Written by Harriet Paintin, illustrated by Hannah Kirmes-Daly.
The elderly Afghani man who the previous day stood at a distance and watched us playing with the children, a peaceful smile on his face, today stood in the middle of the group of kids and parents surrounding us as we made glittery masks. The happy energy and excitement seemed to fill him, and when the tambourine was handed out and had it’s usual, catalystic effect, crowds gathering round us, singing and dancing and clapping, he danced with his arms in the air, with children, with young men, with us. Later, as we gathered around the fire with the extended families, I watched him turn his face upwards towards the sky, and then around the circle, taking in the happy expressions on the faces around him. He took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and smiled. A smile which could be seen most strongly in the crinkles at the corners of his eyes, as if he was safe in the knowledge that even in the midst of so much difficulty and uncertainty, life can produce moments of true contentment and beauty, in the happiness of children, the joy of dance, and the warmth of family sat round a fire as the sky slowly darkens.