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September 17, 2015

Which side are we on?

Opinion

 
September 17, 2015

At the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ Borderfree Center, between morning and afternoon Street Kids School sessions, I asked several of the volunteer teachers how they felt about organizing the school and teaching weekly language, math and nonviolence classes.
“Now we have 100 students”, Zekerullah said. “I feel happy because I see how they change after spending time here.” When he first met some of the children, all of whom work on the streets as child laborers, ideas of washing up, dressing for school, bringing completed homework to classes, and being part of a community that cares deeply about them might have seemed remote or even unimaginable. Many who live in refugee camps get caught up in wild behavior, and hard work on the streets further toughens them.
The children seem exuberantly happy during the Friday classes. They care for and respect each other. And their eyes light up when they see their teachers, all of whom are students in secondary schools or universities in Kabul.
“Many of the children come from one room, mud homes inside refugee camps,” said Hamida. “They have no safe place to store their notebooks and school supplies. But still they try hard to prepare for classes.”
Each of the students is given a book which the teachers designed together. Included in the various language and math lessons are guides for being courteous, practicing good hygiene, and understanding basic health care.
Zarghuna said that the book and the classes are making a positive difference in the children’s lives. Then she showed me a book she is reading, called I Am Malala by the Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai. Zarghuna has bookmarked a page in which Malalai notes that: “If the world would stop military spending for just 8 days, education could be provided for all the children of the world for 12 years!”
Ali and Zarghuna taught the nonviolence class today. First, the lesson focused on how people can share resources. Ali showed a video

of children from Kenya who became crippled because, lacking proper shoes, they were vulnerable to insect bites that led to foot diseases. Three teenage girls in the US decided to raise 30,000 USD to purchase shoes for the Kenyan children.
The video helped the children understand that people suffer from poverty all over the world; they could also see young people wanting to help in practical ways.
The children had already grown excited, two weeks ago, about a proposal to prepare and serve a meal, on September 21, the International Day of Peace, to 100 day laborers working on the streets of Kabul.
Many of the laborers, desperate for income, stand for hours, day after day, hoping to be chosen for even a few hours of work. The children understand desperation among families because they themselves work on the streets. They polish shoes, wash cars, sell tissues, and devote long hours, even during the harshest weather, hoping to help feed their families.
Before class ended, Ali and Zarghuna invited each student to volunteer for any one of ten teams that will prepare for the event on September 21st.
Each team now has a leader, selected from among the older children. One team will identify 100 laborers and invite them to the meal. Other teams will price and purchase food, welcome guests, serve the food, and clean up after the event.
Serving the meal will be part of #Enough!, a campaign to abolish war, which the Afghan Peace Volunteers will launch at their International Day of Peace celebration.
Our young friends have had enough of war, displacement, trauma and hunger. Sixty million people, worldwide, now seek refuge, many of them fleeing war and violence. Shameful warlords and war profiteers, such as those who commandeered US wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, destabilize defenseless populations. The wars lead to massive refugee crises. Anyone called upon to support wars or warlords should learn the priorities embraced at the Borderfree Center – and switch sides.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Which side are we on?’
Courtesy: Commondreams.org