Mohammad was born in Pakistan. He came to the UK in 1965, aged 16, as a factory worker. Always quick to take opportunities, he now runs a 29-room care home for the elderly.
Windows of Opportunity
My older brother and my uncle were in the UK already, working in Huddersfield. They arranged a voucher for me to come over as a factory worker, so I started working in a textile factory. Within two months I was going to night college. I started on O level maths and chemistry. I passed and went on to A level maths, courses in electronics, and mechanics. This led to working as a technician in various companies including British Coal Mines as an underground electrical technician. My last job was in Dagenham, at Ford Motor Company, with the installation and maintenance of industrial robots.
In 1982 I thought I would try my luck at working for myself. So I opened a shop in Prestwick; it was a shop where we sold car accessories and domestic electrical and hardware. I kept adapting the product range to match the needs of the customers. Within 2 years of starting the shop I started a side business buying old derelict properties for renovation and leasing.
Coming to the School
I joined the school of philosophy 40 years ago; I saw an ad in the newspaper, which appealed to me since I was interested in wisdom. I had some reservations about where it might lead to in the early days, especially in case it might cause a division with my Islamic religion. But on the contrary, it’s given me a depth of understanding of my religion.
I’m also a trustee of the mosque of Kilmarnock. Originally there was no mosque in Ayrshire, so I was a founder member. I’m very interested in Sufism and its philosophy; I go to a Sufi School. It’s a universal approach, and benefits humanity and creation. Teachings of Sufism are in line with teachings of the School of Philosophy.
Starting off in Pakistan, from a young age I was interested in serving our community. At the age of 13 I made a bridge on a water stream so that the villagers cross the stream over the bridge instead of having to walk through the stream.
I bought a former Co-op property, some 34 years ago. I renovated the building, doing a lot of the work myself. Having the skills for the electrical work and plumbing, I did a lot of the decorating and painting. So we turned it into a care home, with 29 rooms. I took the relevant courses to get medical knowledge, understand health and social care, and took IT courses so that we could run the care home more efficiently.
Many care homes focus on profit, with the result that the staff are under pressure and make mistakes. But we’ve learnt through mistakes – and we are fortunate to have no mortgage. So we could cut down on the profitability ratio and focus on the quality and staff training.
I devised a course for staff which I deliver myself- it’s influenced by the School’s philosophy, Sufism and various other courses that I have attended. The course is not mandatory but all staff members like it. The course is entitled: Think, Communicate, Work and Play. We focus on personal growth. We have a very low turnover of staff.
When I was a boy in Pakistan, I read the story of Florence Nightingale. I was so impressed with her and the story stayed with me. So the care home is called Nightingale House. Our logo even includes the lady with the lamp.
I bought a church at Millport, which is on Great Cumbrae Island south west of Glasgow. (40 minutes drive from Glasgow). I used to see this church for sale and kept thinking about it. Then finally I just bought it. We plan to renovate it to create accommodation for approximately 30 people as well as a small restaurant which will be open to the public. It will be mainly used for the School residential studies, and residential courses for personal growth. We are thinking of calling it “Millport House Centre for Personal Growth”. We are open to suggestions for the name. This project is going to take a couple of years to complete.
I have 4 children, all married and well educated. It was one of my ambitions to support them to degree level. Now there are 9 grandchildren – luckily my wife is good at keeping track of all the birthdays! Every day is my best day. I start my day with meditation and gratitude to the Absolute. (Allah)
Making bread on a recent School retreat