As Ramadan begins, Jahangeer (CEO, READ Foundation) reflects on the coming days, sharing with us the story of an exceptionally hard working young man who he encountered recently while visiting READ projects in Pakistan…
Throughout my time working with READ Foundation, I’ve met literally thousands of children who have benefited from your support and generosity. But there’s one boy who will be forever etched in my memory.
Like many of the children we support, ten-year-old Hamza is an orphan. He lost his father when he was just seven years old.
I can’t begin to imagine how such a young boy coped with the pain of losing his beloved Dad.
I can’t begin to imagine how lost and alone he must have felt knowing that his mother and brother would now be depending on him.
And I can’t begin to imagine where he found the strength to overcome his grief and carry on so courageously.
I first noticed Hamza when he arrived at one of our schools in Pakistan almost half an hour late. He slipped into the classroom, perched on the only empty chair and quietly reached for his book. His teacher explained that Hamza was always late because he had a three-hour journey to and from school every day.
A three-hour commute is an arduous one by anyone’s standards. But what made this journey all the more remarkable was that Hamza travelled each way by foot.
This young orphaned boy awoke while the sky was still dark. He dressed himself in the moonlight and set off on his three-hour mission – to make it to the school gates.
Then, at the end of a long day, he began the three-hour dangerous trek back home through the mountains. There was no proper road to follow and Hamza spent more time traveling each day than he did at school.
As I looked at this young boy, engrossed in his lesson, it struck me how alone he must have felt. I’m sure Hamza would have given anything to have his father welcome him home, ask about his day with a hug and hot meal, when he arrived exhausted and hungry later on.
I considered what a sacrifice this boy had made. Instead of having a normal childhood full of play and fun, he was pushing himself against all the odds to learn and reach his potential.
How proud his father would have been.
I asked Hamza why he so badly wanted to go to school and his reply was simple: ‘When I earn money, I am going to look after my mum.’ After a pause, he added, ‘I miss Daddy a lot.’
Even at such a young, vulnerable age, Hamza knows that, without his father, his family are depending on him to survive. And by getting an education, he hopes to help them overcome the terrible hardship they now face.
I feel humbled that, thanks to your support, we are able to give Hamza the education that he so desperately craves. And if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this:
There is no better gift than an education. With it, children like Hamza can lift themselves out of poverty once and for all.
This Ramadan, a time of sacrifice and reflection, let us think of the 15 million children in Pakistan alone who are unable to go to school.
I am a father and if I were no longer around to care for my son, I pray that someone would be there to support him. You can be that someone for an orphan in need.
See Hamza in the short video below…