Mohammad Sabir belongs to a family of nomads living in a slum in the suburban area of Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan.
Sabir, the dustman
Sabir’s childhood started from collecting garbage as a dustman; his mother used to work as a cleaning lady, and his father used to drive a donkey cart.
Every morning at sunrise, the little five-year-old Sabir, flopping a garbage bag to his shoulders went outside to collect refuse and filling his bag with plastic, wrappers, aluminum, snippets of newspapers or anything else that could be worthy of selling out.
The collected trash was his means of survival except for the newspapers’ snippets. He used to gather the bits of newspapers to read them.
“I have this bad habit of reading since my childhood,” Sabir apprised.
Though his cousins laughed at him and his family scolded him for reading newspapers rather than selling them out, but he didn’t back out.
“My cousins used to think I had gone crazy and wasting time in reading newspapers,” Sabir further said.
Sabir cared a dime of what others said; he started going to school and was a first educated man from his community. He used to get up early in the morning and went outside with his garbage bag to collect trash as he has to earn to give money to his parents.
After collecting much waste, the little boy used to come back home, put the garbage bag back and grabbed the school bag to leave for a school where he spent the whole day. At night, he used to complete his homework in candlelight since there was no electricity provided to slums.
In school he used to face many complications as his teachers used to consider him dumb and treat him biasedly just because he is from binmen’s community; also his classmates refused to sit near him.
But Sabir still didn’t back out and continued studying even harder. In the fifth standard, he was introduced to the English language for the first time.
“First time, when I got introduced to English, I have realized that in Pakistan, people are treated differently if they can speak good English. So I started learning English very passionately as I wanted to be treated well too,” Sabir told.
Sabir’s academic record was full of successes, and he topped his class in board exams of the eighth standard. He also got a scholarship from which he bought his uniform and books for ninth and tenth standards.
From dustman to tutor and a graduate
As Sabir was much better in English at that time than his classmates, so he started giving tuitions to them. Sabir has then started selling newspapers instead of picking their snippets from trash. After starting getting an education, his work kind and source of income were also getting better.
After he has completed his matric from City District Government Boys High School, Township Lahore, he did diploma in accountancy and completed his graduation from Pakistan’s Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. He also used to do certain jobs and was involved in many social activities.
“My education has changed my complete profile,” Sabir blissfully apprised.
A Visit to America
His complex of being a binman was fully vanished by the literature and education. The another turning point in his life was his meeting with a member of Lahore Consulate, Katherine, in a social gathering where she was truly inspired and impressed by Sabir’s story.
She recommended him to apply for a fellowship program by the Atlantic Council to which he applied and got selected. In November 2012 he came to America for the first time for training as he was one of those fifteen people from all over Pakistan who got chosen for this Emerging Leadership Programme run by the Atlantic Council.
Sabir, the social reformer
His visit to America inspired him to do something beneficial for his slums, so he started working as a social worker and established an organization named ‘Slumabad’ that began to work for building mobile toilets for slum community and helping the children of slums to get enrolled in schools.
The mobile toilets in the slums are much needed because they have no facility of toilets over there and people urinate near their tents; as a result, the waste contaminates the pure water which caused many of his family members to die from hepatitis, cholera and many other life taking diseases.
Sabir is a great social reformer and a true epitome of indomitable spirit, surely an inspiration for all the slum dwellers.