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Photo: Courtesy of Roya Shams.

Former refugee aims to help “street children”in Kandahar

Among her many accomplishments, Roya Shams, an Afghani refugee and University of Ottawa student, is starting her own charity to help underprivileged children in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Shams fled her home in Afghanistan in 2011, following the death of her father and at the risk of being killed by the Taliban herself.  While she said that the decision to leave home was difficult,  her enrollment at the U of O has helped her adjust to life here in Ottawa.

“Right now that I am enrolled, I’m just so happy with the support I received, the smiles I received on campus. It just makes me feel like I’m not alone,” Shams told the Fulcrum.

Shams, who studies international development and globalization at the U of O, hopes to pursue a career in international law in order to help those in need, such as those struggling in her community in Afghanistan.

“Perusing law, I feel like I will get more education in terms of a broader picture of the world. Not only Afghanistan or anywhere like the Middle East, my vision is mostly humanitarian. My work is not stopping in Canada or in the U.S or Afghanistan, because I believe in helping humanity,” she said.  

As part of her goal to help those in need, Shams launched a charity this year, tentatively known as the Shams Foundation, to provide nutrition to struggling families in Kandahar, so that the children in these families will be able to go to school.

“I’m hoping to start a charity for street children in Kandahar, both male and female, because I do believe in equality. I do believe if you give equal opportunities to both males and females they will realize that they are equal, they are not in a distance. That they will realize they have the same abilities and it will allow them to learn from each other.”

Spearheading the initiative with Shams are two of her friends—Bilal Ahmed, a former U of O student, along with  Alex Thatcher, a student from the University of Toronto.  

As part of the work for the charity, Shams is doing research with colleges in Afghanistan to find out how best to serve the families in her old community.

“I want my work to be valid for people who want to donate and be part of the cause,” said Shams.

Isabelle Mailloux-Pulkinghorn, acting manager of media relations at the U of O, reached out to Shams following her own experiences organizing a charity for children in Haiti.

Mailloux-Pulkinghorn offered to help “with arranging, with the events, with fundraising. Whatever it gets to make the project successful,” according to Shams.

In addition to starting up the charity, Shams is developing an accompanying website where people can volunteer, find out about related events, donate to the cause, and learn more about the children in the community themselves.

“I want a clear process for people to see what’s going on.”

Shams is currently in the process of getting a license to register her charity, and while she said the process is difficult, she is staying hopeful, having received support from groups like the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.