“This will help protect people from COVID-19,” Akhter Mohammad says amid a growing pile of finished masks he has sewn. He 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.
Akhter’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, Humanity & Inclusion 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.
Humanity & Inclusion’s experience showed that a new skill, on its own, wouldn’t prove useful if Akhter 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. For Akhter, physical accessibility was never made a priority within his family or community. It wasn’t until meeting our team that he learned about accessibility and was able to benefit from the accommodations made by our team in the classes.
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, Humanity & Inclusion reached out to Akhter 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, Akhter got to work. "It’s a way to practice, as well as a source of income,” Akhter says. “This effort helps fulfill the shortage of PPE, 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 Humanity & Inclusion. 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.”
Dreaming of growth
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.
COVID-19 response in Afghanistan
Humanity & Inclusion’s team in the country is spreading awareness messages with beneficiaries like Akhtar. 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.
Humanity & Inclusion works to protect the most vulnerable
As of May 5, we count 141 new projects that aim to protect our beneficiaries and staff from the virus, and to help them during their countries' lock downs. As COVID-19 takes aim at our planet's most vulnerable neighbors, we're ensuring that people with disabilities, people with injuries from conflict, children, women, and especially older people have the information--and even the soap--to stay healthy. Learn more about our COVID-19 response.