Jasmine came from a troubled background. She suffered from a mental disorder, which altered her mood, and made it difficult for her to maintain close relationships. She was often perceived as "stubborn" or "impossible to work with". Her sudden bursts of anger pushed away co-workers and friends. Her family rejected her when she was 17 and left her with her grandmother -- the only person in the world who was willing to care for her. Since then, she was a stranger amongst her own immediate family.
She held various temporary jobs but none of them ever lasted more than a month. She had no social skills and communication skills then. The situation worsened when Jasmine was diagnosed with lupus (SLE). As a result, she had difficulty working for more than three hours without laying down for a rest. She did what she could to support herself, usually by doing odd jobs such as house cleaning within close proximity to her flat. People took advantage of her by paying her low wages for her work.
The sense of abandonment that Jasmine felt was enormous. Scorned by her family, with no network or friends, Jasmine was dealing with a chronic illness and the emotional weight of an abusive and troubled family history.
The SLE Association sent Jasmine to Salaam Wanita in 2002 as a last resort. The association ran out of options to help her. Salaam Wanita assigned her another SLE patient who lived in her area as her "sister". Together, they attended all the ICT and basket weaving trainings. They were also paired up to do odd jobs together. She was still under emotional duress, but at least she was no longer alone.
She was like Eliza Dolittle in the movie "My Fair Lady", who needed training in all aspects of life skills. Jasmine had been involved in many of Salaam Wanita's projects with varying degrees of success. But the most important assets that Jasmine had gained is friendship, a sense of belonging, and self-esteem. She said, "I learned that I'm somebody. My self -esteem is always high when I'm with them [Salaam Wanita friends]. They are builders."
The higher level of self-esteem had helped her to take risks. One such risk was learning to use a hand phone. Her first attempts with a hand phone resulted in her throwing the donated phone onto the floor in frustration, but then five years after picking up a phone, Jasmine was comfortable making calls, updating her credit, and coordinating activities with her friends. She had learnt how to manage her phone finance by restraining her urge to call every one when she was lonely, but using it sparingly to contact Salaam Wanita for work. She was still learning how to text message. The hand phone was an important tool for Jasmine whose low cost flat had no fixed-line phone. Now, her general well-being is tied to her ability to connect to the outside world.
To earn income for food and rent, Jasmine took odd jobs from Salaam Wanita and other employers through the phone. Since her work schedule was not set, she had to arrange the hours, place, and agreed payment through the phone. She even used the phone to coordinate her transportation. Most of all, the phone was an important source of contact with her friends. Jasmine remembered that before she had her phone she depended on pay phones, which were often out of order or difficult to get to. But now, she could call someone and make connections.
The newly acquired confidence gave her another impetus to take a risk - learning computer. When SW offered her a chance to learn basic IT, she took up the opportunity with gusto. The three months' training also gave her experience in team work and written communication. After she passed her typing test, a donated used computer was given to her to improve her computer skills at home as there was no telecenter at all in her area.
She was an active participant in the forum at eHomemakers website. She wrote emails to her friends about SW activities when she had internet access. ICT linked her to the world outside, and enabled her to overcome physical and mental barriers to get along with others to transform herself to someone who is capable of learning new things.
Jasmine's story is about overcoming mental and emotional challenges with the support of friends and community that Salaam Wanita offers her.
Read Maria's blog about Jasmine,