As Executive Director, one of my first goals was to visit the ground and see the work of the teams that help children.
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It was a lot like choosing your favourite child to decide which country you would visit first. So I decided to visit Pakistan and Afghanistan last week to learn more about how we handle humanitarian crises and how we build long-term systems.
You can find my statements on the trip here and there, but I’d rather tell you about some young people and mothers that I met.
Meet Taqwa Ahmad from Punjab, Pakistan.
At just 14 years old, she is already a motivational speaker and has won several awards for her advocacy in support to children and teens with disabilities in Pakistan. She said she wanted to become a Secretary General of the United Nations. With a resume like hers at such an early age, I am certain she will be great.
Here is Shahnaz. She is also 14 years old and lives in Quetta, the provincial capital for Pakistan’s Balochistan. Her father Mira Khan was the sole teacher at Our centre for accelerated education in her village. Shahnaz was a boy at the time and could only enroll. However, her father supported her decision to pretend to be a boy to get into school. Shahnaz can now freely study at the centre because it opened a second class for women. She visited Islamabad to meet me for the first time.
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A Quetta native, is fourteen years old. Amiraan used to be a laborer at a vegetable market to help his family. He had never been to school before he discovered Our centres for accelerated learning. Amiraan, along with another student, learned basic math at the centre. This gave him the confidence to open his own vegetable stand in the market. Amiraan now works in his stall during the morning, and then goes to the centre for study in the afternoon. Win-win.
This is Wahida, a Kandahar woman from Afghanistan. She is three months old, severely malnourished. She was so small that I couldn’t feel her weight when I held her. Her mother took her to the hospital to receive treatment. While I was speaking to her mother, I felt her bones when I placed my hand on her back. You can be certain that the entire family is in serious trouble by the time the parents bring their children to treatment.
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Saeeda is the mother of five children, two daughters and three boys. She is 25 years of age. Her husband is a day laborer. The father built a single-room mudhouse that houses the entire family. Every rainy day, the roof leaks. The family keeps blankets and mattresses against the wall throughout the day, and then they roll them out at night for sleep. The family survives on water and bread most days. The father brings home potatoes when he finds work. Both parents can’t read, but they both want their children to go to school. She said that they wanted their children to have more opportunities in life.
Both in Pakistan and Afghanistan I heard stories about suffering, but also stories of hope. Children are resilient and often bounce back from any hardship. They only need help. We owe it all to the Taqwas and Shahnazes, Amiraans, Wahidas, and Wahidas to help them reach their full potential.
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WE teams are always on the ground helping children to learn, feel safe, and stay healthy.
We need funding to be able to do this work effectively and efficiently. Political will is essential. Everyone must make a commitment to put the children first.