I’ve always spoken of the grand personalities I met in Kibaha. I can speak about them forever. Because they are the grandest living beings I have come across. Men and women of strength and vision, to say the least. One of these people was Bashir Valji. As I arrived in Kibaha , he was arranging for his departure back to Toronto. After eight years of volunteering in Kibaha , he had decided to move back to where his family was. Well, where his other family was.
The whole of Kibaha was in love with him. If there was any student who was struggling to pay the fees; they knew who to go to : Uncle Bashir. If anyone wanted something special on the menu; the knew who to go to : Uncle Bashir. If the pipes were broken: Uncle Bashir. If they wanted someone to understand them ; It was Uncle Bashir.If they were lacking school supplies : Uncle Bashir. You Name it : Uncle BAshir. It wasn’t just the students who loved him – it was everyone. He was out solving Kibaha’s problems while everyone slept soundly.
After he left; any problem that would occur – the students would claim it wouldn’t happen if he was there. If they weren’t getting the menus they wanted, or the lights weren’t working or the water wasn’t warm – it was because he wasn’t there. All he did was give. He would go on a walk at 11 pm each night through the whole campus , checking for any extra light bulb that was switched on or any faucet that had been left open. He would wake up at 5am on Sundays to take the girls on their weekly run and then he would treat them to sweet bread that was sold on the street. When I took over this duty, they would all claim – “Uncle Bashir used to do this , Uncle Bashir used to do that – ” They were big shoes to fill – not that I had any chance of filling them.
He was known to take the volunteers for night walks where he would switch off his torch and we would stare up at the African sky. He would explain every tree that we passed, and show the students the biogas project that he had initiated and brought into creation.He was a man who wanted to educate, educate, educate. When he wasn’t working at WIPAHS – he was off bringing electricity to a small orphanage that were struggling with funding. We had gone to see at least 3 different orphanages outside of Kibaha and he had found a way to pledge money towards those projects. He gave inspiration to the older kids telling them that if they did well in their studies, he would find a way to fund their technical colleges and their aspirations.He was a man with a heart. A very big heart.
He had vision and he believed that anything was possible. He would push everyone to be the best they could be and didn’t believe in wasting time. We lost a great man today. A gentle soul. He was taken away so suddenly. It’s a reminder. Death is a reminder to live. Live as he did. So that even when you are gone, people talk about you with tears in their eyes and smiles on their lips.
Dear Uncle Bashir .
I was lucky to know you.No, I was blessed. I was even blessed to have been at your funeral. To be able to see the many people who loved you. But, I know that there are many many children who love you who could not have been here. I know you read this blog religiously so this one’s for you:there is not enough to be said about you. It is not even enough to say that you have left a gaping hole in our hearts. You will be remembered not simply as a man but a hero to many. A father-figure to those that did not have one and a loving soul. Hopefully we will be able to carry on your work with as much vigor as you did. You are always in our prayers. We will miss you
Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Illahi Rajioon – Surely we belong to God, and to him we shall Return (1:156)