Wednesday 16 January, 2019

Gun violence survivor nominated for international award

“There is always something good in every bad situation.”

This saying holds true for gun violence survivor, Caron Asgarali.

Shot in the face, chest and shoulder during an attempted robbery in January 2013, Asgarali, a former teacher at the San Fernando Central Secondary School defied the odds to be nominated for an international award for her work against gun violence.

She was forced to undergo reconstructive and plastic surgery after her chin was blown off, her tongue partially detached and her lower jaw was fractured from ear to ear.

Asgarali lost almost everything including her savings and income and experienced symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder including nightmares and sleeping issues.

In an interview with LoopTT, she said she still suffers from the effects of the incident.

“Today, there are still times when I cannot believe that it actually happened, except that I am constantly reminded by the sensations I experience on my chin and the difficulty I sometimes have with eating and speaking. But because of the purpose and direction that my life has taken on, the fact that I can have an impact bestows on me a deep sense of responsibility to the cause that transcends negative fallout from the incident,” she said.

However, despite these challenges the former teacher has since dedicated much of time advocating for an end to gun violence in Trinidad and Tobago.

Asgarali shares her story with students across the country to raise awareness of the impact of gun violence. She also started a project in 2017 aimed at transforming hurt into hope and in June of 2018, the former educator was nominated for the BBC’s Outlook Inspiration Award.

“Starting Project R.A.R.E. in February 2017 was for all the reasons outlined in what motivates me. There was no aspiration for recognition or award. I did what would give my life meaning and what could transform the experience of being shot and coming face to face with death into something worthwhile that could be of benefit to many. The BBC nomination was a complete surprise. At first I thought it was spam when I opened my email and was convinced only after receiving a telephone call. I would not be human if I said it did not thrill me but I felt unworthy of such recognition. The final three who were selected were truly deserving, particularly in terms of the impact and reach of their work,” she said.

Although she didn’t win the award, Asgarali continues her inspirational work.

She said what is most distressing as a mother and gun violence survivor is the number of young persons who are involved in crime and acts of violence.

However, the former teacher says she is compelled as an educator to advocate for those values that will strengthen the nation’s social fabric, especially given the fact that many perpetrators of gun violence are young males.

“So, what motivates me is the desire: to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else; to help people, particularly young people, to deal with anger and conflict and; to empower teachers and school leaders to cultivate in students’ civility, ethical standards of behaviour, norms, and more in keeping with accepted social behaviour. It is my belief that: everyone should be able to live peacefully, without fear of being shot; no one should have to deal with the fallout from violence particularly through the use of a gun and; the use of guns to perpetrate acts of violence is a concern of all citizens, not just the State or primary and secondary victims,” Asgarali said.

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