We Want To Be Somebody

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Because the world feels dark these days, particularly in this imperiled republic, some light: For the last 30 years, Pakistani firefighter Mohammed Ayub - aka Master Ayub - has spent his "free" time running a School In the Park for Islamabad children who would otherwise spend their days on the street, working, and illiterate. Wanting "to be of some use" in a country with one of the world's lowest literacy rates, he began one day with one boy, one notebook, one pencil, on the ground. The next day, the boy brought a friend. Within a week, 50 kids turned up. Today, with the help of former students, over 200 kids, Muslim and Christian, learn to read and write. He still starts each child with one word a day.

Every day at 3 p.m., after finishing his day job, Ayub, now 58,  bicycles to a public park near the Parliament, where the kids await him. Since starting 30 years ago, thousands have passed through the school, with many moving on to higher education and/or decent jobs. Each day before class, the kids collect stray bricks and stones, piling them near the park entrance. The goal, "God willing," is to build a school. "And those students who are with us, and say they want to be like Master Ayub, one day they will." By now, Ayub is known and respected in Pakistan. Still, he insists, "my work goes on." Ghandi: "In a gentle way, you can shake the world."

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