Education

the gift that lasts forever

Our History

The story of Parwarishga must begin with the modern history of Afghanistan. Nowhere, it seems has the poison of war come together with the poison of religious extremism and outdated ideology to such an extent and with such devastating effects upon children. These effects have been embedded to the point that many people claim it to be a cultural issue, that the burqa and all it represents, that the seething hatred between Pashtun and Hazara, are somehow indicative of the Afghan spirit and therefore cannot, or even should not, be tampered with. But a young Afghan woman named Andeisha Farid did not see it that way. She herself was born in war and raised in camps, but was lifted by education and perhaps more importantly a community of peers and adults striving right along beside her, challenging, reaching, never giving up hope for the dream of peace and equality and perhaps one day, a homeland.

Andeisha saw the children begging for a few pennies to buy bread. In these children she saw herself. Yet here she was, a young woman in university, a woman capable of making her way in the world. If only a small number of these children could be raised as she was raised, their influence would reverberate in each family. If these children were reflective of every race, every region, every tribe of Afghanistan and they were raised together equally, their influence would settle the inflamed passions of tribalism from one corner of the country to the other. And finally, if the girls were raised as she was raised, and the boys raised as her friends had been raised, the symbol of this “culture”, the burqa, would become a thing of the past.

It was with this belief in the power of children to change the fate of her country that in 2004 Andeisha founded her first parwarishga. Starting with limited funds she established a safe place where children could come each day. After building a reputation she became known to CharityHelp International, which developed a child sponsorship program to finance an orphanage. In short time Andeisha was able to see her dream grow. Now AFCECO runs eleven orphanages, nine across Afghanistan and two serving refugees in Pakistan, caring for almost 700 children and employing around 50 widows and scores of university students. Beside orphanages, AFCECO has implemented other services for children such as a New Learning Center, health clinics, a Leadership Academy for its older girls, karate and soccer teams for girls and boys, bringing children to Europe and the U.S. for short-term scholarships and sending sick children to the U.S. for specialized treatment.

AFCECO has blossomed into a progressive social service that is not institutional, but rather meshes with Afghan society in a partnership where all agree about the needs of the children. What it offers the world is best illustrated by a simple incident in Nuristan, an area under complete Taliban control. When four-foot eight-inch, 14-year-old Zainab arrived on a donkey to visit the village in which she was born, the elders, very aware of the AFCECO orphanage she has lived in since she was four, set her up with her own room and asked her, pleaded with her to begin immediately to teach the other children. Regardless of her notions of gender equality, her secular temperament, even at times her lowered scarf, the elders looked the other way. The fact is they perceive Zainab not as a threat, but as a tremendous asset to the village. This begs the question, what if ten Zainabs return to ten villages across all of Afghanistan. A hundred Zainabs? Or a thousand?

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Taiba3
Taiba’s father was a soldier with the Afghan military. He was injured in an operation against the Taliban, leaving him permanently paralyzed in the legs. Taiba’s family lives in a small town in Nuristan.

Taiba

12 years old

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Rezwana3
Rizwana was born to a complicated family. Her father was an addict and beat her mother severely. Her mother was finally able to get a divorce in order to save herself and her daughters. Unfortunately, her mother passed away after suffering several strokes when the girls were still very small and the girls had to live with their grandmother who also passed away. They eventually lived with their aunts and uncles and they always had to jump from one place to another. Rezwana’s older sisters were married off by their uncle and Rezwana continued to stay with one of her uncles.

Rizwana

13 years old

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Bushra3
Bushra is from Nuristan. Her father used to work for the national television but after August last year when Taliban took power, he left his job as he did not want to work for the Taliban. Bushra’s father is really keen on her daughter on getting educated.

Bushra

10 years old

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Zomira3
Zomra’s father was a former soldier who fought in many battles against the Taliban. He left the army after witnessing Taliban torturing and brutally killing his father in law catching him after a battle and him making a very narrow escape. As a result of his trauma he developed depression and he has not been fully able to recover. His wife was also left deeply depres

Zomra

10 years old

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Zainab3
Zainab is a little girl from Nuristan. She comes from a large family and her parents want to send her to Kabul to enroll at a school. Currently girls in Nuristan can’t study and her mother wishes Zainab could study in Kabul, otherwise she would have to attend a religious madrassa in her town.

Zainab

6 years old

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Yumna3
Yumna is a cheerful little girl from Nuristan. She has two older sisters Zomra and Tamana. She is a curious girl and loves playing outdoors.

Yumna

6 years old

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Our Orphanage

Each orphanage houses anywhere from thirty to eighty children. The facilities are usually large houses with lawn and all the amenities that make a place feel like home. Every orphanage is run by a live-in couple, with assistance from a staff including widows who otherwise would be destitute in the streets.

Children are given a variety of responsibilities, all cleaning, cooking, maintenance and laundry is shared duty. They sleep together on double-bunk beds in curtained, homey rooms with high ceilings, four to six bunk beds per room. Initially they are assessed and treated for addiction problems and psychological illness. The children attend public schools including Afghanistan National Institute of Music. The children have variety extracurricular activities in orphanage and they are given responsibility to help in the running of the orphanage, and everyone is taught to work together as if one big family.

FAQs

Through our countrywide network of friends, AFCECO now receives referrals almost daily. There are over a thousand children on the waiting list. If we opened ten more orphanages tomorrow, they would be fi lled in a week. The children come from the streets, from homes destroyed by war, they come from families too poor to feed them, and they come from abusive homes from which they have fl ed with their mothers. In all cases, we meet with family members face to face and discuss the long-term goals and benefi ts. Family members must agree and ascribe to all AFCECO policies, knowing that to give the world we offer takes time and commitment.

It is illegal to adopt Afghan children, primarily because of the strict doctrine that no Moslem child will be subjected to possible conversion. In addition, there are family members integrally involved, not only uncles and aunts. Worldwide, 75% of children deemed to be “orphans” actually have one or both parents still living. But AFCECO’s reasoning is based on the notion to create change here on the ground. Since the Soviet era millions of Afghan professionals, intellectuals, and would-be leaders were either killed or had to flee the country.

Today, 80% of young Afghan students attending university overseas never return to their troubled homeland. AFCECO is aiming to stop this rampant exporting of Afghanistan’s human resources.Our children are proud to be who they are and intend to stay, to be in ways small or large, a part of the solution.

AFCECO maintains a staff of around-the-clock armed guards who monitor everyone who comes and goes. Every orphanage is gated, and would take a significant effort to enter forcefully. All children are accounted for at all times, and girls especially are transported by van or bus to and from the New Learning Center, soccer fi eld and other locations. That said our greatest security is achieved because we are Afghans helping Afghans, and through connectedness with average Afghans and communities near and far. There is a broad, deep base of support among people from every corner of Afghan society. Remember, these children represent every tribe and every province. Each comes with an entire village of support. Targeting the orphanage or the children is simply at the bottom of the list for would-be assailants, primarily because to attack AFCECO would in essence create a storm of backlash from Afghans everywhere.

The people of AFCECO maintain a personal, face-to face relationship with all heads of family that send children to the orphanages. The spirit of cooperation, of common long-term goals, and of being in this together maintains a level of trust through the years. Occasionally it does happen that some estranged uncle or other relative appears, taking sudden interest in having a child “back”. Again through networking with communities, AFCECO is aware of these cases well before they come to a head, and therefore through various means wards the confl ict off before it develops.

In a few extreme cases, a deal can be met, such as taking even more children for the family, or working with powerful elders from the home village, or simply keeping the girl in question secure and “unavailable” for visitation outside the orphanage.

The first generation of children to have been raised in AFCECO orphanages is now approaching adulthood. This year four high school graduates are attending university. The children of AFCECO are not part of a program that once completed they are shown the door. They are like family, and as such we stand behind them as they make their way into the world.

The greatest effort will be made to get as many into higher education as possible. Also, who better to begin hiring for any of a wide variety of positions running the orphanages, especially as AFCECO grows? Inexchange for room, board, book expenses, tuition fees or transportation costs, who better than our very own are qualified to teach the younger children, to run the library, help with letters to sponsors, organize events and fundraise?

AFCECO staff such as guards, cooks, house parents, bookkeepers, drivers and so on are all Afghans who make a humble wage, enough to have their needs met.

Most enjoy the sanctuary of being able to live in the orphanages. There are no high paid executives, no expensive travel packages, no consultant fees, no fringe benefits, no advertising costs, no tinted windowed state-of-the-art SUVs or any of the myriad “expenses” most large NGOs are notorious for. The director, managing director and education coordinator are all unpaid volunteers. Every dollar goes to the children’s wellbeing, their environment and their education.

Over the years about 10% of children who come to live in AFCECO orphanages are lost back to their villages before reaching the age of 16. Given the situation prevalent in Afghanistan, though it saddens us to the core losing just one child, it is remarkable we do not lose more. Firstly, these families are desperately poor, and an older child that can work now for bread so people can eat is tough for families to spare for the prospective rewards of an educated professional some years down the road. There is also the predominant culture that forsakes and even shames the family of an older girl living away from home. And of course there is war, famine, crime and even drought causing disruption in people’s lives everywhere. It is our belief, though, that these ten children out of a hundred have essentially been touched with the seed of liberation, education and the joys of a free loving community of Afghans, and even if they only lived in the orphanage for a few years, they, too, contribute to lasting positive change in their families and communities.