In the West, I always find Muslim relief organizations using images of poor children to raise money. I’ve always wanted to speak to them, to understand where they came from, and how they ended up in their plight. Coincidentally, during my visit to Pakistan I ran into three sisters (ages 7, 9, 10) and decided to have a 20-30 min conversation with them. They were selling coloring books car to car for $50 rupees ($0.50 U.S. dollars). They caught my attention when they were chowing down a plate of food that was donated to them as if they hadn’t eaten in a while.
I spoke to the oldest, Farzana, and this is her story:
“My family and I migrated from Afghanistan about a year ago due to war and poverty. Our father is old and sick and cannot work. I have an older sister that helps my parents and a baby brother. I have an uncle here as well but he doesn’t really help us because he barely makes for his own kids.
We used to have a donkey which we used to carry things from place to place for cash but it died a while back. Now we sell these books which we buy for $30 rupees and sell for $50 rupees. At first we were begging but then our parents said that is not honorable and to sell something. We make about 700 rupees a day ($7 US).
We used to go to school that was close to our old house but then a policeman came and knocked it down including our house. He said this is not our country and to go back to Afghanistan where we belong (there is very strong racism against Pashtun people in Pakistan). We tried to tell him that we are poor and helpless but he didn’t care. So we were forced to move and abandon education. I cried a lot at first when the school was destroyed.
Most people here are polite to us but some are rude as well.”