Sweet Home orphanages give hope to children scarred by terrorism

By Syed Ansar Abbas

Students from the Peshawar Sweet Home attend a class in October. [Syed Ansar Abbas]

Students from the Peshawar Sweet Home attend a class in October. [Syed Ansar Abbas]

PESHAWAR -- Sweet Home orphanages are offering teens who lost their parents to terrorism a better chance at life, with some of them hoping to join the military someday.

The Sweet Homes are devoted to looking after teens who have lost either one or both of their parents and provide them with housing, care and opportunities to grow.

Sadiq Shah, 12, a 6th-grade student, lost his father, Imran Shah, in a bombing in 2011 in Jamrud town, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

"My father was a subadar in the Khasadar Force in Khyber tribal district," he told Pakistan Forward, referring to his father's official title as a warrant officer in Pakistan's paramilitary forces.

Sadiq said he intends to join the army when he is older "with the goal of driving terrorism from our region".

Sadiq moved to the Sweet Home in Peshawar, one of 38 Sweet Homes established in 2011 across the country. They operate under Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM), an autonomous government charity and social welfare organisation.

Each home provides shelter to needy orphans in addition to education, food, medical treatment, access to sports facilities and clothing, among other essentials.

The Sweet Homes also protect these children from abuse, neglect and exploitation. PBM bears all the homes' expenses.

The organisation also operates 158 women's empowerment centres and 136 schools for labourers' children, according to PBM Managing Director Aon Abbas Buppi.

"In all these institutions, an estimated 40,000 people are being aided," Buppi told reporters during an October 25 visit to the Sweet Home in Peshawar.

"We are not merely taking care of these deserving orphan teens but also committed to steering them in the right direction and to instilling positive thinking in them," he said.

Of the 100 orphans at the Peshawar Sweet Home, 40 lost their fathers to terrorism during the past decade, said Shaista Shams, who is in charge of the Sweet Home in University Town, Peshawar.

"We are taking complete care of these teens and provide them every possible facility, so they can feel at home," she told Pakistan Forward, adding that they are allowed to visit home once a month.

"Almost all the boys are good in studies," she said. "Many of them get top-level grades in their classes every year and take part in debate and sports."

"Seven boys from the Sweet Home were recently selected for Cadet Colleges," Shams said.

Dreams of a peaceful Pakistan

Mohammad Faraj, 13, moved into the Peshawar Sweet Home from Haider Khel after his father was killed by terrorists seven years ago in North Waziristan tribal district.

"My father, Sajjad Dawar, was working in a car dealership, and we had a happy life," he told Pakistan Forward. "He was killed after refusing to pay extortionists-turned-terrorists in Mir Ali, North Waziristan."

Mohammad has three older sisters in the 7th, 8th and 9th grades as well as a brother in 2nd grade. All the children are in orphanages.

"I want to become a soldier to eliminate terrorism from the region, but I have to be a doctor to fulfill the dream of my martyred father," he said. "Baba wanted to see me as a doctor."

Farman Khalid Afridi, a 10-year-old from the Tirah Valley, Khyber tribal district, also plans to become a doctor when he grows up, following in the footsteps of his father, Khalid Khan Afridi, who was abducted for ransom five years ago and killed.

Farman has only a younger sister left, he said.

"I will follow my father's profession and try to become a doctor to serve the residents of the Tirah Valley, which is now terrorist free and a peaceful place," he said.

"A peaceful Pakistan is my dream," he said, describing a country where no other children could lose their fathers to terrorism.

"If I cannot become a doctor, my goal would be to join the army," he said.

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