"One day, I met a boy from the refugee camp. He was a shoeshine boy. . ."
"The main problem for these street children, these working children, it is like they are treated as though they are not human," says 40-year-old Mohammed Yousef, a devoted children's rights crusader. "If there are children who are stealing food, the police will only look at the clothing the children are wearing. The ones in rags, they will beat them."
Yousef is the manager of Aschiana, a unique, multifaceted initiative. It's an elementary school, an emergency shelter, an outreach program, the student-run Voice of Afghan Children newspaper, a vocational training centre, a hub for political advocacy and a sort of a bank run by the street kids themselves.
Every year, Aschiana's services reach as many as 10,000 street children, many of them orphans and runaways. Wander through Aschiana's complex in the heart of Kabul and you'll find children working in gardens, playing on a basketball court, or hard at work in literacy, photography, calligraphy and computer classes. There are sewing, embroidery and tailoring programs, karate classes, a traditional music program and a popular artists' workshop. . .