doing 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week. I rented out a bed space, which I would share with another person who worked during the other 12 hours of the day.
Following that job, I started working at an airport parking where I earned 1,000 dirhams a month. Since there were many tourists, they would tip me in different currencies. I would put all half of it aside and after three years of saving, I used the money to pay for my driving licence and became a driver.
From the money I would earn every month, I started putting aside 1% of my salary and 50% of my tips towards a charitable trust that I wanted to start one day in Pakistan. Eventually, when I had enough saved up, I told my wife that I’m starting this charity to help others with funeral expenses.
The charity also has a vocational training centre where my wife teaches young girls how to stitch. It’s completely free and it helps the girls learn a skill that they can earn money from. They make the pieces of cloth needed for the burial, which is then given for free to the people who can’t afford it.
I’m still saving the same percentages from my salary and tips that I earn from Careem and sending it back home. I have reached a point in my life where I’m happy and not needing anything, but I’m all too aware that there are many others who are still going through what I went through and worse.
I have dedicated myself to helping others every chance I get. Every Ramadan, I go back home to Pakistan and I arrange iftars for people in a mosque nearby, from food that I cook myself. But I still feel like there’s always more to be done. My next initiative is set up a medical camp to help people who can’t afford medical bills and to start arranging for school expenses to be given to poor children who can’t afford school supplies, books and uniforms.
I tell my story because I’m grateful that I could channel all my hardships into something positive and I hope others can be inspired to do the same. I’m fortunate enough that God has given me the strength and opportunity to do something good in this world. It might have taken a long time for me to get to where I am, but it’s all experience gained. People who go up in life too quickly tend to also come down just as quick. So, the next time you’re faced with adversity, consider that it might just be a gift.
Mohammed Shahid, Careem Captain in Dubai
(Ghost written by Shaimaa El Ghazali)