Hosseini talks about desperate times for many Afghans

November 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The man who wrote the best-selling book, The Kite Runner, lives in the Bay Area and is asking for help for homeless Afghan refugees. Dr. Khaled Hosseini wants students in the United States to learn more about people in Afghanistan who have the same dreams and hopes.

Hosseini was born in Afghanistan and he started the The Khaled Hosseini Foundation. He lives in San Jose now and is internationally known for his best-selling books set in Afghanistan, "The Kite Runner" and "1,000 Splendid Suns". He spends his free time raising money to build shelters for homeless families in Afghanistan, and to provide educational opportunities and healthcare for women and children. The need is overwhelming after 30 years of war.

"A lot of people are left homeless, without jobs, without food, access to clean water, education, healthcare," said Hosseini.

Some people there resort to living underground to stay alive.

"It would be anywhere from 15 to 25 people essentially living in these holes that have one opening at the very top as a 'window.' And they were living there for two, three and three-and-a-half months. Winter in Afghanistan in many parts of the country is brutal with freezing temperatures. Routinely I would go to villages and see elders complain about the sick and the elderly and the children freezing every winter due to the cold," said Hosseini. "So this is one reason why we've been building these shelters, which cost $2,000 for a family of six or seven people. For a small amount of money, it could be a life-saving structure."

Families get a pre-packaged kit and build the shelters themselves.

"They're given the raw materials. They're given the window frames, the doors, the beams," said Hosseini.

So far, The Hosseini Foundation has raised enough money to build nearly 400 shelters to house 2,300 people. His wife, Roya, is helping afghan women who remain in refugee camps in Pakistan, with a sewing program. They make jewelry and other items through a non-profit called Zardozi.

"All of the income generated by these items is reinvested in the lives of those women in helping with food, jobs, the medicine," said Hosseini. He is tapping into his young fan base to help in his mission. "I've had so many letters from high schools saying, 'I'd like to do something for Afghanistan and I'd like to do something for kids like me in Afghanistan,'" said Hosseini.

He designed a program called "SOS" -- Student Outreach for Shelter.

"All of the students are reading my books in their classroom, but there is a service learning component, in a curriculum that we have devised, which students can then partner with us and help us raise funds to build shelters for returning refugees in Afghanistan," said Hosseini.

"I'm going to be fundraising for this club. I'm going to be helping out Mr. Hosseini and his organization in any way that I can," said student Sidhart Krishnamurthi.

Krishnamurthi attends the Harker School in San Jose. He's passionate about his new fundraising drive on campus to help homeless Afghans.

"I just feel that's unfair to them, because they worked so hard to establish themselves. Then all of a sudden, a war happens and they're pulled out," said Krishnamurthi.

Hosseini is hoping that a lot more young people will want to get involved with his foundation and help homeless Afghan families. And when they do, it will be a real live history lesson.

"I hope that this really works and I hope we can change people's lives and I hope we have a big part in rebuilding Afghanistan," said Krishnamurthi.

Hosseini will be speaking at the Harker School in San Jose on Friday. Cheryl will be the moderator.


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