A Beacon of Hope: Mansoor’s Journey with Cash-for-Work in Afghanistan

“My life was not easy, but I still found hope.”

In the heart of Kabul’s Takhnikum area, there lies an informal settlement grappling with numerous challenges. Among its residents is Mansoor, an internally displaced person (IDP) from Parwan province, settled with his family on a steep hillside.

Mansoor’s life has been far from easy. With his father hospitalized and a large family to support, he was constantly burdened by the weight of financial responsibilities. To make matters worse, he had to borrow money to send his younger brother to Iran for work, only to suffer the tragic loss of his sibling. As Mansoor navigated the harsh realities of life, he found himself ostracized by society, subjected to ridicule, and derogatory name-calling due to his dwarfism.

Despite facing these adversities, he found hope in an unexpected form – the Cash-for-Work (CFW) initiative as part of the project Emergency Support Programme for Conflict-Displaced Afghans implemented by UN-Habitat with the generous support of the Government of Japan. This CFW initiative not only offered income-generation opportunities to vulnerable residents of informal settlements in need of livelihood support, but also aimed to improve the local living environment by leveling waste dumpsites and planting trees turning the site into a public park.

Mansoor seized the chance to participate in this CFW project in his community. Alongside 39 other workers, he dedicated 21 days to clear the dumpsite and plant over 400 trees in the public park. “Not only did this provide much-needed income for daily expenses, but it also allowed me and others to take pride in creating a greener and cleaner environment for their neighborhood,” said Mansoor.

In June 2023, 40 people including Mansoor participated in the CFW activity in Takhnikum, Kabul. ©UN-Habitat Afghanistan

With the money earned from the CFW project, Mansoor took immediate action to address his family’s pressing needs. Half of the money went towards his father’s medical expenses, ensuring that his loved one received the care he required. The other half was used to purchase shoe polishing equipment. “With the money left, I made a decision to invest in myself today for a better tomorrow,” he added.

During the day, Mansoor diligently polished shoes in various parts of the city, earning a modest living. However, his day didn’t end there. In the evenings, he returned to the park where the CFW project had taken place, and there, he took a small space to polish shoes for the locals and visitors who frequented the park. Through his hard work, Mansoor earns a total of 100 to 150 afghanis daily (about 1 to 1.7 US dollars), which enables him to provide food for his family.

Mansoor shows sincerity, dedication, and a friendly demeanor. His CFW colleagues appreciate his hard work in the CFW project, and his friendly behavior in the park has gained a loyal clientele, growing his small shoe-polishing business. The park has become a symbol of hope and transformation, not just for Mansoor but for the entire community.

“The CFW initiative has made my life easier and breathed new life into the once-neglected park.” Mansoor expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the donor and the people of Japan and for funding the CFW project. For him, this was only the beginning of his dreams. His ultimate aspiration was to see the park develop further, with his own food stall offering sustenance and hospitality to those who visited the rejuvenated space.

Mansoor joined UN-Habitat’s Cash-for-Work (CFW) initiative in Kabul, Afghanistan
©UN-Habitat Afghanistan

UN-Habitat, in partnership with the Government of Japan, has been implementing the project “Emergency Support Programme for Conflict-Displaced Afghans.” This project aims to provide lifesaving services and essential community infrastructure to meet the immediate needs of 50,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and returnees residing in urban informal settlements in the cities of Kabul and Herat.

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