Ashley Emma Shahid, Founder
"There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do, not what they cannot do."
- Dr. Temple Grandin
I'm Ashley Emma Shahid. I am a Bengali-American, a young professional, a daughter, and a dreamer, inspired by the world around me and hopeful to make a change.
My parents immigrated to the United States in the early 1980's and became successful in their careers and provided me with a childhood and life that was far beyond their wildest dreams. As a product of two innovative, compassionate and dedicated dreamers, I find it inherently necessary to do good in this world.
A little background on my experience with and ties to special needs; My half-sister Monika, has severe autism. While she has her quirks, Monika is a lot more than autistic. Monika is an artist, a musician, a student, an employee, a sister, and a huge Disney fan. She listens to 80's tunes on repeat and loves Celine Dion. To have the honor of growing up in the same household as Monika was a blessing. Those who have experienced it before can attest to the fact that there is no better way to learn and practice patience, compassion, and understanding than living with a person with a disability. I am 100% percent sure that I am the person that I am today because of Monika, and I cannot imagine a life without her or the lessons that she doesn't even know that she taught me. For it was Monika who was the catalyst that led me to launch BNGLDSH. Inspired by Monika, I decided to enroll at Columbia University in New York City to get my Master's degree in Nonprofit Management.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same appreciation for the disabled individuals in their lives. In Bangladesh, and largely in South Asia, children with special needs are stigmatized and isolated. In Bengali society, children with special needs are considered burdens to their families. This unfortunate reality inspired me to set out to change that dialogue.
In Bangladesh, the first private schooling institution inclusive of special needs curriculum (compared to the thousands in the United States and Europe), was opened in late 2010. While the government is paying attention and tending to most of the needs of autistic children in Bangladesh, there needs to be more of a conversation internationally to get Bangladesh and other South Asian countries the educational help that they need to kickstart more socio-economically friendly inclusive education programs.
Autism does not discriminate, and many of the families that have children with autism cannot afford to send their children to private schools.
My goal with BNGLDSH is to change the inclusive education system in Bangladesh and similar developing nations. This effort is 3-pronged:
Install points of conversation surrounding special needs curriculum within government institutions such as school boards
Raise donations for existing programs in Bangladesh that offer special needs daycare, schooling, and day-to-day assistance
Raise donations for Autism Speaks for their international efforts to further advance special needs education and care in developing nations
If this cause speaks to you, please reach out.
Ashley Emma Shahid