How NGOs are Providing Help and Hope to Afghanistan

Within the nation of Afghanistan, the total number of people who have been affected by conflict and war is difficult to ascertain. It is evident, however, that there are an increasing number of needs that must be met in order for the nation to move forward.

Many citizens are members of at-risk demographics. Some are among the poorest in the world and are facing uncertain futures unless they receive assistance from outside sources.

The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations

Some of the issues surrounding the rebuilding and redevelopment of Afghanistan stem from citizens’ distrust of government and daily insecurity. In these situations, the complexity of delivering needed services while attempting to build infrastructure and community is fraught with difficulty.

To bridge the gap between the government and populations that are at-risk, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often provide both short- and long-term relief. In Afghanistan, the government has partnered with local grassroots organizations to handle reconstruction and redevelopment, as well as reaching some of the world’s most vulnerable groups.

Afghanistan National Solidarity Program

One of Afghanistan’s most successful programs has been the Community Development Council (CDC). Throughout the nation, there have been 35,000 new community councils established under the direction of the Afghanistan National Solidarity Program. In addition, it has funded nearly 90,000 projects within the country.

Not surprisingly, the National Solidarity Program is one of the largest of its kind in the world. The strength of this program is seen in the way that citizens are empowered to make decisions and participate in their own governance.

Rather than view the individuals being served as beneficiaries, the NSP considers them participants.

Another strength of the program is the sense of ownership that participants feel. While thousands of schools have been burned down across the nation, only one school located where a community development program exists was destroyed. According to the NSP, this points to the success of the program and the power of community.

NSP Projects

A sampling of some of the projects undertaken by NSP within Afghanistan are an indicator of the scope of its dealings with the people. Its projects are dual-purposed, designed to give both immediate and long-term assistance in core areas of life.

  1. Road repairs in the Kabul district provide safe, reliable transportation for locals and travelers.
  1. A hydropower station has been built in the district of Kama, providing jobs and a reliable power supply for the villagers. A local villager was so supportive of this project that he donated the land for the hydropower station to be built on.
  1. Disease in the Nangarhar province was the side effect of an inefficient and polluted water supply. An innovative system was developed and implemented to provide clean, safe drinking water.
  1. To combat a pervasive lack of safe drinking water, the Parwan Province built and maintains a water tower, providing water for over 700 families.
  1. The Jafarak Village overcame environmental issues to establish a fish farm, providing both jobs and resources for the surrounding community.
  1. A health clinic that will service 25 villages is being built in the Tontonzar Orati village. Constructed and supported by the residents of this village, it is a much needed source of medical care.
  1. Construction of roads that connect villages not only makes travel safer, but also provides reliable access to other services. Within many regions in Afghanistan, roads are being constructed and maintained using funding from the NSP.
  1. Schools servicing over 1,000 students have been built in local communities. They often run in two shifts to accommodate the number of students, and they are vitally important to encourage the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
  1. Community meeting halls are being built, giving residents a location for meeting and working together to improve the conditions of their districts.

These projects are simply a highlight of the work being done by NSP in Afghanistan. By working with the nation’s residents, it is able to provide training and direction that will sustain the nation in the future.

Not only does this NGO provide education, healthcare and jobs, it also provides a new way of life for many in Afghanistan. It has established a proven method of reaching people who are at-risk and helping them not only survive, but thrive. Much remains to be done, but because of groups such as these, the future is bright.

Behind the Scenes at Afghanaid

Despite the improved conditions within Afghanistan in recent years, decades of turmoil have left the nation in disarray. In an effort to address needs and shortfalls within the nation, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have partnered with local organizations to provide assistance and much-needed services to the residents of Afghanistan.

As a result, the country has seen an improvement in the daily lives of many, but the situation is still far from ideal. Thousands of individuals are classified as “at-risk,” a designation that indicates the extreme levels of poverty that still exist.

The at-risk groups include women, children, widows, and other displaced groups of people who face an uncertain future. Fortunately, NGOs such as Afghanaid are working to provide hope and help.

The History of Afghanaid

afghanaidlogoAfghanaid began in 1983 as an outreach of the Afghanistan Support Committee work in London. After two years of working closely with Afghans, the charity became its own entity and went to work in earnest. Since its inception, it has worked in nearly every province within the country and provided services to over 1 million Afghans.

Crisis Response

The earliest years of Afghanaid’s existence were spent addressing war-relief efforts. As war escalated in the early 1990s, Afghanaid was on hand to offer support and assistance to survivors in the aftermath of conflict.

The loss of food production sites and a breakdown in distribution lines created a food shortage that left thousands hungry. Volunteers from Afghanaid entered the country, finding families and providing food for over 70,000 people during the famine.

In addition, the country’s damaged infrasture, ambulance and other rescue personnel had a difficult time navigating the streets to bring medical relief to injured and sick persons. Afghanaid worked to raise funds for supplies and other medical necessities that helped decrease the number of casualties. In a few short years, however, Afghanid transitioned from war relief to helping people rebuild their lives.

Vocational Training

Establishing vocational training programs, such as the tailoring project, provided sustainable work and training for displaced farmers who needed ways to provide for their families. As part of the tailoring project, participants were provided with training and equipment to establish businesses that made school uniforms for children.

Other vocational efforts included beekeeping, kitchen gardens, and more. Through training and mentorship, participants in the program learn business skills, develop group lending policies, and offer financial support to others in the program. Self-sustaining programs such as these are essential to the rebuilding of Afghanistan and allow individuals within the community to develop viable business skills.

Afghanaid Today

More than 20 years after its work began, Afghanaid is still a powerful source of support and resources to the people of Afghanistan. The programs that were initiated during the war have been expanded to encompass additional areas of concern and concentrate financial efforts in the areas most in need of help.

The organization identifies vulnerable households in need of financial assistance and support and provides them with a voice in their own development. In this way, it is giving Afghans inspiration to work towards a brighter future, and encouraging others to participate in the rebuilding process and work towards a brighter future.

It concentrates its aid programs on four primary areas of concern:

  1. Basic support
  2. Improving job security
  3. Emergency response
  4. Disaster relief

The organization’s goal is a peaceful, thriving Afghanistan, and it is working to ensure that all Afghans are able to enjoy the benefits that result from peace. To support that mission, it has an overreaching theme of gender rights and governance that are underscored in every aspect of aid it offers.

Governance

By supporting local governance, Afghanaid encourages all citizens of Afghanistan to get involved in local institutions and politics. It has introduced community-based concepts such as community monitoring, social audits, and assemblies.

These efforts help to develop links between the local community and district authorities. In addition, by strengthening individuals, family units become stronger, which in turn helps to build communities.

Strong communities lead to improved relationships with other communities, and the entire nation benefits. When seen as part of a larger whole, every individual who receives assistance from Afghanaid has a role to play – both today and in the future.

Groups like Afghanaid are essential to the future of Afghanistan. With its 30-year track record in the country, it has established itself as a reliable means of support and assistance, and is a trusted component of the rebuilding taking place in the nation.

How PRB Helps to Revive Afghan Communities

PRBlogoIn July 1990, a little over a year after the end of the Soviet-Afghan War, engineer Mohammad Kabir and a group of Afghan technical professionals formed Partners in Revitalization and Building (PRB). An independent, non-governmental development organization, PRB is dedicated to assisting the people of Afghanistan in reestablishing a peaceful and secure, socially integrated, and economically stable society. PRB strives to empower all Afghans and to achieve sustainable improvements in the welfare and livelihoods of residents in both rural and urban communities. Utilizing a participatory model, PRB emphasizes cooperation among people from diverse backgrounds and active involvement of beneficiaries in the design and implementation of all of its development projects.

The PRB team comprises nearly 180 personnel, including several technical staff members with a high degree of academic training and experience in their respective fields. Over the years, PRB has carried out more than 210 projects across 14 provinces in the central, northern, northeastern, and southern regions of Afghanistan. The activities cover a broad range of areas, such as engineering and construction, vocational training, animal health and livestock production, agriculture, and emergency aid.

With the aim of supporting lasting change and building self-sufficient communities, PRB follows a long-term strategy based on the development of village based organizations (VBOs). The VBOs in each locality coordinate a comprehensive development program that accounts for all of the community’s needs, ranging from education and health services to water supply and irrigation infrastructure. Thus far, PRB has set up 13 VBOs in the Chardhi, Charasib, and Paghman districts of Kabul Province.

Building and Restoring Public Infrastructure

Since its inception, PRB has facilitated a wide variety of construction projects in rural and urban settings, and its engineering team executes donor-funded projects authorized by the Ministry of Economy. PRB has helped to restore roads and build bridges that open important transportation routes from villages to district centers and from districts to provincial capitals in Khost, Badakhshan, Kunduz, Paktia, and a number of other provinces. In order to secure facilities for vital public services, its engineers have also participated in the construction or rehabilitation of hospitals and health centers, schools, emergency shelters, and government offices.

The availability of safe drinking water remains limited throughout much of Afghanistan, leading to a high prevalence of waterborne disease among the population. In response, PRB has undertaken the construction of wells and water supply systems, as well as the repair of conduits to draw water from natural springs. As part of a broader effort to boost agricultural output throughout Afghanistan, PRB has assisted farmers by restoring and upgrading flood protection walls and various irrigation infrastructure, such as aqueducts, flumes, and diversion channels.

Boosting Agriculture and Preserving Forests

pine treesThe core of PRB’s actions to enhance agricultural yields lies in field testing and the distribution of higher-quality varieties of grain and vegetable seeds. Along with developing improved seeds on its own farms, PRB acquires seeds produced by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Throughout the years, PRB has supplied hundreds of Afghan farmers with vegetable, wheat, rice, and maize seeds that are better suited for cultivation in their environs than the varieties that they previously planted. PRB further reinforces farmers’ capabilities to successfully grow their crops by organizing training in areas such as seed handling and water conservation.

For orchard owners and arborists, PRB maintains demonstration nurseries where they can learn good practices in fruit growing, tree planting and handling, and nursery management. PRB also leverages its nurseries to provide farmers with a wide variety of fruit tree saplings at a more affordable price than those available on the commercial market. From its forestry nursery, PRB distributes tree saplings at no cost to government agencies and private organizations in order to promote their participation in crucial environmental preservation efforts.

Supporting Farm Animal Health and Production

Complementing its agricultural activities, PRB supports the health and productivity of farm animals through veterinary and livestock management programs. Since 2001, PRB has operated veterinary field units (VFUs) in the provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar. The veterinary doctors and other trained animal health professionals at each VFU perform services such as disease treatment, vaccination, and parasitic worm elimination.

sheepRecognizing that livestock production constitutes a principal source of income for rural Afghans, PRB runs multiple extension programs to teach best practices to Afghanistan’s small and large livestock owners who largely lack training in contemporary techniques of animal husbandry. Along with instruction in areas such as feed preparation and proper methods for milking sheep and goats, animal producers receive training in the commercial marketing and distribution of their products.

For over 15 years, PRB has run a program to support apiculture, commonly known as beekeeping. The program delivers training and hive boxes for beekeepers, along with starter bee colonies paid for on credit. A few years after initiating the beekeeping project, PRB began a similar sericulture program to promote silk production in the Charasib and Chardi districts of Kabul Province. Decades of conflict in Afghanistan had resulted in the collapse of the country’s traditional silk production industry due to the destruction of mulberry trees, the leaves of which comprise the primary food source for silkworms. PRB’s sericulture program maintains a mulberry nursery in Kabul to nourish silkworms and to train individuals to rear the moth larvae and extract the raw silk filaments from their cocoons.

Recovering Traditional Handicrafts

Like silkworm production, various small-scale handicrafts common to particular areas of Afghanistan have experienced a decline from the effects of prolonged armed conflict. PRB has sought to improve livelihoods in the communities where it works by reviving the practice of several of these handicrafts as viable sources of economic activity and income.

For example, the displacement of people from the Turkhaman and Uzbek communities in the northern and western provinces of Afghanistan led to the relocation of traditional carpet weavers to neighboring countries and the loss of this profitable craft. PRB has supported the rejuvenation of carpet weaving through programs in Kabul and Faryab that trained carpet weavers and provided them with looms, raw materials, and other necessary supplies to begin commercial practice of the trade.

Similar vocational training initiatives launched by PRB teach individuals embroidery, leather work, patu weaving, and jewelry making, with each program based in regions of the country where the targeted handicraft has an established history and connection to the community.

Afghanistan Demain Helps Street Children Return to the Classroom

In the underprivileged Kabul neighborhoods of Demazang, Yaka-Beep, and Tchelestoun, the French nongovernmental organization Afghanistain Demain (Afghanistan Tomorrow) operates three centers that deliver education, health services, and emergency aid to children who work on the streets in order to support their families. Afghanistan Demain founder Ehsan Mehrangais—a French Dominican who moved to Kabul in 1968 to perform research and subsequently fled to France during the Soviet-Afghan War—returned to Afghanistan in 2001 and established Afghanistain Demain in response to the great number of children without stable homes that he witnessed in Kabul. Afghanistan Demain initially consisted of multiple Padar (meaning “father” in Dari) houses that provided family-based care for 15 boys between the ages of 7 and 15.

In 2003, Afghanistan Demain launched the first of its day centers and, with the closure of the last Padar house in 2010, shifted its focus to the protection and accelerated education of children in need who have fallen behind in their formal schooling because they have to work. Since its inception, Afghanistan Demain has taught more than 3,000 children to read and write, and has helped approximately 1,700 to re-enter public school.

Afghanistan Demain, which is not affiliated with any particular religion, offers education and support to children who are underserved irrespective of their cultural or ethnic background. At its Kabul centers, the organization employs an all-Afghan staff of directors, teachers, social workers, and security personnel who are assisted by a volunteer administrative team in France.

Preparing Working Children to Re-Enter School

afghan children

Image courtesy Nasim Fekrat | Flickr

Every day, each of Afghanistan Demain’s three centers serves 120 students ranging in age from 8 to 16 years old. Three separate sessions, with 40 students each, are taught between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., leaving children with time for their jobs. Designed to prepare students to pass an entrance exam for re-enrollment in a government-run school, instruction at the centers follows the same textbooks and curricula adopted by the Ministry of Education. Among the subjects offered are Dari and Pashto, religion, arithmetic, science, geography, and history.

The curriculum varies depending on the age of the children upon their arrival at the centers. Teenagers spend the majority of their time studying and completing the equivalent of three grade levels in one year. Younger students generally complete two grade levels per year because they need more time to engage in social development and recreational activities.

The amount of study time required before a child is ready to take a school entrance exam ranges from one to three years, due to the fact that some children are further behind than others in their level of educational attainment. After students matriculate at a public school, a teacher from Afghanistan Demain continues to monitor their progress in order to facilitate a smooth transition to the new learning environment.

Training Students for Economic Independence

In an effort to meet the needs of young adults seeking a viable career, Afghanistan Demain has set up vocational training programs focusing on areas such as cosmetology and office skills at its center in Tchelsetoun. Within the first two years of the cosmetology program, 150 students achieved professional qualifications, including two entrepreneurs who started their own personal aesthetics business in Kabul.

The office worker program enrolls 40 students annually in a one-year course. Through clerical skills training and English language instruction, the program prepares students to pursue job opportunities with employers who operate internationally.

Caring for Children’s Health

With an understanding of the precarious conditions in which street children live, Afghanistan Demain aims to ensure their physical well-being through health and nutritional services. Since the children typically lack reliable access to food, the centers offer a healthy meal each day to prevent malnutrition. The students, who are otherwise unable to afford medical care, receive regular checkups performed by physicians from the Afghan health services organization Ibn Sina. Children with severe conditions requiring further intervention can obtain referrals to the Mother-Child Hospital through the Chain of Hope, an international volunteer network of medical professionals.

Social Support and Community Outreach

Afghanistan Demain’s social workers undertake outreach to bring new students to the centers and watch over their mood and behavior. For students with personal difficulties that may disrupt their education, a social worker will approach family members to discuss a possible resolution to the problem.

Afghanistan Demain also hosts informational “family meetings” every six weeks to promote child safety and healthy development throughout the communities in which it operates. During these sessions, a qualified guest speaker teaches parents and children about issues ranging from land mine awareness to proper waste disposal. Additionally, staff educators aim to reduce the transmission of disease by working with parents to ensure that they reinforce at home those hygienic practices taught to students at the centers.

Providing Families with Food and Clothing

During harsh winters, Afghanistan Demain collaborates with the Embassy of France and the Interministerial Food Aid Committee to distribute emergency aid to families in the Demazang, Yaka-Beep, and Tchelestoun communities surrounding its centers. Staff social workers identify those families who are most urgently in need, and they receive enough food and fuel to last through the winter. The most recent distribution supplied 900 families with rice, beans, flour, sugar, oil, and coal for heating.

Often, the students of Afghanistan Demain lack warm clothing to protect themselves against the bitter cold during the wintertime in Kabul. Thus, the organization also distributes winter clothing when its means permit. Afghanistan Demain disbursed clothing to 360 children in the winter of 2013-2014 that included parkas, sweaters, shoes, scarves, and gloves.

The Bayat Foundation and Starkey Hearing Foundation Mission to the Dominican Republic

Original article can be seen at Afghan-Wireless.com 

Bringing Health, Healing and Hope to the neediest of our fellow Afghans, were the three powerful and heartfelt reasons which inspired my family and I to establish The Bayat Foundation in 2006. Last month, from April 18th to April 20th, The Bayat Foundation, in partnership with with our friends at The Starkey Hearing Foundation (www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org), was privileged to join a three day medical mission which brought Hope, Healing—and the gift of Hearing—to the people of the Dominican Republic.

In Afghanistan, both of our organizations have worked together, side by side, on two hearing care missions which have restored the hearing of 2,479 Afghans. I was determined that our contribution to this newest hearing care mission would demonstrate just how much we appreciated their work in Afghanistan—and our support of Starkey’s commitment to help people in need everywhere. So, my daughter Leah and I joined the group of Bayat Foundation volunteers who assisted the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s team of seasoned, strong and exceptional hearing health specialists.

Our hearing care mission took place in Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros, the two largest cities in the Dominican Republic. Our combined Bayat-Starkey hearing care team worked with unyielding determination to help every person who came to the mobile hearing care stations, seeking a cure for their deafness or hearing loss.

Every patient we worked with represented the beautiful and diverse history of the Dominican Republic, and embodied a range of ages—from one year to 115 (!) years old. Approximately 29% of the people we assisted had suffered hearing loss at birth, while over one-third of our patients didn’t know the reasons for their hearing loss.

Our combined Bayat-Starkey hearing care team was able to provide the gift of hearing to 1,200 people living in Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros. Leah and I felt happy—and humbled—that our efforts had helped so many people hear—many, for the first time in their lives.

Yet, despite the progress we were able to make, everyone involved with the hearing care mission realized that there are millions of people around the world who need the kind of exceptional hearing medical care that the Starkey Hearing Foundation provides—and the Bayat Foundation is honored to support. More than 360 million people throughout the world are affected by deafness or hearing loss. And this sad, staggering and sobering statistic includes thousands of our fellow Afghans.

In late 2016, The Bayat Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation will join together and launch our third annual Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission. Last year, our Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission restored the hearing of 1,544 children and adults living in Kabul, Herat and Balkh Provinces. This year, The Bayat Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, working together, are focused on one goal: we are determined to provide Hearing—and Hope for a better life—to every person who seeks our assistance, here in Afghanistan, and around the world.

Until next time,

Ehsan

Dr. Ehsanollah Bayat

Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Founder and CEO, Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC)Founder and CEO, Ariana Television and Radio (ATN)
Founder, Bayat Foundation