All of our hundreds of dreamers share one thing in common: dreaming unreasonable dreams in the face of true adversity and taking on a journey to that place where we dream common dreams for a better, brighter, more unified future for all of us. Meet some of the most amazing and ambitious little ones from Pakistan, the hopeful and perseverant women of Afghanistan, and hundreds more who have inspired us along the way.
Meet some of the most amazing and ambitious little ones from Pakistan, the hopeful and perseverant women of Afghanistan, and hundreds more who have inspired us along the way. And meet Akri, Pakistan’s little dreamers.
meet akri pakistan’s little dreamers
Dream: Become a soldier and live and die for a cause
Atta is the proverbial eldest child – responsible and protective of his family. At first glance he appears too young to be a 6th grader, but when he starts speaking, he seems too old to be one. He’d like to live in a big city like Karachi and become a soldier with the intent of becoming a martyr. He thinks the best use of life is to die for a cause.
Atta loves watching movies – usually action movies about wars and conflicts. He can’t rationalize that his favorite Indian and American heroes belong to countries that are “enemies” of his people. His favorite subject is English – because it sounds really cool to speak it. Unfortunately he doesn’t have anyone to practice it with and there is no library at school.
Atta is super-excited about the new school. He’s thanked us several times in advance for it. He has a list of recommendations for the new school: more sports, better teachers who speak English, less punishment and a formal Cricket team.
Halfway through his list, Atta stops abruptly. His enthusiasm is fast replaced with concern. He asks me what would happen to his father when the new school opens up – if all the children attend the new school, could his father come and work there as well?
At home, Atta is favored by his mother because he stands up for her. However Atta himself favors his father. When I ask why he tells me “My father’s a worldly man – he has exposure. I can talk to him about issues. My mother stays at home – she doesn’t know much”. I ask him if he’d like to have a wife like his mother. He is assertive that he’d like his wife to work as a teacher – a modern thinker in a conservative society!
Atta’s a conflicted soul. He’s a young boy who loves playing Cricket, idealizes movie stars and wants to experience the big city lights. He’s an impressionable young man who’s worried about his family and his place in the world, trying to find a future that will give meaning to his life and bring honor to his family. He doesn’t know how he will become a martyr or how to enroll as a soldier, who the enemy is and what a war means. But he’s heard there’s glory in martyrdom. Atta’s on the threshold of making a choice that will set the course of his life – lets hope it’s the right one.
Dream: Become a doctor and heal everyone in the village
Delicate and shy, Noor takes a while to warm up to strangers. Once she’s sure that we’re friends, there’s no stopping this young lady – she sparkles and shines as she tells us that she’ll be a doctor when she grows up and heal all the people in her village – just like her role model, Dr. Khalida Sikandar. It is disheartening to see that Noor’s school has no science labs or a science teacher. Without access to these, Noor’s dream to be a doctor will remain just that.
Noor likes to stay close to her eldest brother, Atta – her favorite brother. She’s not fond of her sister – I sense some sibling rivalry at play. Daddy’s little girl has a clear preference for her dad over her mom – when I ask why, she tells me very matter-of-factly “He goes to the city and gets me nice things”.
Noor’s world is a small and simple one – she’s never been to a large city, never sat in a car, never wondered how she’ll achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.
Her only window into the outside world is Indian movies – she loves the glamorous clothes and beautiful places the heroes and heroines of her movies visit. She tells me excitedly that she loves songs. When I ask her to sing her favorite song, she smiles shyly and tells me that she doesn’t remember it.
Noor is fortunate to have a loving family and home. She likes that she has 4 brothers and 2 sisters, unaware that with their meager means, her parents will be unable to sponsor the dreams of all their children. Sacrifices will need to be made and little Noor will not get a fair chance to be everything she deserves.
Dream: Become a pilot and fly home every night
Sultan’s the quiet middle child with a quirkiness and wit that sets him apart from his siblings.
He’s a gentle boy who prefers to watch shows about magic than play Cricket with his brother and the boys in the street. He wishes he had a magic pencil like the boy in his favorite TV show (Shaka-Laka-Boom-Boom). He’d love to read stories about magic but there is no library and they can’t afford to buy story books from town. While I heard Sultan, I wondered how happy he’d be if he got the Harry Potter books.
He hates creating a fuss and for this reason doesn’t like girls – his sisters are the only girls he knows closely and they’re too fussy for him. He’s decided never to get married. Children use “never” and “always” with such ease and feel no shame in changing their minds.
I ask Sultan if he’d like to buy a car like Atta would – he tells me he prefers planes and will be a pilot when he grows up (even though he’s never seen one other than on TV). Cars make him motion sick. He will buy a motorbike to avoid the motion sickness. I don’t have the heart to tell him that planes cause horrible motion sickness.
Sultan’s never been to a large city and doesn’t want to leave his hometown. I ask him how he’ll manage to be a pilot and yet never leave home. The explanation is simple enough – he’ll fly home every night.