In the world most of us live in on a daily basis, I doubt that we often think about the fact that we could do something quite insignificant to us that would actually “MAKE someone’s life”…changing their world forever and giving them hope for the future that we can’t even understand. Esmat is living proof that it can and does happen.
Let me back up and tell you the story. On my last visit to Afghanistan, I was able to spend time with the family of our wonderful partner. While we were having lunch, I learned that his oldest son who is 12 years old is only in the third grade because the government school will not let him test out to advance to the 6th grade where he should be for his age. He is a very good student and loves school, but was kept back because they had moved locations so many times. It is a sad fact that in government schools in Afghanistan, as in many parts of the world, resources are almost non-existent and sometimes the teachers only show up a few days a week, leaving the eager children who want to learn to fend for themselves.
I inquired if there were any private schools in the city and was told that there were several. I hated to ask how much the fees were, only to find out that they might be out of reach, but was told that they were $200 a year which includes tuition, transportation, uniforms, books and supplies. Quite honestly, I sat stunned for a moment with the reality that this child’s life hinged upon $16 a month…that’s lunch in our world!!! I wish I could wave a magic wand and spend the billions of dollars in government aid that has never reached the Afghan people to educate every child instead. What a difference it would have made! But that’s another story.
Before leaving Afghanistan the next day, I spoke with our partner who had immediately enrolled his son in school with the money I gave him. He said, “You have made his life. If he becomes a doctor, I’ve told him he has to treat you for free.” I doubt that I’ll be traveling back to Afghanistan for my medical care. However, won’t it be grand to know that there is a doctor somewhere that will treat his patients with a loving and compassionate attitude- the same attitude with which his father treats the women in our tailoring courses. There are so many Afghans just like our partner who care deeply and do the right thing for their neighbors daily.
Our partner is now asking us to help educate the children of the women who have graduated from our tailoring courses. They are desperate for the tailoring and literacy courses that we provide, but want more than anything to educate their children. Because the schools will open this week after the worst of winter is over, we have committed to sending 45 girls and boys to private school without having raised the funding yet. We want them to be able to start with other students and not fall behind in their classes. They start their adventure today!!! Can you imagine the excitement of this first day of school with the prospect of a life ahead of them that is now possible.
Because women and girls have been denied so much in the Taliban years, my heart has always been with the Afghan school girls in their white headscarves. But, Esmat, has paved the way…and he is just the boy to do it. He has his father’s heart, who cares deeply for the women and girls in his society who live in the most dangerous place on earth for females. He is leading the way and now 45 will follow and let’s hope many more than that. There is a lot of pessimism about the future for Afghanistan in this ominous year, but children have always been and always will be the future. They will be the ones to shape that future. Will you help us get them there? We are taking donations for the children’s tuition on our website. Please share this with others who care as you do. Happy First Day of School!!