Portrait Project


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Alyza Keshavjee

An explosion is followed by foreign army tanks, men pushing, women yelling, and children screaming. I turn the other way and she runs to me, arms widespread, green eyes illuminated, light brown hair flowing, smiling ear to ear. "What's wrong?" she asks.

Growing up in Kabul, she has grown all too familiar with the sound of war. Equivalent in age yet brought up in separate worlds, she looks at me in awe, curious about my confidence but surprised by my fear. Will she ever know what life could be like otherwise?

Growing up in Canada, I have grown all too familiar with the sound of peace. I wonder, will I ever know what life could be like otherwise?

Jaded by war and inhibited by cultural barriers, Parwadah lacks the empowerment she needs to succeed and become self-sufficient. Biased by the free market and daunted by choice, I lack the context of her simple upbringing and deep-rooted values.

Hand in hand, we will help each other. While I may not be able to eliminate civil war or eradicate corruption, Parwadah can help me devise creative solutions that are specific to her community and culture. I will be her mentor and she will be my inspiration.

You may find me in Kabul, whispering in her ear, congratulating her on her promotion. You may find me in Geneva, working to scale the same solutions that made her successful. Either way, you'll find me, humbled by the challenge and committed to preserving her smiles.

— Alyza Keshavjee