Borderfree Street Kids School – April 2015 to April 2016
Child Right Netherlands ( http://www.childright.nl/ ) had sponsored the street kids pilot program
in 2013 and 2014 ( posts on the pilot program at the end of this page )
Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School
Mission: To share learning skills with 100 Afghan street kids on understanding language, nature, humanity, and life, and to be students and practitioners of nonviolence.
The school’s curriculum is designed not only to enable the street kids to become literate, but, more importantly, to nurture understanding, critical thinking, and compassion for service to the earth and the human family. The students will learn about global warming, socioeconomic inequalities, and militarism with its violence and wars.
Location: Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Time period of Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School Project: From the 21st March 2015 and ongoing
Teachers: Afghan Peace Volunteers. The volunteer coordinators are Zekerullah and Masuma. The volunteer teachers are Hamida, Maryam Nazeri, Mahtab Jalal, Mahbooba, Qasim, Qorban, Nasir, Hadisa, Ali, Nematullah, Khanum Bibi, Mohammad Ali
There are an estimated 60,000 Afghan children who work in the streets of Kabul to supplement their families’ incomes. The militarized economic and educational systems are failing to nurture this new Afghan generation’s yearning to build a better world.
In August 2013, the Afghan Peace Volunteers launched a street kids literacy and learning program for 21 Afghan street kids in Kabul, Afghanistan. The number of street kids increased to 32 in 2014. Child Right (Netherlands) funded the pilot street kid program in 2013 and 2014.
On the 20th of Jan, 2015, 80 Afghan street kids marched in Kabul to the doors of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and asked for a school. Their dream was to have a street kids school for 100 kids. A poem and video of this action can be found at “I am your child. We want a school.” Afghan Street Kids walk for a school! : http://youtu.be/b_4zxZ9te7s
Zekerullah ( a former street kid ) leads street kids walk Feb 2015. The children asked for a school for 100 street kids.
A government official from the Afghan Ministry of Education had said in an informal radion interview after the Street Kids Protest Walk that the government did not have the resources to build such a school. So, Zekerullah (pictured above), once a street kid himself, and a team of Afghan Peace Volunteers have worked to fulfill the street kids’ dream by establishing the Borderfree Street Kids School for 100 Afghan street kids at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul. Voices for Creative Nonviolence U.S. has been raising generous support for the School.
The survey and enrolment of the 100 street kids were done in March 2015, before the school year started in spring. Volunteer teachers worked in two survey teams to visit the 80 street kids that participated in the street kids walk in February, as well as other street kids who had heard about the program and had wanted to be included in the program.
During the home visits, the following items were surveyed:
- House – rented or owned by the street kids’ family
- Number of family members
- Occupation of father and mother
- Number of breadwinners in the household
Conditions for enrolment:
- Financially neediest families based on above survey
- Not in any political group or in any criminal gangs
By the 23rd of May 2015, 80 street kids had been enrolled. From April 2016, the school enrolled 100 street kids from different ethnic groups.
The street kids come to the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School every Friday. They attend classes in Dari and Math literacy, nonviolence and tailoring. The kids are divided into 5 classes (three classes in the morning and two in the afternoon ) based on an evaluation that gauged their literacy before the start of the Afghan New Year.
For the rest of the week, the street kids are encouraged to go to government schools. Government schools provide a half day of formal education. Many of the kids work in the streets all day because their families desperately need them to earn money to help put bread, rice, and other basic foods on the table. Working all day deprives the children of the chance to go to the government schools. By providing monthly gifts of rice and oil to their families, the Afghan Peace Volunteers share resources for the street kids’ basic human needs, making it easier for the kids to work for only half a day and attend government schools for the other half of the day.
Estimated budget of Borderfree Street Kids School for year 21st March 2016 to 21st March 2017
It costs USD 430 to put one street kid through the street kids school for one year.
Current enrolment ( accurate as of April 2016 ) of 100 children costs USD 43,000
Monthly sack of rice and bottle of cooking oil per kid for 1 year = USD 33 / month X 12 = USD 396
School material and winter clothing per kid for one year = USD 34
Total budget per kid for I year = USD 396 + USD 34 = USD 430
Please note that 92% of the cost per kid is spent for the monthly sack of rice and bottle of oil that each street kid gets.
Inam, standing in a newly-constructed shop space, with his blue plastic jerry-can of boot-polishing tools and a pair of sandals for his customers to wear while he polishes their boots
This document is prepared with the help of the Afghan Peace Volunteers in the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids Team at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul, Afghanistan (http://ourjourneytosmile.com ). Those interested to support the project can write to email@example.com . Donations will be directed to Voices for Creative Nonviolence U.S. and UK, who are partners in this project.
Some of the street kids that have been enrolled in the school ( May 2015 ) :
It’s so good to see happy faces at the school !
Launch of Street Kids Program in 2013
There are an estimated 60,000 Afghan children who work in the streets of Kabul to help supplement their family’s income.
Najib was a 12-year-old Afghan orphan who collected trash in the streets of Quetta, Pakistan, where he befriended Dr Hakim. Once, Dr Hakim had invited Najib and his grandmother to share some mangoes. When Hakim asked Najib to smile for a photo, Najib’s grandmother asked angrily,”Why are you asking Najib to smile? He has no reason to smile at all.”
The Afghan Peace Volunteers ( APVs ) wished to find Najib and to put a smile back on the faces of Afghan street kids. Thus, in 2014, they ran a program for street kids, in which 21 street kids have weekly literacy classes and monthly gifts of rice and oil for their families.
Child Right ( Netherlands ) was funding the street kid program. US$398 was spent on warm clothing for the 21 street kids in the winter of 2013 and US$390 was spent monthly on providing oil and rice for the families of the children.
Below were the photos from 2013
Our street kids Naseem, Hazrat, Kahar and Gul Jumma
remembering their fellow street kid killed in a suicide bombing attack in Kabul. December 2013
delivering rice and oil to their families, December 2013
December 2013 : Read about Safar the Afghan street kid at
Ghulam teaching the street kids, Jan 2014
Ismael with street kids in literacy class, Jan 2014
Safar in class, Jan 2014
Our growing street kids’ class
Mahdi and Ismael ( far left and middle ) at home
Mahdi, Safar and Ismael with their new, second-hand shoes
Habib working in the streets,
taking the weight of pedestrians for a fee
Habib receiving his monthly rice and oil
Habib with his brother bringing the rice and oil home
At the door of the yard where Habib’s family rents a corer for his tarpaulin home
Habib in his all-in-one-room tarpaulin home
On 9th of Feb 2014, the Afghan Peace Volunteers organized a lunch meal for the 21 street kids. Two of our female Afghan Peace Volunteers, Shakira and Sakina, cooked Qabuli Rice, a favourite dish among Afghans. There was ample fruit to go around too
our two cook
the rice pot
the square ‘table’
sharing a meal together
the street kids say no to all forms of violence
The street kids program is ongoing, with the latest rice and oil distribution done on 23rd Feb 2014
Habib and other street kids receive their rice and oil
Please read a story on Habib written by Maya Evans : Mother Miriam and Habib http://vcnvuk.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/mother-mariam-and-habib
Habib’s smile on a rainy day in Kabul
Mahdi, receiving and bringing home his winter duvets
Mahdi, feeling comfortable under the duvets
Ismael with his duvets
Rohullah getting ready to bring home his duvets
Afghan Street Children’s Drawings ( July to September 2014
Mehdi works polishing boots in the streets of Kabul. He can be seen polishing boots in the video clip Afghan street kid, ‘I don’t enjoy polishing boots’
“I work as a boot polisher in the ‘bazaar’ ( market ), alongside shops and street vendors. I drew a street vendor selling apples from a wooden push cart and a shop selling my favorite fruit, yellow bananas!”
Mehdi’s work on the streets
Mehdi’s wish to be a doctor
Rohullah ( about 8 years old )
Rohullah burns wild rue in a metal can. He swings the metal can to disperse the smoke and scent from the burning rue at passersby, or at drivers in passing vehicles. The smoke and scent is said to chase away ‘evil spirits’ and for that, some people would give Rohullah a few Afghanis ( Afghan currency ).
“I don’t like this work of burning rue to earn a few Afghanis. I like ducks.”
Rohullah’s work on the streets
Gul Jumma ( about 10 years old )
Gul Jumma helps her family by collecting discarded plastic, paper and cartons in the streets, to be used as fuel in her mud home in an internally displaced camp in Kabul. She is originally from Helmand province, where a war rages on between the U.S./NATO/Afghan Army coalition and local fighters, including the Taliban.
“I like wearing colorful dresses when I go to weddings or when my family and I are guests at the houses of our relatives and friends. My favorite fruit is the pomegranate.”
Gulsom ( about 13 years old )
Gulsom ( left ) with her friend, Fatima ( right )
“I used to sell candies to men who smoke the hookah. Once, I wore a multi-color skirt which I liked very much. In the drawing, the man smoking the hookah refused to buy candies from me, so I cried because I was sad.”
Gulsom’s work on the streets
Gulsom’s wish to be a lawyer
Fatima ( about 13 years old )
“I drew myself standing outside the shop where the people gather to smoke the hookah. I don’t like this work, and I don’t like the people who smoke the hookah.”
Fatima’s wish to be a teacher
December 2014 Update on Street Kids Program
The street kids program has continued through 2014. Since August 2014, the classes for street kids have been held at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers who work as coordinators in the Street Kids Team are Zekerullah, Zarghuna, Farzana, Hadisa and Barath Khan. They have recently been joined by Bismillah and Sharif. These volunteers teach the street kids, arrange for their rice and oil distribution, and implement other programs to care for and nurture the street kids.
The 21 street kids currently enrolled in the program are : Mehdi, Ismael, Gulsom, Fatima, Habib, Matin, Gadir, Nisar, Samiullah, Saboor, Nur Rahman, Rahul, Rohullah, Mustafa, Mursal, Gul Jumma, Hazratullah, Abdul Kahar, Naseem, Mirwais and Bakhti. There are plans to possibly enrol 10 more street kids this winter, including Inam.
Once a week, the street children attend Dari and Math literacy classes as well lessons on nonviolence. Once a month, they receive a sack of rice and a bottle of cooking oil to supplement their family needs.
Plans are underway to hold the very first Street Kids Walk in Jan 2015. The Walk will give the kids a chance to describe their wish to study in school and to become doctors, engineers and teachers! The Street Kids Team will also lay out their hope o establish a school for 100 street kids in 2015. More on this ‘dream street kid school’ soon.
Meanwhile, enjoy the verses and photos below, and have a Happy 2015!
“We understand what you understand. These are our stories.”
Afghan Street Kids
Inam hopes to be enrolled in the Borderfree Street Kids School in 2015!
Inam with Rohullah in the streets of Kabul
Inam, like the sun, has a ready, warm smile,
with an extra pair of sandals, beige.
You would wear them while he polishes your boots.
“Yes, sir, there’s so much brown and grey dust in Kabul!”
And you’re tired after taking
the side streets to avoid chance, planned suicide attacks.
“It’ll only take a minute, Sir,” Inam beams,
“everything would be over.”
Nur Rahman also polishes boots
Nur Rahman dreams of becoming an Afghan Star
Nur Rahman imagines taking the stage,
belting out songs of unreciprocated love,
and tulips, and the Amu River,
“I want to be an Afghan Star!”
We can already spot his potential,
the cheeky, cherubic cheeks,
the dreamy, solid eyes,
Even an affectionate nickname:
“They call me Shanmu!”
“My phone was already connected to the INTER-NET,
but I want to cut it off,
‘cos they steal one Afghani each time
I turn on my phone
to listen to Aryana Sayeed sing.”
Gulsom ( right ) speaks with the volunteer teachers
Gulsom ( left ) and Fatima receiving their oil and rice
Till a few months ago, Gulsom
would dread going to the ‘hookah’ joints.
She had to pretend she didn’t mind the smoke,
and the men who wanted
to forget their plans to smuggle themselves
to an increasingly xenophobic, Islamophobic Europe,
men who ‘knew better’ than to resort to heroin.
“Some of them looked lecherous,”
Gulsom had quickly recognized human frailty,
before, soon, she would be hidden from men,
apparently for her good.
She dreams of becoming a judge,
when she could be as sure as she was during the class test,
“Nonviolence means we harm no one and nothing in creation.”
Habib’s mother and Habib with his weighing scale last year
Habib back in our street kids program, hoping to be a doctor some day
His mother was so distraught when
Habib left for a ‘madrassah’ in Faryab Province
that she had to be placed on an IV drip for days.
A tearful storm wet the ‘web-eye-openings’ of her ‘burqa’.
“Did you manage to study there?”
“No, there was fighting,”
his voice not yet broken by puberty,
his desire to be a doctor un-dampened
by the weight of the world.
You see, he used to take the weight of pedestrians for a fee.
“You’re a good 90 kilos, Sir!”
The 5 Afghanis for his soft declaration of obesity
were not enough to keep the pet parakeets he had loved so much.
Rohullah has a partner in his work of washing cars
Rohullah is distracted
“I can say ‘how are you’
in Dari, Pashto, English and Russian!”
That’s it! Rohullah’s mind is in the streets
that clatter with a thousand sounds
so he can’t concentrate on forming
more than five Dari alphabets .
But he’ll stand respectfully, and flexibly,
when the exasperated but kind teacher tells him to.
A day-old bubble gum makes his tongue
stumble over his counting to
“Finest Superstore is a great place
for catching cars to wash.” he says,
“The cloth and pail?
My partner has them.
We split whatever we’re given.”
Gul Jumma learns Dari
Gul Jumma knows when to speak
Over the past year, her Dari became as fluent
and sweet-sounding as her native tongue.
“I collect plastic which my mom
uses as fuel in the Camp, explains Gul Jumma ( Friday Flower ).
“I have a doll,
which wears a black dress, a scarf, no shoes.
I carry her. I like her.”
“Do you prefer Sangin in Helmand, or Kabul?”
( The British, including the Prince, were based there )
When there’s war everywhere,
children choose to be where they feel safer,
where their mothers warm up the tea and leftover bread,
Char-e-Qambar Internally Displaced Persons Camp,
“Kabul,” she didn’t hesitate,
unlike when she said
“I had five brothers. Two died.
And, so did a sister.”
“What’s your wish in life?”
She looks away.
She twirls her fingers.
She doesn’t answer
because she knows that her wish to be a teacher
may be quenched by a NATO bomb,
like the one that killed her father in Sangin,
or by an improvised ‘insurgent’ device
that had killed her friends near Kabul Polytechnic.
as silent as the world.
Watch the 20th Jan 2015 Afghan Street Kids Walk on video at
On the 20th of Jan, 2015, 80 Afghan street kids marched in Kabul to the doors of the Afghan Independent Human Right Commission, and asked for a school.
Let this be on record, that in a global economy based on force, in which, very soon, 1% of the world’s population will own as much as the rest of the world, in which children have little choice but to work, and in which children make up most of the civilian war casualties, these street kids were showing us all the way, the humble way of love.
Nothing romantic, but all patient, and beautiful!
They were not asking the Commission for a school. They were asking fellow human beings for a school, because they were asking for what all of us seem to be losing, the quiet human qualities to recognize what is valuable and to make peace with all: friendship, freedom and dignity.
Afghan street kids want a school
80 Afghan Street Kids walked in Kabul to ask for a school, led by Zekerullah, himself once a street kid
Rain on the 20th of Jan didn’t stop them
With dignity, the street kids walked
“I am your child. We want a school.”
Inam wishing everyone a Happy 2015!
Inam building his dream school from a lego set
Inam was excited about the walk
Inam watches in support as Ismael is interviewed
Inam in the protest line
“I want a school,
unlike a school.”
Inam, unaware he was making Afghan history,
walked, morphed into a mini-visionary, and understood
that we don’t get things by asking,
especially asking government officials in high, swivel or mahogany chairs.
We get bread by
fracturing the side of a used engine oil bottle,
strapping it on as our shoe cleaning box,
and sitting in the littered streets
polishing other people’s boots.
Though he doesn’t feel good
about his view of passing legs hidden in jeans or burqas,
there are customers here
in a commoditized life,
where, instead of growing food,
the city bangs on computers and copies sheaves of forms,
to extract from her slum-dwellers
their energies and bribes, and the land’s mineral flesh,
as well as their children’s.
Inam arrives for the walk,
zooming in for the lego set,
putting the blocks in place piece by piece,
the blue door
of his dream school,
‘where I can study’, safely,
he says, because you’ll understand this too,
‘I am your child.”
Zekerullah sold his wares in Bamiyan City
He fulfilled his promise to ex-U.S. Ambassador Eikenberry by returning to school
He coordinated the Borderfree Street Kids Team ( Zekerullah, Zarghuna, Hadisa, Farzana, Bismillah, Barath Khan ) in planning the walk
Zekerullah speaking with a reporter
Zekerullah represents change, and would have done Gandhi, Badshah Khan and Martin Luther King proud
Zekerullah, a volunteer teacher-coordinator, shared,
“I was once selling chewing gum,
cigarettes, pens, nail clippers and batteries,
from a wooden frame hung on my neck,
by hotel owners,
up, down, up and down the bazaar.”
He looks at them confidently,
as their teacher of nonviolence,
himself having been beaten by his teachers,
“Never think that you can’t study,
Never let anyone tell you can only be a street kid.”
You are not born a slave,
“We’re also human beings!”
I first photographed Zekerullah selling his street wares,
so seeing him walk in front
of children all eager to have a school,
echoing “We want dignity!”,
I saw Martin Luther King.
I wanted to tell Zekerullah to dance like he loves to,
to spark movements of uncontainable freedom among the children,
but his gait was already reflecting the colourless sky blue
captured in their exuberant Borderfree scarves.
I wish you had seen his creativity, and forgiveness,
as he marched like an earthquake with little kings and queens,
peacefully protesting our globally violent economy,
turning the rainy morning
into the million wishes
of small people everywhere.
Fatima walked like a seasoned activist
Fatima’s drawing on her previous work selling candies in the streets
Fatima in the Street Kids Program of the Afghan Peace Volunteers
Fatima wants to be a teacher
Zekerullah and I had spotted Fatima in a rabbit-eared pullover,
a stove mantel in her cold hands,
when we went to visit sick Mehdi,
having heard Ismael say, “He’s sleeping at home.
There’s no money to see the doctor.”
Fatima, a relative of Mehdi,
led us to his rented room,
“He’s just gone to the dispensary.”
I had cringed at the thought of customary drugs
poisoning Mehdi at a handsome pharmaceutical profit,
though today, Fatima, Mehdi, Ismael
and each street child walked like tall breadwinners.
“We don’t want charity!” she chorused after Zekerullah,
past unqualified pharmacies and inappropriate shopping complexes,
speaking to adult calculations
that leave kids wandering in the alleys
for a way to survive.
Fatima’s father was making the plastic spades of snow shovels,
hoping for the white rain to arrive
in desiccated Kabul.
“Fatima, go fetch some water!”
before a mining corporation siphons
the people’s minimal supply
to satiate the Aynak copper mine,
as noted by the colluding World Bank.
“We want to go to a good school…”
where learning is valued above metals and rare earth elements,
and where kids can be kids,
enquiring, curious, friendly
Fatima held the banner
‘We say ‘no’ to all forms of violence’
as if she was addressing all the stereotypes
heaped by governments on the poor,
on race, religion or some other human thought or trait,
breaking through the subterfuge,
saying with all her oppressed might,
‘”We want a school!”
The street kids were determined, and sincere
They were passionate
They were small, but hopeful and sure
They want a school
Update August 2016
Afghan friends: For a moment, I didn’t know what to wish for you
Mahdi drew what he wanted to become: a doctor – white coat, blue tie
In 2015, Mursal drew and wrote: I want a School of Nonviolence
Ibrahim ( extreme left ) said #Enough! War, along with other Afghan street kids
Mahdi and Mursal,
today, when I heard the blast of another suicide bombing in Kabul,
I didn’t know what to wish for you.
I was irritated, rather,
my thoughts scattered in multiple fragments,
not only did I need to know that you were safe,
it hurt me to think of how the sensational images
will traumatize you, again.
Mahdi was back polishing boots last summer, together with his cousin, Ismael
With another street kid, Nisar, Mahdi volunteered to water trees at Kabul Peace Garden
He also helped out in the winter duvet project, distributing duvets to poor families.
Here, he is sitting on the duvets at the back of a truck, bringing the duvets to a poor residential area
Mahdi ( left ) was among many street kids who destroyed and buried toy weapons,
and who wrote on the palms of their hands, “#Bas! #Enough!”
Mahdi pulled me aside,
and I was hoping he had good news for me,
as the Street Kids School teachers and I had been encouraging the students
to enroll in Afghan government schools.
“I saw a horrible thing, Hakim.
A young gymnasium staff next to the canteen where I work
was found dead, hanged, murdered.
He was just a kid,
and his body looked horrible….”
Mahdi’s hoarse voice was jittery, and heavy.
“The canteen is shut down now,
and my dad is making arrangements
for some other full time work in town.”
Mahdi looked away…,“I need to help my family.”
Recently, from not being able to pay the rent,
Mahdi’s family shifted to a cheaper room, with a less exacting landlord.
Mursal being interviewed after the Afghan Street Kids Protest Walk in Feb 2015. She and about 70 other street kids for a school for 100 street kids. After a government official had explained that the government had no plans or funds for such a school, the Afghan Peace Volunteers decided to fulfil Mursal’s dream by establishing the Borderfree Street Kids School, which enrolled 100 students in 2016.
Mursal served the Afghan Peace Volunteers tea after shifting some office equipment and furniture to new premises
Mursal ( centre ) has become quite a young organizer;
here, she had planned for and run a special program to thank the volunteer teachers of the Borderfree Street Kids School.
Mursal has learnt to ride a bicycle. Twice, she joined the Borderfree Cycling Club to ride in the streets of Kabul
Mursal approached me and Ali confidently,
and said that she had a proposal,
“I want to organize a street protest,
to demand that the authorities stop hitting the street vendors with their batons.”
How could they chase the labourers away
from their only source of livelihood?
Yes, a 14-year-old Afghan girl, and already ready to speak out,
despite a generally conservative Afghan society.
I can see her discovering her own passion and gamut of feelings;
I’ve seen her cry as if releasing the
dreams racing through her mind,
and I’ve heard her read earnestly prepared prose.
Once, in front of a video camera
held by another street kid, Deeba,
she spoke so assuredly.
They were in a room all by themselves where,
especially for a girl,
Mursal could enact another reality
without worrying about
adult reactions and plans.
Ibrahim ( left ) was initially a little shy in class
Gradually, he began to warm up to others and the teachers.
He also understood quickly, like all Afghan kids, the need to end war. On his palm was written “#Bas! #Enough!”
This was his profile picture for the school register. Behind him was a painting of a ship at sea (insert). Little did he know that he was to make a fatal crossing of the Aegean Sea, while he and his family tried to reach Greece in seeking asylum, fleeing the lack of work and security in Kabul.
Insecurity, exploding like this senseless massacre in Kabul,
stacks up with the lack of work and hope,
and drove Ibrahim, his family and about 146,000 Afghans from
their places of birth, traditions, tea and weddings,
to find shelter in Europe,
as the second largest group of asylum seekers after Syrians.
The ‘powers’ are tearing Syria apart,
in the same way they have successfully shredded Afghanistan.
You were too young, like many others,
but family meant: you fled as a family,
and after you no longer turned up at the Centre,
word came through your grandma in Kabul,
who was distraught and shaking like paper burnt to grey ash,
“crying without pause for days and nights,” she said.
“Dear Ibrahim, such a good boy, is gone,
gone, how is that possible?
She sighed, wiping off the stream from under her eye bags.
“How am I supposed to stop this pain?”
Ibrahim’s grandma was broken. Lost.
Ibrahim, I knew what to wish for you,
but you never saw any sea before,
and the money-makers from these wars
would never visit your grave,
and certainly not without blaming you and your mother,
or, if you had survived, they would have considered you a nuisance,
a dispensable number.
My wish was: “I hope you have a school you can enjoy going to.”
but that’s impossible now,
and when another bomb went off this bloody afternoon,
killing at least 80,
in a sea-less land,
I was reminded that your family was willing to risk all,
to journey from possible death to possible death,
and I felt incredibly angry at what we are doing to fellow human beings,
to the children of the world.
Mahdi is given monthly food gifts of rice, oil and other staples. Here, he is standing next to a poster of the Food Bank, in which he is featured polishing boots in the streets of Kabul. The Food Bank is an initiative of the Afghan Peace Volunteers to enable Afghans to help Afghans, especially the most vulnerable.
Mahdi’s family were refugees in Iran who had returned to Afghanistan when Mahdi was three. In May 2016, Mahdi finally enrolled into the 7th grade at a Kabul government school ( background ). I was so proud of his determination, as I accompanied him to register at the school, and though he was frowning in this photo, he was feeling very excited, telling me, “I will work hard, Hakim. Thanks for coming with me.”
Mursal ( bottom left ) with other Afghan Peace Volunteers saying, “#Enough! Let’s be friends.”
“In Afghanistan, there’s such a mess
and, please, listen to my message,
never insult your child,
and don’t fight,
because nonviolence is peace,”
Mursal was ‘pretending’ to be a T.V. presenter
who said what was real and important.
“I’ll miss you,
when are you leaving?”
Mahdi asked before I left Kabul for a break.
I suggested, “By the time I’m back,
you’d have settled down nicely in school,
and we’ll go look for a suitable school bag,
Mahdi didn’t reply.
It’s sufficient to be alive,
in a war zone that dis-allows prediction
about whether people can get to see
I’m learning from these street kids that acting with compassion,
now, not later,
even if it yields no results,
brings radical, daily inner change.
Mahdi and Mursal, you’ve given me resolve,
showing me that love is
Ibrahim, though sounds and voices cannot penetrate anymore,
I’m so sorry we adults couldn’t do the necessary.
Your brief presence in our lives
will enable us to travel with the 65 million refugees,
as they search for a home in the only home
we all share,
I’m outraged, but the quality of all your examples
and your longing for better people and values,
will make our energies
both solid and soft.
I’m sorry it disappoints you
that at every corner,
the response seems to be “Go away…”,
and the writing on the wall is ‘Danger’.
But, do what you usually do
when you wake up in the hazy mornings:
you get out on the streets
and you live yet another uncertain day
in grand dignity.
Mahdi’s journey to become a doctor