‘I Want to Help Afghanistan': Carlsbad 4th Grader Hosts Neighborhood Bake Sale to Help Refugees

“The women and children – especially the girls – can’t get an education. They can’t get out of their house; they can’t work right now,” said Maryam Mehr, a fourth-grader in north San Diego County. “So, I just want to support them.”

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A 4th grade student from north San Diego County spent Labor Day alongside her friends doing something incredibly sweet: They hosted a neighborhood bake sale to help families in Afghanistan.

“It started as a dream,” said Carlsbad resident and bake sale organizer Maryam Mehr, telling NBC 7 how she planned the event – and most importantly, why.

“I want to do it to help Afghanistan. And I told my friends about it, and it actually became reality.”

I want to do it to help Afghanistan.

Maryam Mehr, 4th Grade Student From Carlsbad

Maryam’s mother, Medina Mehr, and their extended family are from Afghanistan.

For the fourth-grader, the country is close to her heart. She knows about the Taliban’s takeover and the suffering happening in Afghanistan.

She wants to help.

“The women and children – especially the girls – can’t get an education,” Maryam said. “They can’t get out of their house; they can’t work right now. So, I just want to support them.”

A veteran-owned gym in Mission Valley dedicated its workout Saturday morning to the 13 servicemembers who were killed in last week’s suicide attack in Afghanistan. NBC 7's Ramon Galindo reports.

So, along with her friends and neighbors, little Maryam rolled up her sleeves on Labor Day and got to work.

She and her friends set up tables along Rancho Bravado and Rancho Latigo in Carlsbad, lining the tables with homemade baked goods – everything from baklava and lemon squares to banana muffins, cinnamon rolls, and sugar cookies.

Behind the table, colorful homemade signs written by children hung, telling the neighborhood and passersby more of the “why” behind the bake sale.

“Help Afghan Women,” one hand-lettered sign read.

“Help Save the Afghan Children,” said another.

“Our flag isn’t gone, it’s in our hearts,” read a sign written on the colors of the flag of Afghanistan.

Little by little, neighbors trickled in with baskets of homemade goodies to donate to the bake sale.

Maryam and her friends grew more excited with each basket. They meticulously lined each table, arranging the baked goods to look their best.

“Let’s do this!” one of Maryam’s friends said excitedly.

One of Maryam’s friends walked next to her and gave her a heartfelt little hug-squeeze.

“Great idea,” she whispered.

Maryam smiled.

As customers walked up to the tables, Maryam said proudly, “Everything is homemade!”

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'Heavy in All of Our Hearts'

Maryam’s mother, Medina, told NBC 7 that her daughter had been planning the bake sale since last week. There were even meetings involved.

“She has been planning this, on her own, with her friends. And they called a meeting,” Medina said. “They came over to our house twice last week for a meeting and they planned it.”

Medina said her mother – Maryam’s grandma – normally lives with them in Carlsbad but went to visit family in Afghanistan a few months ago, before the Taliban takeover. Now, the grandmother is stuck there. Medina said her sister and father are in Afghanistan, too.

“It has been really hard to evacuate them, to get them out of there,” she explained. “They have attempted five times to go, but the Taliban were yelling at them. The Taliban has been shooting in the air.”

In 2017, there were 10 times as many girls going to school in Afghanistan compared to 2003 - when it was about 3% of the nation's girls. With the Taliban taking over, teacher Jaala Shaw fears for students and doesn't want them to fall behind in their education.

Medina said Maryam is very in tune with what’s happening in Afghanistan. She misses her grandma.

“It has been very heavy in all of our hearts,” Medina said.

“All of the things my mom is going through, I’m going through too,” Maryam added.

Medina said proceeds from the neighborhood bake sale would benefit Borderline Equity, a nonprofit working to help refugees from Afghanistan.

Local groups and organizations across San Diego have been working to address the country’s humanitarian emergency. NBC 7's Amber Frias reports.

Maryam said her sweet mission is very important.

“I care. I want to show that I care,” the fourth-grader explained. “And I want to bring as much awareness as I can.”

With encouragement from her family and friends, she felt like she could do just that on Monday, from all the way in her little neighborhood in Carlsbad, California.

Medina said she keeps in touch daily with her family. The people of Afghanistan and the culture is a part of the Mehr family.

Maryam wants to see the country again someday – but when the days are safer, the times better.

“I’ve only been to Afghanistan once and it was like a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. And I just want to go again, but in a peaceful way this time,” the girl added.

An Imperial Beach woman has started her own group to welcome Afghan refugees with open arms. NBC 7's Omari Fleming reports.
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