A Day in the Life of the Orphanage
A day begins at 5:30 a.m. when the 60 or so children stir and the housemother heats water and the house father goes off to market. Nobody needs to badger or otherwise nag the children. They mostly monitor themselves, the older ones quickly educating the youngest. They somehow manage the bathroom rotation, get the house swept clean, make up their beds and rooms and dress into their school uniforms before tea and nan (bread), is served. One aspect of orphanage life must be emphasized – punitive punishment is never practiced, as it is against AFCECO policy. Discipline is maintained not by fear, but by common interest.
Public school schedules vary, so half the children leave in the morning and return by noon, while the other half leave after lunch, returning by four. This means the orphanage is rarely empty. Before going to school, each child’s shoes, fingernails and teeth are checked at the gate for cleanliness. If not, back inside they go. The schools are close by, and always the children walk together in fours and fives.
The rest of the day, whether mornings free or afternoons, is spent doing chores, studying in the library, attending programs at the New Learning Center, or engaging in extracurricular activities such as karate for girls, boxing for boys.
At 6:00 p.m. it is time to relax with a cup of tea and tell stories. Afghans are used to eating dinner at eight, so this twilight hour is free to absorb the day’s activities. After tea some children will watch television, others will play in the courtyard, while still others might visit one of the other orphanages. Everyone sooner or later takes a shift helping in the kitchen. Meals include meat three days a week, rice, beans and potatoes are the staple. Various squashes, spinach, eggplant and okra comprise the usual vegetable dish. Always there is seasonal fruit; watermelon, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, grapes, oranges and pomegranates are plentiful at various times of the year.
After dinner the children do homework to prepare for the next day. The smaller ones are asleep by 9:00 p.m. while the middle ones go to bed at ten and the older ones around eleven. It is an incredibly full life these children lead. Only on Friday does everyone get to catch a breath, the one day of the week that is unscheduled. The orphanage life is filled with a sense of purposefulness, that each day is a gift for growing, deepening bonds, and keeping the AFCECO dream alive. It is truly a laboratory in which democracy is realized and allowed to flourish, whereby staff and children alike begin to taste, on this island in the midst of the storm of war, true and lasting peace.
12 years old
13 years old
10 years old
10 years old
6 years old
6 years old