From Selling Fruit on Streets to Founding an English Language Institute
A Message by Asif Sultani, Founder and Chairman of Pioneer
(Republished from the first issue of Pioneer’s monthly newspaper)
As the Chairman and Founder of Pioneer Educational & Cultural Organization and Co-Founder and the local Coordinator of ROYA Organization in Bamyan, I am extremely honored to introduce you to the first Monthly in English for English readers in Bamyan.
First, I would really like to thank Mrs. Kara Lozier and all of Pioneer’s dedicated team who have been trying to provide a better environment for school and university students, governmental staff and every individual who passes through Pioneer’s door in their quest to learn the English language. Thank you for your guidance, friendship, and even, for your discipline.
In 2007, I worked as a dishwasher with an NGO in Kabul. Washing the dishes made me so tired. The Afghan people who worked with the NGO knew English. It was my dream to study English and work the same as they did. My parents lived in Jaghori, Ghazni. They were not able to support me financially to study. Over time, I grew to detest washing dishes and finally decided to leave Afghanistan and travel to Pakistan. When I consulted with my family, they were against my idea. But I did not let them talk me out of my plan.
So, I left Afghanistan in 2008 and traveled to Pakistan where I hoped to have better educational opportunities. In Pakistan I sold fruit to support myself financially. I would wake at 3 am and go to the market to get fresh fruit. I did not know Urdu. There were a few other Afghan workmen who would go to market, too. They knew Urdu well and they helped me with my purchases.
Each day I would return from the market around 8 am and start selling the fruit. I took time out during the day to attend several English and computer classes which meant I was still selling fruit into the night. It was a very tiring schedule, but I continued it for almost two and half years. When my English and computer skills were strong enough to use in my employment, I came back to Afghanistan to fulfill my dream of working with an NGO. As soon as I returned, there was a supervisor vacancy with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Pol-e Charkhi, Kabul. Because of my English skills, I was hired and worked there almost a year and a half. When the security situation got worse at ISAF, I resigned and took a job somewhere else. Finally, I chose Bamyan as a place I would like to live and moved here in 2013.
Since arriving in Bamyan, I have been an active member of Bamyan society and have sought opportunities to better the lives of people in the community. In 2014, I was hired as an English capacity building coordinator for the German INGO, HELP. While working for this organization, I identified the need for an English language center and founded Pioneer Educational and Cultural Organization. Pioneer’s main objective is to provide a place where Afghans in Bamyan can learn all aspects of the English language. English may not be the most spoken language in the world, but it is the official language in many countries. It is estimated that the number of people in the world that use English to communicate on a regular basis is 2 billion – which makes it a very useful and valuable language to learn. In 2016, I began collaborating with the ROYA Mentorship Program which has been our greatest initiative. The concept was simple. Founder, Kara Lozier, and I worked together to select ten needy, motivated students in Bamyan who were willing to commit to two and a half years of private English classes and match them with ten individual sponsors who would pay $10 per month – the cost of tuition, books and weekly internet access.
Before joining with the ROYA Mentorship Program, I thought it would be impossible to help needy people because I knew first hand, what it was like to want an education, but not have the time or resources to study. When I understood the concept of ROYA, it seemed more possible, however, I was skeptical that enough sponsors would volunteer to help. But, there were more than enough so I was able to begin helping the students learn English. Helping these students has made my life more meaningful. I have learned how to approach helping uneducated and underprivileged people. Pioneer is proud of becoming a partner with ROYA. It would have been impossible to make Pioneer brighter without ROYA’s support. ROYA changed my life and path and has done the same for our students. The students were hesitant at first and felt discouraged when learning English was harder than they expected, but they kept working and have made steady progress. Their attitudes have changed and now they are excited about becoming better at English. This has made me more hopeful about their futures.