Portrait of Saarah as ‘hidden disability’ legacy lives on

A MOVING artistic tribute has been created in memory of a former Miss Universe GB finalist whose life was claimed by a rare medical condition.

At just 20-years-old, Carlisle based psychology student Saarah Ahmed was already using her beauty and her intelligence to raise awareness of “hidden disabilities” – including Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome (EDS), the condition which claimed her life on April 13 this year.

A connective tissue disorder, EDS causes numerous medical complications, including joint dislocations, extreme pain, and heart problems.

Saarah’s heartbroken family have teamed up with home education specialist Eden Education to launch Saarah’s Foundation.

Its aim is to fulfill Saarah’s ambition to help Cumbrian families affected by “hidden disability”, providing support such as respite care and adventure holidays for sufferers.

Student Aleksandra Ostenda, 21, has painted a striking portrait of Saarah, who was a childhood friend. She has presented the painting to Saarah’s mum Shefaly Begum.

“When Saarah was alive, she saw some of my work which I’d done for a restaurant and told me she’d be interested in my doing a portrait,” said Aleksandra, a second-year degree student at the University of Northumbria who is studying fashion marketing and communications.

“I went to primary school with Saarah.

“I remember her being a really nice person. She was beautiful. The painting shows her in the dress she was supposed to be wearing when she entered Miss Universe Great Britain.

“It was important for her mother that I paint Saarah in that dress, with the crown. When I sent her the picture, it was quite emotional.”

Of Saarah’s Foundation and its vision, Aleksandra said: “It’s really nice that Saarah’s family are doing this. “It’s certainly something that Saarah would have wanted, considering that she had a hidden disability.”

Working jointly with Eden Education, Saarah’s Foundation aims to initially raise £8,500 to help 12 local families who are living with EDS or another hidden disability, paying for respite care and social gatherings that will help to promote social inclusion.

A former pupil at Carlisle’s Trinity School, Saarah completed her studies with Eden Education. She achieved A grades in sociology, psychology and maths, her family accepting her certificates at a celebration of her life which was held in Carlisle in November.

She had hoped to become a neuroscientist and help clinicians and others in their work to battle hidden disabilities such as EDS. Find out more about her vision at the Gofundme page or read the News & Star’s most recent stories on Saarah’s legacy.