By Ashleigh McMillan
After starting life as a refugee, Deakin graduate Khyber Alam is now helping other young people in Afghanistan by establishing an orphanage.
Khyber was born in Pakistan, where his parents were refugees due to the Soviet-Afghan war. Having returned to his home country of Afghanistan during the 1990s, he travelled to Australia as a refugee at the age of 13 years after war broke out again in 2001.
He is working with friends who are GPs, engineers and teachers to set up the House of Knowledge, an orphanage in Eastern Afghanistan privately funded by them from their salaries. Khyber says the land for the orphanage has been purchased with the aim of having the infrastructure finished in 2017.
He plans to travel to the orphanage in 2018 with two or three of his friends. ‘We’re going to try and find 12 orphans around the age of eight to 10, as the house can accommodate only so many,’ he said.
‘Until their 18th birthday, they will be in the orphanage learning to read and write, learning basic life skills, leadership skills, which will enable them to become independent individuals who can look after themselves, their community and others.
‘It’ll be like their own parents’ house. They’re going to have a carer, they’re going to have teachers and there will be someone that can take them to the doctors when they need it. They’ll have all of the basic things that we take for granted,’ he said.
Now employed at OPSM in Glenorchy, Tasmania, Khyber says that his upbringing directly influenced his decision to go into optometry.
‘When you see the bad side of life, you want to do something to make it better for others. Growing up in Afghanistan, you rarely hear of someone having an eye test, even though there’s probably a proportion of the population that need an eye test to have good vision,’ he said.
‘In practice, I like doing paediatric optometry. When you do something for the kids, like finding a turned eye, or something small, like giving them a new prescription that makes it easier at school for them, the smile on the parent’s face and the children’s happiness, you can’t compare anything to it. It’s just heart-warming and I love that side of optometry.’
Khyber thinks we can all make a small contribution to the world. ‘It doesn’t have to be big, but if each of us could do our bit it would be a better place to live in,’ he said.