The Nation, May 8, 2002
RAWA Striving for orphan Afghan children’s welfare
PESHAWAR- Saddiqa, a ten year old Afghan orphan girl, is known among her peers with a male name Saddique not only for having boy hair cut and wearing gent garments. She used to work in a vegetable market at Rawalpindi to earn livelihood for her family, consisting of two sisters, one brother and mother.
Mr. Javier Madrazo Lavín Chief of the Housing and Social Matters Department of the Basque Government in a RAWA orphanage.
But when Saddiqua’s ten years old cousin was crushed to death by a speedy car while on her way to vegetable market, her mother, working as home maid in a house, brought Siddiqa to Zarmina Orphanage Center, Rawalpindi two months back, said Sharifa, in charge of the center, being run by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Saddiqa and other 34 Afghan orphan children, between the ages of 7 and 12, are being looked after by the center. The center was established some eight months ago.
During a visit to the center by a group of Peshawar-based journalists, Miss Marina, RAWA spokesperson, said that two similar orphanage centers at Islamabad and Lahore are being funded by RAWA. She said that Afghan orphan children irrespective of their cast and locality are being looked after at these centers with basic education facility, healthcare, nutrition and limited entertainment.
The children, mostly Persian speaking, when asked said they feel more comfortable in the center than their houses. Portraits of Meena, pioneer of RAWA, and calendars inscribed with revolutionary slogans, were hanged on the walls. Though the in charge said that RAWA literature had not been taught to these children. A group of children sang a song in memory of Meena, telling her that we are ready for any kind of sacrifices for you and your cause, however, when asked they were unaware that the assassins of Meena were awarded death sentence on Tuesday in Quetta.
Similarly, about 48 Afghan orphans children have been cared in the Sitara Orphanage Center Peshawar, with monthly expenditure of Rs 100,000. Haroon, 12, while narrating his gory story said that her mother, who married thrice, wanted to sell him to a Punjabi like her one-year-old sister who was sold out at the meager amount of Rs.300. I ran away from Pindi where I used to work in a hotel and my relatives in Peshawar admitted here, where I feel much happy than my house, he said half-Pashto and half Persian language.
The News International, May 8, 2002
A Remarkable Institute for Orphans and Shelterless
By Syed Bukhar Shah
PESHAWAR: It was one of the congested areas of Peshawar where a 10-merla well-furnished clean beautiful bungalow in a narrow street is sufficient to accommodate 48 helpless and orphans children from different refugee camps along with their one "mother."
It is a house, a school and hostel at the same time beside a source of income for a number of other helpless male and female teachers and shelterless women house servants. All innocent smiling faces clad in clean white shirt and blue paints are divided into two classes.
Sitting at a clean rug, they learn basic education from one male and female teacher in separate rooms. When a journalist team on a visit to them entered their classes, the innocent souls stood up as a mark of respect. Every student had his own tragedy. It seemed that all of them have forgotten theirs past miseries and seem determined to get proper education. They are the innocent souls. None of them have guardians to receive them after school timings. All of them come out of their classes in a queue and go straight to their separate rooms in the same building to take rest for a while. Later, they go to the dinning hall where colourful plastic chairs around tables are arranged.
Three female servants offer lunch on their tables and later wash their plates. Another two rooms, having iron beds- up and down- with clean sheets, are sufficient to accommodate all of them. The nerve-racking stories of these angels have impressed their attendants and they feel proud to serve them without accepting any thing in return. Their "mother" Adila, head of this institute, who has a minor son, said she first served others children and then eat herself.
This institute "Parwarish Gah" is named "Sitara" at canal road, Danish Abad. This institution has 48 children, boys and girls. The organizers said they are planning to hire another building to accommodate another 30 orphan children. Adila said since the establishment of "Parwarish Gah", she has received seven to eight children every day, but she had no arrangements for them. "We have written their addresses and will call them after making proper arrangements for them," she said. The authorities were providing shelter to boys, ranging from six to 12 years while the girls have no age limit.
The idea of establishing institutes for orphans developed when Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) distributed assistance in various refugee camps. "We received 10 orphan children first from Tall refugee camp when we informed the people regarding this project," she said.
"We have five teachers-two permanents- who come in the morning to teach children and the remaining three come in the afternoon. We pay to these teachers. All these expenses are born by RAWA," she added. "We concentrate on Daras (education) and they are given education three times a day," she said adding, "we will give them other skills and training at later stage." She said RAWA had been funding similar orphan centres in Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi and also make arrangements for brilliant students for higher education. Some of them even study in Beacon House and other higher standard schools in Pakistan.
Haroon (12), son of Syed Amir of Jabalul Siraj, came here one-week back. "I was working in a hotel at Chur Chowk at Rawalpindi and was earning Rs 1200 a month," he said. My father had died and my mother had arranged third marriage. My aunt, had already sold my younger sister, Aroma, for Rs 300. I could not find any job. One day, my uncle tried to sell me. I ran away from there. I came here to another Uncle but he could not provide me protection and subsistence. So, he brought me here," he said. Haroon, who talked to this correspondent in Urdu, said he would never return to that world. Getting education was his dream and he has started learning Persian and English in the first class.
The innocent Leena (6) came here with her elder brother. She had no father and mother but three brothers and six sisters. She lived with her "Kaka" in a camp and she was brought here some 30 days back. Unaware of the parents' love and other relatives, she could not explain the meaning of Kaka. Not sure of her future, the innocent Leena remained silent observing the situation and leaving questions unanswered. Same was the story of most of other children. Majority of them have no parents. And those who have, they are crippled and cannot feed their children. One child with a broken hand has no one to look after him.