Thousands of People and a Baby


Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg
May 27, 2009

While travelling to places like Pakistan, I naturally meet many different people. All of them have their own story and background, their traditions, cultures and personal experiences. Talking to the displaced people in Pakistan, I realized right away how different their path of life is compared to my own. Living in Buner, Kohistan, Dir and the village of Swat bears no resemblance at all to lifestyles in so many western countries. The gap could not be much bigger.

Human dignity

People are fleeing by the millions from these regions of the country, in naked fear for their lives. When we hear about the ongoing fighting in the media, we always want to know about the political reasons causing these events. We are also interested in the so-called “bigger picture,’ trying to put what”s happening into a global perspective. A lot of times we also simply ignore what we see.

True, it”s close to impossible for us to save the whole world. But there”s a difference between good and bad, and it shows on the ground. With a small amount of money we can help displaced people afford a tent, soap, toothpaste or a sleeping mat. Children also are in need of writing materials, books and pens. It is important for them to keep doing what they”re used to doing: drawing, writing or even calculating. Since there was no time for packing things, most displaced people left with only a handful of belongings. It is difficult to really make their situation better in a substantial way, but we can still show them we care. It doesn”t matter whether we understand the overall situation or not, we should feel responsible for the displaced people.

Thinking of Bertolt Brecht

In these days, the German author Bertolt Brecht crosses my mind quite frequently. One of his most famous plays, “Mother Courage,’ tells a story about poor people and war. It talks about people who somehow have become victims of their circumstances. They work hard, care for their families and concentrate on their own life, trying to create a better future for their children. It is the same here: I met extremely peaceful and modest men and women who are the most welcoming hosts, even to strangers like me. It is their stories I want to tell, in particular one about a little baby.

One of the most upsetting experiences during my journey happened in a school in Mardan. This town is about 50 kilometres from the district of Dir, where battles are still ongoing. More than a thousand displaced people found shelter in this school, where temperatures reach up to 47 degrees Celsius [117 degrees Fahrenheit]. In the afternoon, it was hard to avoid [the heat], especially because of the humidity. The displaced people were huddled together. I saw an older man who had to flee from his village with all of his people. Women were sitting together and children greeted us curiously. While we were talking and cautiously joking around, I suddenly heard a baby crying. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a newborn under the blackboard in a corner of the room.

Sohail deserves to live in peace

The baby”s name is Sohail. His mother tries to wave some air to him with a broken corn broom. After the last power cut, neither the ventilator nor the air conditioning is working. I was really curious about the little boy who was born right before his family had to escape. He has literally been born into a turbulent world. In this school building, his family depends on neighboring communities to get healthy food. There are countless U.N. reports about children like Sohail and his family. In the city of Jalozai in the north western Province, a single person has donated a large amount of money that helped about 2,400 displaced people receive food and other emergency supplies.

Sohail”s father, Khan Faraz, is holding his little baby. His other three children are also by his side. They look as if they have been put up there for a picture. One of the boys likes to play soccer and cricket. “I want to go home with Sohail and the rest of my family,’ Khan Faraz wishes. That”s a hope shared by all the displaced people: going home.

I am a stranger to these people, but they still invite me to join them. I could hardly reject this invitation. When peace will be restored, Khan Faraz says, we should get together “and have a good cup of tea.’

“You really have to come and visit us up in the mountains,’ he says, placing his right hand on his heart.