Early Beginnings and Exceptional Valor- Sulaiman Sulaimankhil (post conference interview).
Today Sulaiman is 17 years old and his habit has not changed but Afghanistan seems to be changing. He is the Development Director at HELA (Hope and Education for Leadership in Afghanistan) and a class instructor at Skateistan.
Skateistan is one of the very few places in Afghanistan where people do what they love. Over 50% of the students at Skateistan are street working children. In a country where girls are not allowed to ride bikes, Skateistan exhibits remarkable gender equality as it has over 40% female students. A temple and launch pad for children, Skateistan is the only NGO to have grown out of Afghanistan to South Africa and Cambodia.
If the journey has been beyond its makers’ age, so have been the challenges it posed. In his workshop Sulaiman told us that Skateistan faces routine problems of intrusion for involving girls. Rumors by some groups and Mullahs have further tried hindering some of its progress but community support has always gotten them through. On being asked what his greatest challenges were, Sulaiman who had been assaulted several times for his cause and even on his way to QLC at the airport, says security and lack of resources have made him struggle the most.
We asked Sulaiman if he ever lost hope, and unfortunately despite showing such unparalleled courage there had been a time of despair. This was when three children from Skateistan who were serving at the NATO base in Afghanistan died in a suicide bombing.
We were intrigued by how he manages to motivate himself to come out of such testing times. His words reflected the fortitude his life has been illustrative of, “Every time I face a challenge I become stronger than before. This strength makes me find ways to get out of the tough situations. I never get disappointed and I can say that Sulaiman doesn’t know anything by the name of disappointment.”
But times like these require the valiant to not only convince himself but also the ones around him. Thus we asked Sulaiman what he says to the people around him to have them overcome their fear and continue their stride; he says, “I just remind them that there is always a beautiful day after a dark night and they should always keep in mind that they are working for a better future. Sometimes we need to sacrifice for this and the only way to not be afraid is to stay strong and stay together because we are strong when we are together.”
While the early maturity helps him achieve his goals earlier than the defined time, it also creates a few problems for him. For instance he told us that when he went to the Education Ministry no one believed that he is the development director of an organization!
If Sulaiman’s a hero, he is also a teenager just like us. His happiest moments range from scoring three goals for his team in a football match to the day he got a certificate for HELA as a registered NGO of Afghanistan. His story brews inspiration for the youth all around the world.
Lastly, we asked him to sum up his experience at QLC’15 and we were gratified to know that he loved us as much as we loved him, and that we were able to touch his heart through the closing ceremony video
By Shubhangi Kumari