In 2008, Sarah Adeel, a Fullbright Scholar, was in Pakistan researching for her Master’s thesis on child welfare in South Asia. During her research for a comparative analysis between orphanages and foster-care homes, Adeel met children living in the most abysmal conditions. She befriended many of them and was deeply moved when she found that most of them, when asked to write a letter to someone they missed the most, addressed their letters to God.
1.2 million children in Pakistan are estimated to be living on streets of cities like Islamabad. Most of them work as scavengers at garbage dumps or do menial jobs. Others steal or enter prostitution to sustain themselves.
In 2009, Adeel graduated from Rhode Island School of Design and returned to Pakistan with Jabbar Bangash (UGRAD alum and Carleton University), Mohsin Ali Afzal (Fullbright alum and a graduate of UC Berkeley), and Zainab Feroz Kapadia (a Fullbright alum and a graduate of Columbia University) and launched the LettuceBee Kids.
The LettuceBee Kids is a non-profit organization which works with street children to develop brighter futures. It aims to use art, music, and mentorship to guide these underprivileged children into happier, productive, and secure lives.
A $5000 Alumni Small Grant from the U.S. Embassy, Islamabad, has enabled the LettuceBee Kids team to start an art program called “LettuceBee Design.” By early January, 2013, Islamabad’s street children have received seven art classes in venues ranging from local parks to schools to the zoo. LettuceBee will host an art exhibition in February in Islamabad and has a long-term plan to convert the children’s artwork into a greeting card line to generate revenue for the non-profit’s self-sustenance.
A music program, the LettuceBee Band, will teach music to street children for their aesthetic development. The children got a taste of music lessons last November when Boston-based bluegrass band, Della Mae, on their tour through Central Asia as part of the State Department’s ‘American Music Abroad’ initiative, stopped at Islamabad for a performance and spent time with the children an taught them to sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’. Yet another program up the sleeve is a community gardening project.
The overall purpose of LettuceBee Kids is to generate a sense of meaningful life among the street children of Islamabad. Through art, music, and gardening, these children can develop creative and artistic skills; they can realize that they can do things by themselves, that they can lead happy and respectable lives and they don’t have to beg and lead degrading lives.
– Mantra Roy
Photo: Lettuce Be Kids