Ali (not his real name) was 4 years old when his father, who was addicted to drugs, left the family. His mother took his sister and disappeared. Ali was left with his grandmother and his aunt. Ali’s grandmother washes clothes at people’s homes to feed the family and his aunt is begging for bread next to a bakery every day. When we found Ali he had been selling chewing gum on the streets to earn 30 afs ($0.34) a day to contribute to daily family food.
His grandmother says, “Since Ali doesn’t have parents anymore, I worried about his future and thought he would become like his father. Now that he is going to school, I am relieved and have much hope for him.”
Ali wants to become a doctor and when we asked him why he wants that profession, he said, “Because I want to cure people who don’t have money. My grandmother’s arm is becoming disabled because she has washed people’s clothes for so many years and we don’t have money to treat her.”
Meena is 10 years old and she is attending first grade.
She says, “My mother died when I was 5 years old while she was giving birth, and our family has been suffering since. We were poor and uneducated, but we were happy. I was working by collecting bottles and Pepsi cans from trash making 50 to 100 Afs ($0.58 to $1.16) per day.” She continued, “Before lunch, I would beg for vegetables from shops and some bones from the butcher and my mother cooked them for us. The smell of food from the restaurants and the look of fruits in the shops made me envious but I couldn’t afford to have any. Other children had new clothes, but we couldn’t.”
Meena says, “My mother always told me: My child, be patient. You will go to school and study hard. When you have a job, we can then have anything you like.”
Meena’s father works as a shoe repair person on the street and sometimes, he works as a construction worker. Their financial situation is not good. Meena has four sisters and none of them are literate. She says, “Coming to school gives me hope and I have a good feeling when I study at home. I want to become a doctor.”
Ayesha, 9 years old attending first grade.
She was selling plastic bags on the streets making $0.46 per day to help with the daily food of her family. She says, “I couldn’t go to school because my father, 53 years old, was killed while he was at his job three years ago by a suicide bomber, and I had to start working for us to survive.”
Ayesha’s father was not able to read or write and to support his family, he was selling juice and water near a hospital in Kabul. Ayesha says, “It was very difficult to work on the streets. I was being scolded and denigrated by municipality workers and shopkeepers. Sometimes, they took my money by force.” She continued, “For lunch, some days, some kind people gave me bread and some potato chips.”
Her mother is 45 years old, and she begs for bread from a bakery and money from the people who come to the bakery to feed her children. Ayesha has 4 sisters and 3 brothers. The family lives with Ayesha’s uncle and pay $35 per month for one room.
Ayesha also says, “I am very happy to be in school. I feel that I am growing and learning. I want to become a pilot. Monthly food items that we receive from the school are very helpful for my family.”