The little boy
- 1 Post
- Age 18
Sitting in my air conditioned room, scrolling through my Facebook news feed my eyes were caught by an article. ‘Refugee children work in the scorching heat to earn their livelihood’ Oh, the irony. The closest I had ever gotten to refugees was through social media.
However, it wasn’t until summer of 2014 I decided to do an internship at a cancer hospital, that I found out I would be working with ‘refugee’ children. As I sat there in the waiting area, my mind pondered upon what made these ‘refugee’ children so different from the other children I knew. My thoughts were interrupted by a woman calling out my name. I had been partnered up with a little boy named Omar. I clasped his hand, a warm smile spreading across his face, as we walked down the aisle to the playing area. I asked if he understood Urdu, and I took his nodding head as approval to my question. Not wanting to overwhelm him with questions, I handed him a coloring book. I assessed him carefully, his hair had recently been trimmed, a tooth was missing from his smile and he had small almond shaped eyes. He had a small scar beneath his chin but it didn’t seem polite to ask how he got it.
The next day, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and surprisingly we talked endlessly. He was an Afghan refugee who had traveled miles with his family, on trucks, barefoot and stayed in camps near Peshawar. They had come to Lahore for his sister’s cancer treatment. I got to know about Omar, little by little and before I knew it, my shift was over. Every night I would await the sun to rise so I could go back to the hospital (though I am not very fond of them) to meet my new friend. Omar would wait every day for me to arrive so he could tell me stories from Afghanistan.
He would tell me what his life was like back there- about his school, his friends, how every Friday night he used to have dinner at his grandmother’s house and most of all how much he missed it. It wasn’t until the last week of my internship that he became very quiet. I could tell from the tears in his eyes that he was worried. His last days in Afghanistan were troubling him. How war victims were fleeing. He never heard from his grandmother after an airstrike in her neighborhood, how many of his friends disappeared. How he used to stay up all night wondering about his lost loved ones as he heard bombings in the distance. Wondering every night, if this one would be his last. It shocked me, how a 6 year old boy’s mind was haunted by such thoughts. With his sister’s condition worsening and the war at its peak, it was must to leave the country. Boys of his age I knew, played football outside on the streets, dirtied themselves in puddles of mud. Omar so young, had gone through so much. However, he was very grateful. To be with people, who listened to him, who would remember him. He wished to be a doctor one day, so he could go back to Afghanistan and help the victims there. The last day of my internship was quite sentimental. Yes, there were a lot of tears. 'Thank You appa' Omar whispered in my ear, giving me a small hug.
It’s been 3 years I haven’t met Omar but not a day goes by I don’t think about him, whether he is okay. Whether, he has gone back to Afghanistan, if I ever get to meet him. By chance, if he ever reads this, I wish him well, for he was not only a little boy who I worked with for 2 weeks. He was a little boy who had a big impact on my life. He was my friend.
What we need to understand is that refugees are normal people just like us. However, they have suffered from trauma, violence, more than we can imagine. They have not left their countries out of their own will. They have fled from those places with a hope for a better future for their families. With a hope that people like us, will welcome them and support them. We need to start thinking about the millions of children, men and women whose futures are at risk. Whose futures are in our hands and what we need to do about it. With that I hope, together we will be able to provide the aid these people need.