How Is the Bayat Foundation Helping Afghans With Deafness?

bayatfoundationlogoFrom October 1-5, 2018, the Bayat Foundation proudly hosted the annual Bayat-Starkey Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission on the grounds of the Bayat Media Center in Kabul. Now in its fifth consecutive year, the Hearing Care Mission is one of the most important initiatives in Afghanistan that supports people affected by deafness or hearing impairments. Read on to learn more about this annual event that provides hope and healing to thousands of Afghans.

 

What is the Bayat-Starkey Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission?

Established in 2014 by the Bayat Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, the Hearing Care Mission works to bring the gift of hearing to the many thousands of Afghans who are living with deafness or hearing impairments. Held for several days each year, the Hearing Care Mission provides attendees with free hearing screenings, hearing aids, and other treatments and services. Bayat Foundation founder Dr. Ehsan Bayat estimates that since it was first launched, the Hearing Care Mission has served more than 7,000 people.

 

Why is the Hearing Care Mission important?

Deafness and other hearing impairments are a serious problem in Afghanistan. Estimates from the Afghanistan National Association of the Deaf suggest that approximately 34,000 children between the ages of seven and 18 are affected by deafness, blindness, or both. Unfortunately, deafness faces considerable stigma in Afghan society: people don’t always recognize it as a physical impairment, instead often believing that it is a reflection of a developmental disability or other cognitive impairment.

In addition, in a country where even basic health care can be difficult to come by, it is challenging for Afghans living with deafness to access treatment and services, let alone educational options that can accommodate their unique needs. For many Afghans affected by deafness, the Hearing Care Mission is therefore a rare opportunity to have their hearing needs attended to by medical experts, and to interact with people who understand and are experienced at communicating with people who are deaf.

 

What happened at this year’s Hearing Care Mission?

In 2018, the Hearing Care Mission opened with the October 1st Dedication Ceremony, which was attended by a number of senior Afghan government officials, NGO representatives, civic leaders, and other stakeholders. In his opening address, Dr. Bayat thanked the audience for their support and commitment to helping give the gift of hearing to thousands of Afghans.

During the five days of the Hearing Care Mission, a rigorous patient assessment and treatment process helped to deliver the best possible care to attendees. The process was overseen by several Bayat-Starkey Hearing Care Teams comprised of international audiologists and hearing care specialists, as well as trained and dedicated volunteers from the Bayat Foundation. Patients first underwent an intake process in which their vital signs were recorded and they received a thorough examination and cleaning of their ears and auditory system. Next, patients were given a set of fitted ear molds, made from clear and wear-resistant plastic, to house their new hearing devices.

After the intake process, patients were escorted by volunteers into the treatment area. Here, the Bayat-Starkey Hearing Care Teams fit each patient with personalized hearing aids. Provided completely free of charge, these devices allowed many of the patients to connect with the world through sound for the first time in their lives. At this year’s Hearing Care Mission, more than 1,240 people received care and treatment.

 

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Who is the Bayat Foundation’s partner on the Hearing Care Mission?

The Bayat-Starkey Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission is a joint venture from the Bayat Foundation and its partner, the Starkey Hearing Foundation. As the philanthropic arm of Starkey Hearing Technologies, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hearing aids, the Starkey Hearing Foundation has been working to give the gift of hearing to those in need for more than 30 years. The Foundation has worked than 100 countries around the world, collaborating with governments, non-profit organizations, and health leaders to help increase access to hearing healthcare services. The Foundation estimates that through its various initiatives, which include programs like the Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission, it has helped provide more than 1 million people with much-needed hearing support.

 

How does the Hearing Care Mission fulfill the Bayat Foundation’s objectives?

In addition to education, water projects, and family support, healthcare is one of the central pillars of the Bayat Foundation’s mission and activities. Recognizing that many Afghans, particularly in rural and remote communities, have difficulty accessing essential healthcare services, the Bayat Foundation works to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare throughout the country. Some of the health-related initiatives that the Bayat Foundation has led in the past include: the construction of a brand-new maternity, neo-natal, and surgical hospital in Kabul; the operation of a vision care clinic that provided free glasses and other treatment to Afghans with visual impairments; and various donations to institutions like Kabul Medical University.

3 Things You Need to Know about the Afghan Institute of Learning

afghaninstituteoflearningThe Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) aims to create a brighter future for Afghanistan through a focus on education. In 1995, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi founded AIL to address what she perceived as a systemic problem. She observed that Afghans in need were not able to access basic education and health services and were subsequently less able to support themselves, a situation that impacted Afghan society as a whole. Furthermore, Dr. Yacoobi believed that the only way to address this problem was to adopt a holistic approach. As a result, AIL is built firmly on grassroots principles, and its work is guided by the belief that major societal change occurs at the community level by transforming lives. To date, more than 14 million Afghans have benefitted from AIL’s offerings. Here’s what you need to know about this visionary organization:

 

1. It offers a wide range of programs and services.

When AIL was founded, it focused primarily on basic education and health initiatives. However, AIL’s scope of offerings has grown considerably over the years, and the organization now provides a wide variety of programs and services across a number of different areas. Following are some examples of AIL’s projects:

Learning Centers—AIL’s unique Learning Center model is the cornerstone of its educational endeavors. Learning Centers are schools or other educational facilities that typically serve Afghanistan’s rural communities or urban neighborhoods that are underserved. They offer a wide range of classes and educational opportunities, ranging from university-level classes and literacy courses to workshops focused on crafts such as calligraphy and carpet-weaving. A community demand-driven project, Learning Centers are established specifically at the request of individual communities. Communities that want a Learning Center collaborate closely with AIL to plan, fund, and operate them. The ultimate goal is that each Learning Center will eventually become self-sufficient. Since 1996, AIL has opened or supported over 340 Learning Centers.

Teacher training—One of the challenges that has hampered the progress of Afghanistan’s educational system has been a lack of qualified, trained teachers. AIL works to fill this gap through intensive, small-group teacher training workshops. Subjects covered include the pedagogical basics of teaching, the creation of a good classroom environment, the development of curricula and lesson materials, and testing and evaluation.

Cultural programs—Preserving Afghanistan’s cultural heritage and reviving its cultural sector are important priorities for many organizations, including AIL. Since 2011, AIL has been working with local government officials in Herat to develop and implement a series of cultural projects and programs. They include the establishment of a library and research center at the Gawhar Shad Musalla Complex, a historic mausoleum, and a workshop series on traditional Afghan arts and crafts where master craftsmen teach skills such as miniature painting and tile-making at the recently restored Herat Citadel.

Legal services—In 2015, AIL established a Legal Clinic Project in Herat to provide indigent Afghans with legal support. Located near Herat’s courts and staffed by five experienced lawyers, the Legal Clinic Project helps people with legal difficulties who lack sufficient financial resources to access legal representation. Its mission is guided by five core values.

 

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2. Its mission is guided by five core values.

AIL founder Dr. Sakena Yacoobi firmly believes that the people her organization serves are the ones who know best what their own needs are, and that trust is the key to building relationships that lead to sustainable change. Consequently, she has placed these five core values at the heart of AIL’s work and mission:

Listening—According to Dr. Yacoobi, the most important thing that an organization can do to serve people in need is to listen. Only by listening is it possible to learn what is needed to improve a particular situation.

Community support—The full support of each community member is essential in developing programs that lead to lasting change. True transformation occurs when communities are part of the solution rather than simply recipients of charity.

Leadership—AIL is all about helping each person to achieve their goals by providing them with the tools and resources they need for success. In doing so, AIL demonstrates what it means to be a leader.

Evaluation and reflection—Assessing what has worked and what has not for new programs and initiatives is a vital component of AIL’s work. Building on successes and learning from losses helps communities to move closer toward their goals.

Innovation—While successful projects bring joy and fulfillment, AIL believes that innovation never ends. There is always something new to try or a new idea that provides inspiration.

 

3. Its founder has received widespread recognition.

AIL’s founder, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, has received widespread international recognition. Through her tireless work with AIL, Dr. Yacoobi has earned recognition from leading institutions around the world. Among her many honors are the Opus Prize, the WISE Prize for Education, the Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education, and the Sunhak Peace Prize. In addition, she has received six honorary doctorates from various institutions.

ECOA Is an Afghan Environmental Organization You Need to Know about

ECOAIf Afghanistan is to have a stable and prosperous future, environmental conservation must be a vital part of the country’s ongoing development. This is the philosophy behind the Ecology and Conservation Organization of Afghanistan (ECOA), a fully Afghan-owned and -operated nonprofit NGO. Founded in 2010, ECOA works to protect and rehabilitate Afghanistan’s environment and alleviate poverty in the country through sustainable natural resource management and community-based development initiatives. Read on to learn more.

 

What are ECOA’s mission and vision?

“Protect, connect, and support” are the three key watchwords of ECOA’s mission. In order to secure a sustainable future for Afghanistan’s land and people, ECOA works to conserve biological diversity, promote the sustainable use of renewable natural resources, reduce pollution and wasteful consumption, and build sustainable livelihoods.

All of these efforts are geared toward realizing ECOA’s future vision of a prosperous Afghan society that embraces stewardship of and responsibility to nature. As ECOA imagines it, by 2050 Afghanistan will have accomplished a number of goals. First, it will have conserved biodiversity in all of its ecosystems and understood that economic development cannot come at the cost of a net loss of biodiversity while embracing and implementing sustainable social and economic patterns and eliminating—or mitigating—serious ecological threats.

 

Who runs ECOA?

While there are a number of environmental and conservation organizations operating in Afghanistan, ECOA is distinctive in that it is one of the few to be entirely Afghan-run. The organization’s core team consists of the following:

Sardar Amiri, founder and head of operations—Amiri is a native of Afghanistan’s Bamyan region. His passion for environmentalism was inspired in part by his love of the Baba mountains, where he loves to hike.

Islamudin Farhank, project support officer—Another Bamyan native, Farhank has a background in political science. He aims to use his knowledge to support environmental policymaking that benefits Afghanistan’s vulnerable communities.

Mohammad Din, finance officer—In addition to his passion for hiking and ecology, Din is dedicated to environmental conservation. He believes that preserving the environment is an essential part of preserving the wealth of current and future generations.

Habiba Amiri, executive director—A co-founding member of ECOA and a native of Bamyan, Amiri also enjoys the wilderness of the Baba Mountains. She is dedicated to improving family livelihoods through ECOA projects.

In addition to the operational team, ECOA is supported by a variety of donors and partners. These include Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency, the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Government of Finland, and the British Ecological Society.

 

What kinds of projects has ECOA implemented?

ECOA has created and carried out a wide range of projects since its establishment in 2010. In general, the organization’s approach prioritizes community participation: As it implements projects, ECOA typically takes on the role of facilitator, providing training, support, and coordination to communities in their conservation and environmental efforts.

These are some of the projects that ECOA has developed:

The Bamyan Environmental Conservation Center (BEC)—Currently in development, the BEC is a vital hub for all of ECOA’s activities. The multi-purpose indoor and outdoor space will serve as a nexus for environmental education and knowledge sharing tailored to the different knowledge, experience, and needs of diverse local stakeholders.

The BEC is home to a fully cataloged physical and online library on nature conservation and natural resource management; exhibition rooms for educational displays, workshops, discussions, and theater and film events; regular demonstrations of green technologies and sustainable livelihood options; and an herbarium and medicinal plant garden.

Beekeeping Empowerment Education Sustainability (BEES)—This project was implemented under the umbrella of a large-scale program targeting Bamyan’s agriculture sector. The aim of the program was to provide local farmers with innovative agricultural technologies and business support to help them transform their livelihoods. ECOA’s contribution involved working with a number of agriculture cooperatives to establish a community-based beekeeping industry, with the goal of alleviating poverty at the grassroots level. As with all of ECOA’s work, the BEES project sought to empower local community members by encouraging meaningful involvement at every stage, from sourcing raw materials to marketing the products of the beekeeping process.

The Darwin Initiative—As part of the Darwin Initiative, a mechanism funded by the UK government that helps emerging economies meet their Convention on Biological Diversity objectives, ECOA operated a program in the Bamyan region to help prevent environmental degradation and other problems through sustainable fuel interventions. Bamyan province is an important area for biodiversity as it is home to many unique species of plants, shrubs, and trees, but the rural people who live in the area use these species for firewood. This harvesting disrupts the natural structure of the plant community and can lead to serious environmental consequences; in addition, the open fires contribute to indoor air pollution and human health issues.

To help address this problem, ECOA implemented a number of sustainable fuel interventions, such as providing local communities with specially designed clean cookstoves as well as bio-briquettes and solar water heaters (to reduce the demand for firewood).