Mohammed was a 14 year old Afghan Scout who had been in PARSA Scouts program at Marastoon for four years. We remember him from when he was a very young boy and we loved watching him blossom into a leader after joining our Afghan Scout Troop #1 at Marastoon. He was so dynamic and competent that in September 2015 he was selected to represent the Afghan Scout program in Japan at the World Scout Jamboree. In October 2015, PARSA staff received the tragic news that Mohammed had died in a car accident. His widowed mother had sent him and his cousin on the illegal immigration trail through Iran to Turkey and he had died in a car accident on the way. The news was heartbreaking to the entire PARSA staff and Mohammad’s troop in particular, because his life had touched many. PARSA directors met to decide how we could learn from Mohammed’s death and respond as an organization. The result was the development of “Mohammad’s Program” which we call PARSA Job Corps.
Mohammad’s Program: PARSA Job Corps
As beneficial as our Scouts program is for participating youth, we felt that there was something more that we could provide to those involved with the program, especially to the many from impoverished families or those led by women with limited support. In 2015 our staff were under a lot of pressure to help individual children in our Scouts program who were begging for work because their families were out of food and at risk of starvation. Mohammad died on a dangerous journey leaving his country, education and Scouting program in order to find work and support his family. No one should have to make that decision. We decided to start a program for youth who must earn money to feed their family that would allow them to go to school and participate in Scouts while being mentored and earning a stipend to support their families. In Afghanistan, traditionally, all family members contribute to the economics of the family. In the provinces this necessity often prevents children from going to school and finding a future that could improve their families’ economic status above basic subsistence level. In Kabul as well, children are often sent into the streets to sell small items, shine shoes, and to beg on the streets, which is extremely dangerous. Even those who do complete their education are facing a 49 percent unemployment rate. Our goal with this program is to make sure even our most disadvantaged Scouts are able to remain in the program while supporting their families, getting an education and learning practical skills that will give them a solid chance at gaining employment when they are of age. In short, this program was started to prevent other families from having to face the choice Mohammad’s family did.
When children active in our Scouts program asked for work because their families are at risk of starving, we brought four girl Scouts into our Friday Brunch program. These girls, from especially needy families, work four hours a week for a monthly stipend of $20. The girls loved the program, flourished under the mentoring our staff provided and did a great job. Encouraged by that success, we formalized the ideas for our new program, PARSA Job Corps (or “Mohammad’s Program”) last October, selecting at-risk youth from the Scouts program to enroll in a program in which they and their families agree that they will continue their schooling, stay in their Scout troops, and work four hours a week for pay. This March we finally collected enough in donations to launch eight boys in the PARSA Job Corps. As we heard their stories, and began working with them, we realized that PARSA is providing a unique “safety net” that supports these children and their families’ independence and dignity and gives them a very practical sense of a future here in Afghanistan. With a monthly stipend of $20 in hand, we hope that they and their families will not succumb to human traffickers peddling stories of a better life in other countries. We do this in Mohammad’s memory, recognizing that he and his family did not see a bright future for him in his home country.
To our relief and delight, Ali Reza, Mohammed’s brother, is a member of our first PARSA Job Corps. Through community support, his mother has found a small job and Ali Reza’s stipend goes directly to help support the family as well. Ali Reza told PARSA that he is grateful for the benefit but that mostly he is proud of the program, and of his brother’s legacy. He knows now that his brother’s sacrifice will result in other youth like him getting the support they need here in Afghanistan to make a future for themselves and their loved ones.
Support Mohammad’s Program
PARSA is starting this program with donations from PARSA supporters as well as a small stipend from HALO, Betty Tisdale’s foundation that originally helped us start the Scout program. In order to reach our goal of accommodating 50 youth in Kabul and Bamiyan this year we need to raise $47,000 to support program costs. This will allow us to bring in trainers for different skills so youth can learn on the job. Please assist us to grow this vital program. Click Here to Donate directly via PayPal, and include “PARSA Job Corps” in the comments section.