Qudrat's lasting legacy: Father establishes school in Afghanistan
Qudrat died suddenly after returning to Afghanistan.
His father Hakim Wardak founded a school in his son's memory.
The school is unique in that boys and girls learn together, although this has made Wardak a target for the Taliban, who oppose educating girls.
You may remember the cute little face, the heart-tugging story and his unforgettable name. Qudrat. In February 2005, a little baby became big news in Indianapolis. The 14-month-old boy was flown from Afghanistan to Indiana for life-saving surgery. His heart was not working properly. Indiana doctors fixed it. Qudrat, who had virtually no motor skills, little strength and weighed ten pounds before surgery, gained nine pounds and became a strong little boy after the procedure.
Sadly, when Qudrat and his father Hakim Wardak, returned to their home country in April 2005, there was an unexpected and heart-wrenching turn of events. Qudrat died suddenly. The cause of death was never determined. Roberta and Jim Graham took the news hard because Qudrat and his father had lived in their Brownsburg home for three weeks before returning to Afghanistan.
"Holding him and seeing his expression. He had the cutest little smile," remembered Roberta Graham. "Yes, he did die but I truly believe those few weeks that he had of really meaningful living, he never had that before. He truly had meaningful living."
The couple remembers how attentive the father was to the little boy.
"He was the most devoted father you've ever seen. He took immaculate care of the baby, changed his diaper, fed him, applied all of his medications on schedule. He had a timer to track the medicine schedule," said Jim Graham. "I think we were both devastated like any family losing a grandson. Suddenly, a grandson that left us in great health, fun, playful. And to think four days later, he was dead. We couldn't hardly accept it," said Graham.
But Qudrat's death, while sad, was not the end of the story. In fact, it was the beginning of a legacy. When Qudrat's father was staying in Indiana, he noticed something the Taliban forbids in Afghanistan.
"When I visited America, I saw all women could read and write," said Hakim Wardak during a phone conversation from Afghanistan. "I see that educated women would be big improvement for our country."
When Hoosiers raised $13,000 and donated it to his family, Wardak first recovered his five children that he had given away because of starvation.
"He went from refugee camp to refugee camp and found the five families that he had given these children to three or four years earlier asked for his children back then he went to that village that was destroyed in 1981 where Qudrat was buried, took his wife and children to that house, fixed it up so it was livable and left them with enough money to feed themselves for two years and he took off for a university," said Jim Graham.
Wardak then used the money to study two years of medicine and education at Pesharwar University in Pakistan. After graduation Wardak built a six-room school on 1.5 acres in northern Afghanistan and named it after his son. The Qudrat Wardak school was funded entirely by Hoosier Rotarians and a variety of churches. Wardak is the headmaster.
"I teach reading, writing, history, geography, math, and 4th grade - English, start. I also teach geography and that America is a good country," said Wardak.
Not all of the classrooms have desks. Some of the children sit on a concrete slab. In this area of Afghanistan, Where 99% of the women are illiterate, the Qudrat school gives girls a chance to learn.
"He devotes everything he has to educating women and children. Children, both sexes. They're combined in the same class," said Graham. "They don't segregate them and they all have the opportunity for education."
Graham says Wardak once had to flee the area because the Taliban threatened to kill him because he was teaching girls. Wardak also supervises an adult female literacy program in five villages, spends time farming and runs a clinic providing medical care, advice and medicine for children.
"The Qudrat school was built to provide for the children in my village," Wardak said. "Now, five villages give students to the Qudrat school. The school was built to educate 200 students thru the sixth grade. Now, the students want more education and I want to add a junior high school of grades 7, 8 and 9," said Wardak. "Now we have 350 students in the school built for 200 students. We don't have enough chairs and desk. We need a large school."
Graham says school teachers make $1,200 a year in Afghanistan while the ordinary income is only $600 annually. The Grahams have raised $30,000 so far and need to raise an additional $4,000 in order to pay for a school expansion.
"It's a tribute to Hakim because he's a person of such high character, intelligence and dedication to improving the life of women who have been downtrodden. Under the Taliban rule, he saw terrible things," said Graham. "I was absolutely amazed at what he did with the $13,000 that the Hoosiers have given him."
Who would have thought that the sad death of a boy we all knew would have such an impact on hundreds of children we don't know.
"In that part of Afghanistan, if it wasn't for Qudrat, there would be no schools there. The girls would have no opportunity," said Graham.
Qudrat's legacy is living, thriving and growing half a world away thanks to the love of a father and the generosity of Hoosiers.
Viewers interested in donating money to the Qudrat school should contact Jim Graham or send checks to this address: World Community Service Foundation, PO Box 457, Brownsburg, IN 46112