KOHAT: Eight-year-old Alman faced a bleak future after his father’s death. The financial problems that followed the tragedy mean that his mother struggled to feed and clothe him.
But now Alman is safe and protected. He is one of the children to be given support at an orphanage, known as Sweet Home.
The facility, which was set up last month, is the first of its kind in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to shelter at risk children.
Alman says everything has changed for him since he started living at the “Sweet Home.” “The center provides us with everything, including books, food and clothes,” he told Arab News. “We are not only being educated here but also encouraged to participate in sports activities.”
The orphanage was a joint initiative between the country’s army and Pakistan Sweet Home – a welfare organization for children. It provides quality education and recreational facilities for children, many of whom lost their parents in terrorist violence.
Peshawar Corps commander, Lieutenant General Nazir Ahmad Butt, General Officer Commanding Major General Azhar Abbasi, and head of Pakistan Sweet Home, Zamarud Khan, inaugurated the orphanage in Mir Ali on February 21.
“Sweet Home provides education to 100 children,” the corps commander said at the inauguration ceremony. “However, this number will soon be increased to 200.”
“Mir Ali is just the beginning,” he added. “These centers will be extended to other areas of FATA. We also plan to set up a bigger and better Sweet Home, with a capacity for at least 1,000 children, in Peshawar,” he said.
FATA — an area that was formerly a hub for terrorists — lacks basic facilities such as schools, colleges and healthcare centers.
Following the launch of the military offensive, Operation Zarb-e-Azb, in mid-2014 in North Waziristan, militant networks were cleared from the region after a tough and prolonged operation.
The menace of militancy not only affected the daily lives of the people, but also deprived children of education in FATA, especially in North Waziristan Agency.
Syed Tanveer Hussain Shah, administrator of Sweet Home, told Arab News that the army had extended all possible support to establish the facility.
“The military conducted a survey along with the [tribal] elders of the region,” he said. “The elders shared the list of orphans with the army, and its officials discussed the issue with Zamarud Khan. That’s how the work began on the project,” he said.
Shah added: “There are 18 rooms in Mir Ali’s Sweet Home. Each room has four bunk beds and the facility is providing safe and happy environment to children.”
“Our teachers take care of us like our own mothers,” said Abdul Samad, a student at the facility. “We attend our classes in the morning, play games in the afternoon, and watch television in the evening.”
Shah said that the people of Mir Ali had been cooperative and had welcomed the initiative. For every ten children, he added, the center had kept one educated female maid. The army provides security to the center since it was located in an area that was still threat-prone.
Farzana Riaz, senior in-charge of Mir Ali’s Sweet Home, told Arab News that the facility has not only provided “uniform to these kids but also tracksuits for sports and general use.”