Hotel goes green with Green Fingers

Disabled workers of botanical NGO plant their trees at a five-star hotel.

Samia Saleem January 14, 2011

KARACHI: In white spotless T-shirts and blue jeans, workers of the Green Fingers Botanical Garden Nursery visited the Sheraton on Thursday to see their planted trees and mini plants all around the five-star hotel.

The 19 Green Fingers group included young and old workers of the nursery, who are physically and mentally handicapped.  The hotel recently launched an initiative to acquire all its plants from the Green Fingers Botanical Garden Nursery, an NGO of philanthropist Naima Khan.

Sitting cross-legged on the ground with their hands busy in planting pots, the green thumbs of Green Fingers were happy to see their work and the recognition it had received.

Imran and Saleem, both visually impaired, were busy making the coco pole for the hotel from a plastic pipe, coco-tree bark and thread. “If I give more attention and stretch the thread further, the texture of the pole will be much tighter,” said Imran proudly.

For the hotel’s part, “It’s just like attaching a cause to need,” said Dagmar Eilers, Sheraton’s housekeeping executive. Buying plants from them ensures both quality and quantity in return, he added.

Having decided to make Green Fingers their regular plant suppliers, Eilers said the management had actually started the initiative last September and has so far, they had acquired 800 plants from the nursery in two rounds.

She seemed satisfied both with the plants as well as their presentable pots as she showed what is internally called their “own little jungle” around the hotel’s pool area — a “jungle” indeed, loaded with clusters of high and low plants for aesthetic appeal.

“They have made our hotel greener. In every sense,” said Imran Hafiz Khan, the Sheraton deputy general manager.

The nursery, spread over 2,000 yards in Clifton, is the powerhouse for those disabled people whom society has brutally rejected to earn their livelihood.

Naseemuddin lost one hand in an accident at a printing press. He was unemployed for some time, but after he found work at Green Fingers, he was happy that he was able to support his family again.  Khurshid Chishty, mother of 28-year-old Bashir Ahmed who is autistic, says she had never seen more improvement in her child. “He wants to go to work at the nursery every day” she said. Bashir, standing by her mother, happily showed off his joggers and his brown belt that he had bought with his own salary of Rs1,000 per month. He proudly asks his father to deposit the money in his bank account and frequently inquires about his bank balance.

Amir Ali, who is also visually impaired, was the inspiration for Naima Khan to start the project, is now the adviser and manager of Green Fingers. “I maintain the nursery like a company,” he told The Express Tribune. “If we can ask to be treated like normal people, we can also work like normal people.”

Naima Khan said these people need to know they are valued and that people have enough faith in them. “The small group of employees are assigned tasks that they can easily do without being hindered by their disabilities.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2011.


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