Visually impaired student, Sonia, read her article about peace:
“Everyone wishes for peace to come to all of Afghanistan.”
Last year, on the 21st of September, the International Day of Peace, the Afghan Peace Volunteers and Borderfree Street Kids reached out to 100 Afghan labourers, cooking and serving them a meal. To follow-up, microloans were given to five of the labourers to start their own small street businesses.
This year, the Afghan Peace Volunteers and Borderfree Street Kids reached out to the visually impaired and blind students at Rayaab (Rehabilitation Services for the Blind Afghanistan ). They brought MP3 players as gifts to 50 visually impaired students. The students will use the MP3 players to listen to recorded school lessons and educational programs. Rayaab is an Afghan non-governmental organization run by Mr Mahdi Salami and his wife Banafsha, who are themselves visually impaired.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers and Rayaab began their friendship in 2012: Visually impaired Afghans for a better world : “And also, my message to the world is to get integrated to each other, in peace, in love and in kindness, and to throw away any hatred. And try to live in a very peaceful and very honourable and very kind environment in order to make a better world. Thank you. Love you all!” Mahdi Salami, Deputy Director of Rayaab, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind Afghanistan.
Below is a photo essay of this year’s renewal of friendship among Borderfree Afghan Street Kids, visually impaired students of Rayaab, and teachers from both groups. It is followed by a video invitation for you to ‘Touch a Colourful Afghanistan’.
With regards to human hope in Afghanistan,
most of the world is blind.
We don’t see Sonia’s daily effort to live meaningfully,
as mainstream media have replaced our eyes
and is just as obsessed with war as politicians are,
as if war is attractive.
We overlook the resilience Nature demonstrates
despite what international militarists are doing to her and to people,
plain people, Afghans, Syrians, Yemenis,
or ‘the others’ on different killing lists.
We don’t even hear what’s obvious,
“We are human beings.”
Not objects, not targets.
Banafsha ( right ) , the Director of Rayaab, is also pursuing a Master’s degree in International Relations
For Banafsha, a sound is a colour,
touch is colour,
understanding is colour.
A bullet isn’t a colour….
“Bombs frighten me,”
Hadisa, a volunteer teacher, said at our meeting.
The watchman of another school for the visually impaired was killed
by extremists who entered via the yard of the blind,
into the American University Hadisa studies at,
to wreck havoc,
drowning in a failed tit-for-tat war,
shoot, anger, shoot, revenge.
All that was achieved
was a bloody red.
Mehdi Salami played the keyboard while the visually impaired students sang
We’ve even forgotten that Afghans sing,
that music can be heard everywhere,
the bees, the wind, the transformed caterpillars,
and leaves turning their faces towards the sun.
While they create tunes, they serve the Earth too,
pollinating, producing sweet seeds of future life.
“The blind use their hands to touch,
to make out the shape of a flower,”
Mursal said, closing her eyes momentarily to imagine that world.
When Mursal heard the keen voices of the students
singing verses which lyricized the Dari alphabet,
she felt that “my heart had become very full”,
and she cried.
Mursal cried when she heard the blind students sing together
Mehdi ( right ) asked that we merge our worlds through respect
“If we can embrace our differences through respect,
we naturally become one,
the blind and the sighted,”
Mehdi Salami, Rayaab’s Deputy Director encouraged.
It made inspiring sense that
if we can bridge ‘darkness and light’,
we can merge all other diversities.
Maryam was sick, and still had an IV cannula on her hand,
but she so very much wanted to come,
and to share that, “I needed 3 or 4 persons to bring me here.
Today, I can manage on my own with a white stick.”
She overcame by the sense of touch, and some human support.
Trees provided her a walking aid,
to free her from our doubts.
Maryam ( left ) came despite being sick, with an IV cannula still attached to her hand
Maryam received her gift of an MP3 player with gratitude
Sonia, with soya biscuits which Rayaab served us with refreshments
Tina Ahmadi, in saying thanks and goodbye, asked to meet us again
Spending International Peace Day, 21st September 2016, together
The Afghan Peace Volunteers and Street Kids saying goodbye to the students of Rayaab
As we said goodbye in the dim corridor space,
we remembered Tina Ahmadi’s request
that this not be the only time of our friendship,
that we should meet again and again.
We understood then that the blind ‘see’ more than we do,
that meaning, love and calm may pass us by,
but are grappled with in intense pursuit
by them, those we often ignore.
It is hoped that we’ll always invite ourselves to
behold the everyday struggles of Afghan folk from all walks,
and to recognize the effort of Mother Earth to nurture humanity,
not to rush past with our usual fleeting glances,
but to pause with a ‘full heart’,
and to touch.