Moulana Akm Kamruzzaman – Muslim Chaplain/Imam

Akm KamruzzamanAS a nature loving university student back in Bangladesh nearly 25 years ago, Moulana Akm Kamruzzaman (or Zaman as he is affectionately known), loved nothing more than feeling the wind in his hair as he rode his beloved motorbike through the countryside.

However a serious back injury put paid to that and after a failed operation in Bangladesh, Zaman (47) came to the UK for a private operation in 1989 which was a success. With his engaging curiosity and genuine delight in learning and in helping people, Zaman was approached by the Muslim community and asked to stay on in Birmingham to help with community development. The 4th son of five brothers, Zaman is multi-lingual, fluent in six languages including Sylheti, Bengali, Urdu and Hindi, and has Masters degrees in Islamic Studies and Business Management gained in Bangladesh. After his operation he continued his studies in the UK, concentrating on health and community development at local colleges and universities.

He was appointed part time Muslim chaplain at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust in 2001, a post he cherishes as he is able to put into practice the skills he learnt from being a patient three times himself. He believes there are three fundamental issues for some patients who do not speak English as their first language. They are; firstly the obvious language barrier, then a lack of confidence in communicating with hospital staff who are looking after them and finally understanding what is going on around them, what their treatment involves and even basics such as how to use the facilities. So it is in these three areas that Zaman focuses his attention to help patients, whether it is explaining food choices or passing on information from clinicians or helping patients to communicate with staff to let them know how they are feeling. These are some of the many issues which Zaman deals with under spiritual, pastoral and religious care.

Working with Warwick University as Project Support Officer on the SAHARA health research project – an in depth examination to identify the health needs of Asian men – gave Zaman an understanding of the health needs of that group and greater understanding of the NHS, driving his work across the three health trusts he works for in the region.

Currently helped by one female and one male volunteer, Zaman provides a comprehensive service which includes the preparation and leading of baby funerals, leading Friday prayers in the prayer room at City hospital and creating bridges between the Trust and the local communities.

In 2005,  Zaman established a teaching charity – BLSP – Bangladesh Learning Support Project, set up to support people in Bangladesh to access better education. Using different UK learning support models from primary to university levels, the project demonstrates how both teaching and learning can be interesting, enjoyable, effective and even fun. A young family of three daughters keeps Zaman busy, and although he has little spare time he enjoys gardening and has kept his childhood love of nature.

His role as hospital chaplain means he is always on call and he explained: “I believe God has chosen me to do this job.  A call in the middle of the night means a human being needs me, so I forget my tiredness and back pain and I get up and go. Before my operation I made a promise to God that if I recovered well, I would use my life to help others. My second operation was a success and so it is easy for me to keep my promise and do whatever I can to help others.”

To find out more about Zaman’s charity work in Bangladesh log on to www.blsp.co.uk.