Akhter sewing at home | © S.W Saddiqui / HI
Akhter helps in the fight against COVID-19 by sewing masks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, thanks to support from HI.
Ahkter Mohammad was injured from conflict, leaving him with a permanent disability. Last year, HI supports him to find a dependable livelihood. He chose sewing. He now sews masks to overcome the lack. “This will help protect people from COVID-19,” Akhter says amid a growing pile of finished masks he has sewn.
Akhter and his wife care for their three children in a rural area of Afghanistan’s Dand district of Kandahar. Akhter is 28, the oldest of 15 brothers and sisters, and therefore carries a responsibility to also look after his extended family, including his parents. His village offers few opportunities for work aside from for harvesting, which doesn’t provide enough income to support a family like his.
Ahkter’s role was further challenged when he was injured from conflict, leaving him with a permanent disability. Without access to rehabilitation in his village, he endured years of pain, and his knee became misaligned, causing even more discomfort.
In 2019, HI heard of his condition, and paid for him to make daily, 1.5-hour journeys to Kandahar, where the team would help him find a more dependable livelihood. He chose sewing, learning stitches alongside students with and without disabilities.
HI’s experience showed that a new skill, on its own, wouldn’t prove useful if Ahkter was still in pain. So, the team arranged for him to receive physical therapy. They also explored accommodations that would make his day-to-day living easier.
With a certificate of completion and a sewing tool kit from his course in March 2020, he was ready. But so was COVID-19.
Noting a dearth of personal protection equipment across Afghanistan, HI reached out to Ahkter and his classmates to see if they wanted to learn to sew masks. Mask-making classes had to be remote, due to a lockdown, but students were interested.
With a new pattern, Ahkter got to work.
"It’s a way to practice, as well as a source of income,” Ahkter says. “This effort helps fulfill the shortage of masks, especially here in the rural area, where people don’t have access to the city to purchase masks anymore, because of lockdown."
His first customers are his neighbors. He also shows them how to use the masks properly, and shares the stay-healthy messages he learned from HI. Hospitals and pharmacies also need masks, so his customer base is not limited.
“It’s a good moment for me,” he says. “I am feeling happy with the response and appreciation of the people when they see masks are available in their village. For me it is a time to fill the need and make relations.”
Akhter is optimistic about tailoring. He makes clothing for his children and other family members, and has recently started receiving orders from customers who require different designs and sizing. This challenge encourages him to learn even more in-depth sewing skills.
He dreams of becoming a successful tailor, and, after the lockdown, he plans on opening a tailor shop—the first in his village. His goal: to train as many young people as possible to become tailors, just like him.
HI’s team in the country is spreading awareness messages with beneficiaries like Akhter. In addition to receiving information from the government, Akhter and his family is receiving guidance from our team on how to stay safe from the virus.