Afghanistan to Montclair: Living the Humanitarian Village

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Leslie Granda-Hill and Bilal Sharif
Learning photography at the Iris Presby Memorial Gardens *photo courtesy of Leslie Granda-Hill

In the midst of horrific news and events, sometimes it is the most tender human stories that remind us of the good that keeps the world in balance. A Montclair photographer is playing a role in an inspiring story of one boy’s journey to health and well-being. Leslie Granda-Hill, whose work often intersects with humanitarian and charitable causes, has been documenting the story of Bilal Sharif.

Bilal is a young Afghani boy who was born with bladder exstrophy as well as a club foot. Leslie, along with an Army Major, a Pennsylvania host family, and a New Jersey surgeon, has made sure Bilal is moving forward in his recovery.

Part of this young boy’s recovery is emotional. Bilal left his family and came alone to the USA from Afghanistan. During Bilal’s visits to Montclair, Leslie has taken him on photography trips, introduced him to New Jersey beaches, and shown him around the area. With several surgeries in his past, Bilal still has more in his future. However, he is a beacon of strength and bravery.

Leslie shares, “Bilal has been a joy to know and an enormous inspiration to me. When he arrived in the US he was starving and didn’t know one word of English. Now he is healthy, goes to school and calls me on the phone to tell me all about his day.”

Please read more about Bilal’s story and how he arrived to the USA for medical assistance in this People Magazine story. You can also see more photos of Bilal from Leslie Granda-Hill here.

Bilal’s host family, in Pennsylvania, has been able to provide for his needs, but additional funds are needed to assist with his care while he’s in the USA. Those who would like to contribute to Bilal’s recovery can visit this GoFundMe site or send a check to World Link Adoption Agency Attention: Help Bilal — 418 Jefferson Avenue, Scranton, PA 18510.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I happened to see them both this morning at the Walnut Street train station. Bilal had just snapped a photo of Leslie with his camera and stepped forward to show her. The pride and joy in his face when he lifted the camera to Leslie really touched me and made me notice them. So interesting to now read of their story here. I wish him continued health and happiness.

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