Suham works quickly sorting plastic bottles. Neither the afternoon heat nor her surroundings seem to bother her—she stays focused at the dump, collecting materials that can be cashed in at the recycling station. Some times she begs for the money her family needs to eat, but this day she picks through the piles dumped by garbage trucks. If she earns enough money, her parents allow her to visit a center where tutors teach the basics to children who work instead of going to school.
Suham works quickly, because more than anything in the world, she wants to learn how to read.
Her family of nine live in tight quarters. There is one room for cooking and one room for sleeping. Large holes in the roof let water in during the rainy season. Tucked into the sleeping room is a TV, and when she’s not working, helping her mother, or taking care of her brothers and sisters, Suham chooses to pass the time the same way most kids do— she watches cartoons. Tom and Jerry and Ninja Turtles are her favourites.
For thousands of children like Suham, the ‘way back to school’ is layered. They may continue to need an alternative learning center, outside of the government run school system. They certainly need the same pencils, paper and books that every student uses to study, safe transportation, and a hearty meal to give their brains the best chance to learn.
But more than that, families like hers need financial stability—the kind which can come through Empowerment small-business grants. If her parents could earn enough to support their family, 11-year old Suham would be freed from begging and picking though garbage piles.
Suham has the desire to learn. She begs and scavenges in the mid-day heat—this is how badly Suham and thousands of Iraqi children like her want an education. She just needs a little breathing room in her life, some stability and support.
Then she could learn to read the language she speaks—Arabic. She could read the subtitles on her favourite cartoons, and finally know why the Ninja Turtles teamed up with a rat.
Iraqi children like Suham may seem a world away, but you are not helpless to give them the education they are begging for. You can provide layered solutions for children in difficult situations.