By Sarah Kakakhel, Save the Children, Pakistan
As a member of communications staff, it helps that I enjoy making conversation with people, irrespective of their age, background or gender.
April marks one full year that I have been working with displaced families from the Khyber Agency in Pakistan. I have visited countless homes and schools in villages in and around Peshawar, with each visit bringing something new.
A familiar pattern
The pattern is always similar – in the beginning, I am being judged by hosts who determine how they feel about me.
Once they get used to my presence, they start to open up. Their more general statements begin to change, and you can see a lot more of their personality as they talk about themselves and their lives.
An unusual visitor
After an unusually bumpy car ride, today I spent my day with Eesa Khan’s wife, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, curious neighbours, their chickens and goats!
As word spread of my visit, the people just kept coming. At one point, there were several dozen people eyeing the enigma that was the ‘foreign’ lady in their neighbourhood.
I’m used to it now, but the hopes that many people tie with my presence used to be overwhelming. They think “NGO worker” and automatically assume I am there to help provide immediate assistance.
The value of talking
A lady recently displaced from Tirah even gave me a piece of her mind when I told her I was here to just talk to everyone and listen to what they had to say. Talking, according to her, was a complete waste of time. Luckily for me, Eesa Khan’s wife Sabeela intervened.
The lady in question looked as if she hadn’t got much sleep in the recent days. She could also have done with a full meal and clean clothes, but for her, these seemingly basic things were a luxury.
After she had calmed down, she told me that she walked for five days with her family to get to Peshawar. She talked about the day she lost her youngest and only son in the chaos for hours. She talked about the dead who were left on the roadside as their loved ones tried to make it to safety from their only homes.
Above all, she talked about having to leave her home and everything she knew in the blink of an eye.
Thousands made homeless
Sadly, her story is not a new one, nor is it unique. This lady represents the thousands of women who have had to run for their lives with their families in the past month alone.
She suffers, and will continue to suffer. You can’t just erase your past and the horrors you’ve witnessed. That being said, she parted by saying she hoped to see me again, so that we could talk. For me, that was an accomplishment.