Friday, January 27, 2006


Posted in Pakistan on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006
By Amber Johnson, Metro Marketing
& Communications Director for New York

For safety reasons, we turned our kerosene heater off when we went to bed last night, so we awoke this morning to a very cold tent. I was reluctant to leave my sleeping bag, but needed to be up and ready for our first stop of the day: a tent school that has received support from World Vision. Continued below.

Arslan, 11, survived the collapse of a school building when many of his fellow students did not. His parents also perished.

Lining up for morning songs.

I could hear the school even before I could see it: the sound of children's feet stomping the dusty ground, the squeak of playground equipment, the chatter of teachers' voices. As we walked into the schoolyard the children crowded around us to shake hands and introduce themselves. They were eager to be photographed, and even more eager to see their faces on the screen of my digital camera.

We were introduced to one little boy, a shy, thin 11-year-old who looks not a day older than eight. Arslan survived the collapse of his school building during the earthquake, but many students did not. He also lost his parents, who were killed in a landslide following the earthquake. Arslan now lives with his grandmother. When he began coming to this tent school, and to World Vision's Child Friendly Space, he seemed reticent to join in the activities. Staff often found him standing at the edge of the crowd, quietly observing the other students at play.

Today, Arslan is still quiet. But his teachers report that he has begun to play again and is slowly regaining confidence. Recovery won't be quick for a child who has lost so much, but Arslan won't have to recover alone.

After a few minutes the children began to form lines and four older boys led the school in their morning songs. Then, with a discipline that was fitting for a school supervised by the military, the children marched off to their tent classrooms. Major Ali, the school's principle, gave my colleagues and me a tour, pointing out the resources World Vision has provided: a large, warm tent used for child friendly space activities and for assemblies; space heaters and winterization materials for keeping the individual tent classrooms warm; a swing set, slide and merry-go-round for play. The children also had notebooks, pencils and other school supplies from World Vision.

We were also introduced to Kausar, a young woman about my age who is a facilitator with World Vision's Child Friendly Space. As Kausar awaited the beginning of the day's activity, she quietly told us her story. Her seven-year-old son was killed, along with 26 classmates, when his school building collapsed. Kausar also lost her mother and mother-in-law; her husband was wounded and is still hospitalized. She now lives in a tent village, and works at the Child Friendly Space because she says it meets her people's deepest need. For this young mother who has experienced so much loss, her work allows her to mend the hearts of children like the son she lost.

I've now been in Pakistan for one week, and one thing has become obvious to me: the Pakistani people are committed to doing the difficult physical and emotional work needed to recover from the earthquake's devastating effects. As a World Vision staff member, I'm proud to come alongside them, supplying some of the resources they need to mend hearts and homes.

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