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Case Study

Shahnaz's Story

Shahnaz Bashir, with her husband Syed and two children, has lived in Aberdeen for a little over a year now having moved from Pakistan to Glasgow 10 years ago. Shahnaz is a registered carer for her 15-year-old son Waleed who lives with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and is registered blind. Her husband Syed works for VSA at Ruthrieston House.


Shahnaz first moved from Pakistan to Paisley, to start her MPhil at the University of the West of Scotland; she was the first female from her family and district to accomplish higher education which she said was a great honour.

When she first moved, she had to leave her home and move to a new country all alone which was a difficult time for her. Shahnaz did not know anyone; it was a huge cultural challenge and Waleed specifically found it upsetting being in Pakistan without his mum as he did not fully understand why she had left.

After two months, Shahnaz’s family moved to Scotland, to be reunited, which was an emotional time for everyone. When Waleed moved over, one of the first things she did was register him with a GP; because of his learning difficulties, she wanted to ensure she could get support.

She was really surprised when the GP asked her which school Waleed attended because children with learning difficulties do not attend school in Pakistan. Shahnaz spoke about how this was a huge surprise for her, as she had no idea that in Scotland he could go to school and she knew this would be great for him.

Shahnaz’s older son Shahzad Ahmad, who is 19, is also registered as a young carer for his brother and helps his mum and dad support him. Shahzad plays cricket for Stoneywood Dyce Cricket Club and is also very academic, which led to him receiving an offer from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Medicine to train to become a doctor.

When Shahzad received the offer, the whole family decided to move to Aberdeen – to support Shahzad’s dream. When Shahnaz moved, she asked her carer service in Glasgow who could help support them in Aberdeen and they were advised of VSA Carers. When they moved to the city, they contacted VSA and Shahnaz and her eldest son are now both registered at VSA as unpaid carers.

Shahnaz answered some questions about her experiences as a Carer.

How have VSA Carers helped you since moving to Aberdeen?

The team has been fantastic, they signposted me to different opportunities to meet other carers, provided me with information about mental wellbeing, and where to get different information. Initially moving to Aberdeen was a bit unsettling for us, as we do not have any family or friends here and because of Waleed’s learning difficulties, and so we wanted to find an organisation that could help us.

I obviously can’t attend Carers Cafes at the moment due to lockdown, which has been hard because I only really started going to them when this crisis started. VSA has held virtual events but it is nicer to see people in person.

“As a full-time carer for my son, a mum for my eldest son, and a wife, it is nice to know I have VSA Carers there to help support me if I need it.”

My carer advisor is a fantastic lady. She has called me a few times during lockdown as well and provides me with very good advice.

What is your day-to-day routine?

I get up before my family to prepare breakfast for everyone, and then help Waleed into his wheelchair down for breakfast. I also help him eat as he cannot do this by himself. Once my husband leaves for work, I then help Waleed get washed and dressed for the day ahead. My eldest son Shahzad would normally go to University, however, due to lockdown he has been at home the past few months to help me with the morning routine.

Due to Waleed’s learning difficulties, he gets bored at home, so we try to take him out for a walk every day. He loves the sounds of birds, wind, and water so it helps relax him. We also enjoy going as a family and it is good for us to get fresh air.

Waleed also loves music, and my eldest son, when we are out, often puts headphones on with his favourite music; we know if Waleed doesn’t like a song as he knocks the headphones off. His favourite song is “Qarara Rasha” and this is in Pushto language. He loves listening to it when we go to the park.

After our walk, we go home, and I normally start to prepare dinner while Waleed and his brother watch TV. As he is blind, he cannot see the TV, but he loves the sounds. My husband gets home from work and we enjoy dinner as a family before I get Waleed ready for bed.

Having my eldest son home during lockdown has been great for Waleed; they have such a special relationship and I love seeing them together. We moved with Shahzad because Waleed would really miss him and would be very upset.

What do you like to do to relax?

It is hard to find time to relax, as being a full-time carer I am always thinking about what Waleed may need next. However, I have the support of my husband and son and as a family, we are all there for each other.

My eldest son loves producing videos of how we care for Waleed, and I enjoy helping him film these. We have a youtube channel “Shining Stars” that my son updates with different videos of how to care for people with learning difficulties. We post these on my husband’s Facebook also to share with family and friends. It is a great pleasure when receiving messages from other carers from other countries. The modern technology is helping the carers, too.

When lockdown is over, I will enjoy being allowed going back to Carers Cafes as I do not know many people in Aberdeen, I hope it will be a good way to build some friendships. People in Aberdeen are very nice and friendly.

How do you keep going?

This is a difficult question, as you keep going because it is my son and my family. Some days can be hard, and you maybe would like a break, but Waleed is my son and I will always do everything he needs, and I will be there for my whole family.

What do you see in your family’s future?

I am very happy to be in Scotland. We had a nice time in Glasgow and now we are very happy in Aberdeen. I really want to write a book: “My journey from the north of Pakistan to the north of Scotland”.

My older son Shahzad is a very nice and kind boy. I like when he helps someone. In future, we want to help those parents who have children with special needs. Parents and carers here in Scotland are very lucky. I came here from a developing country and I knew about the many challenges that carers and people with special needs face in their daily life. That is the main reason why I have started Shining Stars so that I can spread awareness to people in those countries.

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