Manufacturing Hope for Children

By Ansar Rahel

This past August a group of Japanese, Chinese and Afghan musicians all converged upon the Aschiana children’s center in Kabul to perform in one amazing event. Hundreds of Afghan children crowded into the backyard of Aschiana to sing and dance to a wide array of performers.

The event was sponsored by Japan, Mobile Mini Circus for Children and Takamol theatre, per the sponsors I spoke with. And by all accounts—it was a monumental success. The goal was to perform for Afghan children, promote a sense of harmony and develop joint artistic programs in the future. But aside from the usual boring conference, this event really engaged the young Afghan children and actually got them to sing together, perform together and work together. This was absolutely encouraging to see in a city where children have such few opportunities to genuinely enjoy themselves.

The day started with children being corralled into a dusty backyard in front of a wooden stage with a large tent. Japanese musicians then began to sing and encourage the audience to clap and sing as well. The Afghan children, ranging in age from about five to ten, were shy at first but later began to clap loudly. A Japanese woman, elaborately dressed in colorful Afghan attire, danced in a circle while all the children watched in amazement. Some kids clearly didn’t know what to make of it.

But then a group of young Afghan children got on stage and sang in Japanese. These children had just returned from visiting Japan for 15 days during a cultural development program sponsored by the Japanese government. They impressed even their Japanese mentors by singing nearly perfect Japanese. To the audience this was a great working example of how children can learn from other cultures in a cooperative manner.
The event ended with a truly Afghan style Atan. “Truly Afghan style” means uninhibited, energetic and true to form. Everyone joined in a final Atan as ice cream was distributed to crowds of excited children.

Put simply, the reason why this event was so successful was because of its plain delivery. In essence, the event was the point: children should learn and have fun at the same time in a pleasant atmosphere. This is what separated this event from long, drawn out conferences with endless “assessments” and profiles. Instead of talking about what children need, the performers did a remarkable job of actively engaging everyone. This is what separates active versus passive learning.

In the end, I was left yearning for more such events. Only hope in action can keep the flames of faith alive, especially for children.