Thank you, young Afghan man

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We have things to learn from those who speak with quiet voices. This story by Shaiq, from Afghanistan, is one of those things. He is about to graduate from high school in the U.S. and is now applying to colleges. This essay was written as part of his college entrance exam which he kindly shared with InterestEng. Shaiq would like to pursue an International Business degree to be able to go back to Afghanistan and help his country.

IMAGINE living in a place where there is no peace or comfort. The sounds of exploding bombs and screaming children having become a normal occurrence.  

Shattered windows, devastated buildings and days of being stuck in basements without means of contacting friends or family were common days in my life, and they still are for millions of people in Afghanistan.

I was two years old when I lost my mom. Shortly after she passed away, I had an accident falling off a bunk bed which resulted in an injury to my left leg. I had many surgeries on my leg without positive results. Since I was disabled and my dad remarried, my grandparents took me to live with them until I was seven years old. At that time, they put me in an orphanage to receive a better education. Two years passed in the orphanage when, one day, two strangers arrived and mentioned that they were from the School of Leadership in Afghanistan (SOLA). My life was never to be the same again after that meeting.

SOLA is a non-profit school in Afghanistan and the first boarding school for girls plus one boy, me.  During my time at SOLA, my inner person changed much, and in a way that made me believe that I could overcome any challenge. After seven years of hard work, I got a full scholarship to Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, one of the best college prep schools in America. In order for me to get a passport and travel, I had to have a last name. In my culture, not many people use last names. SOLA gave me the last name of “Jamalzada”. However, the last name they gave me was not related to my own family. In order to remember SOLA and my family, I came up with my own last name by taking my grandfather’s dad’s name, which was Wali. I took Wali and added Zada from the last name that SOLA gave me and so created “Walizada” which is my last name forever. I got a passport and visa in 2014 and traveled to Rabun Gap.

I was a Freshman when I first came but had to leave halfway through the year for medical reasons. After visiting with the Shriners in Boston, I decided to have my leg amputated in order to be able to live pain-free in the future. When I returned to Rabun Gap after my recovery, I was able to do activities that I never thought I could. I started doing wrestling, water skiing, playing soccer and doing track and field. 

The decisions that I have made throughout my life have opened up so many doors for my future. When I think back to the young handicapped boy living in war-torn Afghanistan it is amazing to think how much my life and circumstances have changed. My times at SOLA and Rabun Gap have been the most impactful years of my life. I look forward to college and grow- ing more and in different ways outside of Rabun Gap. Because of my time with both SOLA and Rabun Gap, I have a future I can look forward to, something I could never imagine as a small child huddled in the basement as a war raged outside.  —Shaiq

 ©InterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com