A 12-year-old skier, Azra is exceptional in more ways than one. Despite being born with hearing and speaking disabilities, this girl has a gold medal to her name.
While Pakistan might not have the best policies to facilitate people with disabilities, disabled people are still shining through despite it all.
Foreign media outlet Al Jazeera highlighted Azra’s story, and this in turn prompted the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s social media channel to highlight her struggles:
Monday inspiration straight from Swat: Azra, a hearing and speech impaired child. Her story from a boiled egg seller to a ski trainee in Malam Jabba Swat is highly motivating and tells alot about the potential of talent this beautiful region of Pakistan hosts.#DiscoverPakistan pic.twitter.com/gFWk9nvqrJ
— PTI (@PTIofficial) February 24, 2020
So who is this girl and what’s her story?
Azra comes from a poor family, and this meant that she had to earn her living from a young age. This young talent was selling boiled eggs at a resort to make ends meet. Luckily, she discovered skiing and realized she was very good at it. She now dreams of converting her passion into a professional career.
Azra’s father Sarbali Khan has always wanted the best for his daughter. But the issue is, as a poor wage earner himself, how could he afford to finance his daughter’s dreams?
It will take a lot of resources for young skier Azra to go pro, and this is where you come in.
Azra lives in the Swat Valley, which was once plagued by armed conflict under the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s siege. The scenic valley sitting in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains was once a hot tourist spot, which was dubbed as the ‘Switzerland of the East’.
Even now, the Malam Jabba ski resort is the only ski resort open to the public in the area.
While the ski resort does train Azra, the cost and stakes are high for her family. When she started off, she couldn’t even afford skis and her brother carved her a makeshift pair.
She currently trains at the Malam Jabba ski resort in her native Swat. Despite her hearing and speaking disability Azra’s ski instructor, Muhammad Sharif states she’s a fast learner.
While even the PTI government is moved by her story, that does not solve who will financially support this emerging sportswoman.
Without proper resources, this young talent cannot sustain her career. Like many boxing prodigies from Lyari will this young skier too be lost to economic setbacks?
More importantly, how can we all help?