A Pakistani Helps Afghan Refugees

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Who am I?

My name is Sarah Adeel, and I am a social entrepreneur from Islamabad, Pakistan. I see myself as a seeker, seeking meaning, purpose. I’m also a design enthusiast. Good design is something that excites me, and I feel design is a problem-solving activity that can solve all problems.

What do I do?

In 2011, I started Lettucebeekids with two kids I met at a park next to my house where I used to run every evening. They had been picking trash all day. Most of them were refugees from Afghanistan, but most were born here. They’re Pakistanis in that sense but nothing can happen for them because their parents never got an identity card from Pakistan. I got them to start drawing and Lettucebeekids grew organically from there. We have helped support over 70 children and collaborated with the arts and academic sectors to help bring social inclusion to these communities. We’re trying to be Pakistan’s first self-sustainable organization that provides these children with social inclusion.

How does LettuceBeeKids work?

Social inclusion and self sustainability are the two basic principles of Lettucebeekids. We’re not a school, we’re trying to be a bridge between these kids and schools. If we put one of these kids in the best schools, he’d only be there for two days because he wouldn’t have the confidence or self image to stay there or understand why education is important. It’s more like a finishing school, a transition, and this is where they can play, where they can feel good about themselves, where they learn to interact with other people and listen to how to be with outsiders. We teach the children our four guiding principles of Art and Crafts, the Importance of Music, Relationship with Nature and Respect for the Elders. Raising awareness and empathy through our products inspired by the artwork of our children and establishing ties between the privileged and underprivileged children is the foundation of LBK.

sarah before and after uniforms 1 Sarah before and after uniforms 2 sarah before and after uniforms 4

What has been your biggest challenge?

How to maintain the income stream of the families. The parents were unhappy since the children used to earn money. So what we’ve done is involve their older sisters who were just sitting at home or their mothers and invite them to back safety pin necklaces for us. Now they’re coming and spending a few hours making the necklaces and making more than what the kids make on the street. So we created a good balance.

What story stands out for you?

In 2008, during my architectural thesis research, I was at an orphanage in Islamabad. Two ladies brought a five-year-old from Peshawar. They told the owner of the orphanage to please keep this kid because he’s not safe in the streets of Peshawar. The kid was just sitting there with a lack of expression on his face that chilled me to the bone. Two staff members came and took the kid. When he started walking I saw his tiny shalwaar kameez was soaked with blood. Apparently someone had raped him the previous night and left him on the street. He was limping. That moment I wanted to take that kid by the hand and take him out of there. I don’t know what’s happened to him or how many people he might rape when he grows up. That’s the reality.

Why do you do what you do?

I have had a complex and often distant relationship with the concept of home. Raised in an adoptive home, educated and financially independent in a country where few women live on their own has helped me build a family for those who were born on the roadsides. I once read, “A life without purpose has no value. A purpose that is focused on oneself has no meaning.” To be honest, while I am doing this to bring positive change for street children, I am just as much wanting them to help me. I do not know any other way to build ‘happiness’ or to live a life with purpose.

Sarah Adeel

*Photos courtesy of LettuceBeeKids and The Sprouting Shutter