The Youth Skill Development (YSD) Program was initiated with the goal of rehabilitating Afghan youth in a sustainable fashion. The basic foundation of the project is cemented in the transfer of knowledge and skills to a burgeoning segment of society who can contribute to the economy and improve upon standard of living of a large marginalized community.
The YSD program built upon a level of education already attained- supporting the participants with technical skills, job placements and entrepreneurial encouragement. There is a large segment of Afghan refugee families who have been living in Pakistan for decades. In fact many of our graduates include refugees who were born in the country. It is vital to rehabilitate this refugee population so that they can contribute their skill and labor to society.
Naseer Ahmed is one of the graduates of the YSD program. Naseer Ahmed is from Munda Camp, Peshawar. His family migrated from Takhar, Afghanistan in 1985 with hopes of settling down peacefully. Naseer sought out an education but due to severe financial constraints and pressure to ear, he could only study up to the 12th grade- F.Sc in pre medical subjects from Peshawar.
Naseer’s dream was to pursue his education further, enroll in medical school and become a doctor. Like many of the families he had grown up around, Naseer was subject to poverty and witnessed ill maintained hospitals, clinics and schools. As a refugee, these amenities are treated as a last priority and rarely attended to with any standardization rules followed, resulting in many refugees resort to working as day laborers and odd cash-for-work jobs. Naseer refused to let go of his dream. He began volunteering with doctors at clinics and hospitals, willing to work with anyone in order to keep a foothold in the world of medicine. However, he soon realized that earning a meager salary for PKR 3000 per month was not a sustainable way of following his dream and supporting his family.
As fate would have it, a dejected Naseer found out about the Afghan Youth Skill Development Program from an NGO. Having exhausted other avenues, he applied to participate but did not carry high hopes of being accepted. Lo and behold, Naseer was accepted and went on to graduate from the program with a B+ in the Medical Technician discipline through ARC’s YSD program.
The Next Step
Technical degree in hand, Naseer resolved to embark on an initiative, which, in his opinion, would have the most widespread impact- a medical clinic start up. Naseer resolved to set up a clinic of his own in Islamabad. Upon research, he discovered that the community living in the sector H-13, Islamabad locale of the city consisting mostly of resettled Afghan refugees: an estimated population of 15000 people. Although residing in arguably what is Pakistan’s most developed city, the federal capital community of H-13 had needs that were largely unmet. There are no developed and maintained health units or even standardized education institutions. This community provided the perfect home for Naseer’s first entrepreneurial endeavor.
The families of the community expressed their distress at the difficulties they faced when they were in need of medical resources; patients were forced to pay exorbitant prices for treatment and transport to hospitals, only to suffer at the hands of practitioners who are in a hurry to treat as many patients as they can.
ARC was a committed patron in the pursuit of Naseer’s dream. Naseer developed his business plan and submitted it to ARC. ARC’s technical experts reviewed the plan and provided their feedback for its improvement by suggestions for establishment of startup, as well as publicity and marketing strategies. Naseer also showed his interest to get ARC’s support in arranging equipment for startup. Naseer was provided with technical support as well as provided with his desired equipment.
In the early days, it was difficult to gain the trust of the community. But Naseer worked hard and successfully gained the trust of his community in a short amount of time. The impact of Naseer’s start up grows widespread and is getting the attention of other communities living besides H-13. His accomplishment not only lies in his sustainable business plan, but in the steady line of patients that wait by the door of his clinic every day. Naseer consults with an average of 20 patients daily- many of these include children, providing them an initial check up and treating minor injuries and maladies.
Naseer now earns a stable income which supports him and his family with much more ease than before. With an increase in income and subsequently savings, Naseer is investing in his younger sibling’s education as well as holding dreams of pursuing his own education further.
Naseer’s story has identified him as a role model to other YSD program graduates and participants. It also goes to show that the investment and support in these young Afghan refugees by ARC and other organizations has gone a long way in creating impact with this marginalized community.