If someone asks her what she does at work, she explains that six days a week, from 9am to 5pm, she knocks on doors of complete strangers, sometimes up to 50 houses a day. “It’s not easy to go door to door. A lot of people give negative responses. Some don’t even open the door; they shoo us away.” But the 27-years-old Kulsoom Malik continues to knock on the doors, talks to the ones who are willing to listen, and tries to identify patients of mental health illnesses in Karachi’s underprivileged areas.
Kulsoom is one of the Aman Foundation’s Community Health Workers (CHW). This community outreach program aids both the Sukh and the Mashal initiatives, the former aimed at mother and child as well as family planning issues and the latter targets mental health issues. Often the issues overlap, and the Aman Community Health Workers Program (ACHWP) supports both.
Kulsoom, who has had training as a CHW for both mother and child issues as well as mental health issues, is currently supporting Mashal.
“I mostly cater to women and children, and in turn entire households. The underlying issue for both physical and mental issues is poverty, unemployment and malnourishment. Resulting frustrations lead them to becoming patients of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. They also commonly suffer from arthritis, aches and pains, fatigue, and high blood pressure,” shares Kulsoom.
She is currently working in an area of Ibrahim Hyderi in Karachi, and most of the men from the community there are fishermen by profession. “The months that are not lucrative in terms of fishing are the toughest for them. Poverty and hunger then even exacerbate mental health issues.”
The work is tough and often depressing. There are too many mouths to feed in Kulsoom’s family, and this graduate could do another job that is less demanding and higher paying, but that would not give her the satisfaction this work does. This dedicated worker finds her work of serving the community immensely satisfying.
Once she identifies the illness and the patients, she counsels them, and refers the cases that need psychiatric help to Mashal’s mental health camps. The results are very encouraging, and Kulsoom continues to follow up on the patients.
This lively girl loves outings, spicy food, cooking and watching movies.
“My strong point is my empathetic and loving nature. I want to use that to the fullest and aspire to educate street children with both worldly and Islamic knowledge. I am confident and face each day with a smile. At the end of the day, this attitude keeps me motivated to reach my goals.” And her goals are to serve humanity and take care of her family.