3 Charities Making a Difference in the Lives of Afghan Children

In a 2015 article about a movie she shot in Afghanistan, director Pietra Brettkelly described the Afghan people as “resilient and welcoming.” The New Zealand-born documentary filmmaker added that they “cherish their culture and history.” Over the course of millennia, the people of Afghanistan have, despite hardships, developed their own distinctive customs in areas such as the visual arts, music, and food—cultural traditions that they continue to pass on to younger generations.

Today, these young generations of Afghans are in need of social support from nonprofit groups in order to lead healthier and happier lives. The following three charitable organizations are among the most notable groups that are making a significant difference in the lives of Afghan children through various forms of educational support.

 

  1. Help Afghan School Children Organization

HASCOlogoEducation plays a crucial role in reducing poverty and the improving the health of children worldwide, many experts believe. Research has even suggested that 170 million fewer people today would be living in poverty if every child on Earth had the ability to read.

Based out of Vienna, Austria, the Help Afghan School Children Organization (HASCO) has made the education of Afghan children its primary goal. The group’s main service project focuses on providing school supplies to students in need. The education kits contain basic school supplies to support learning, including pens and pencils, notebooks and paper, rulers, erasers, calculators, and geometry sets. The organization also facilitates an educational sponsorship program for children in need who have lost their parents. Donations to HASCO can be send via mail.

 

  1. Aschiana Foundation

aschiana logoLike HASCO, the Aschiana Foundation concentrates on helping Afghan children in need to gain access to a quality formal education. The Aschiana Foundation’s approach to this important social movement, however, is quite different.

Created by Americans who lived and worked in Afghanistan and who witnessed the plight of many of the country’s children firsthand, the Aschiana Foundation takes a multi-pronged approach to addressing educational needs. While it operates independent programs in the cities of Gardez and Mazar-i-Sharif—as well as in internally displaced person (IDP) camps for children experiencing homelessness throughout the nation—the group’s primary work takes place in the capital city of Kabul, where the Aschiana Foundation built and operates a children’s center. The center features 24 classrooms, a library, music rooms, a kitchen, an outdoor activity space, clean bathrooms, and even a health clinic.

At the center, employees provide two types of education classes. The first is a basic education class which aims to help children catch up to their peers who have received formal schooling, along with computer lessons to prepare them for the modern world. Potentially more impactful, however, are the trade classes that the Aschiana Foundation offers, including lessons in professional sectors relevant to the Afghan economy. They include tailoring, carpentry, and masonry. In many cases, children in Afghanistan between the ages of 5 and 16 years old must work at least part time every day in order to help their families. The Aschiana Foundation aims to help them develop useful job skills that may support them in their quest to do so.

Lastly, at every operations site operated by the Aschiana Foundation, children are able to access basic hygienic materials, hot meals, and, in the case of the IDP camps, even clothing donations. The nonprofit outlines the five most effective ways for donors to support their work on the “How to Help” page of their website, Aschiana-foundation.org.

 

  1. Afghan Connection

afghan connection logoAfghan Connection focuses on the academic education of children in Afghanistan. The group also provides a unique and important learning experience to the country’s youth. Through a collaboration between Afghan Connection and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the charity helps teach children across the country to play cricket while also providing them with the training, facilities, and equipment necessary to compete.

To this day, the nonprofit has built 100 cricket pitches at schools throughout the country, which have allowed more than 100,000 children to participate in the sport. These schools have also received sporting attire and cricket kits appropriate for hosting games, and the organization has trained 180 teachers at the schools to become youth coaches. Altogether, 4,500 students to date have participated in 9 regional tournaments since the inception of Afghan Connection.

In 2002, Dr. Sarah Fane established Afghan Connection after serving as a physician in the country. While the organization originally focused on providing medical equipment and training for vaccination programs, it has increasingly emphasized education to facilitate progress in the country. The organization has supported the education of over 75,000 children through the construction of 46 schools.

Spotlight on Turquoise Mountain – 5 Important Achievements

Turqoise MountainIn 2006, the nonprofit organization Turquoise Mountain was founded in Afghanistan with the mission of preserving and regenerating important historical and cultural areas, as well as reviving and revitalizing the practice of traditional arts and crafts. Today, just over a decade later, the organization has made remarkable progress on its mission, transforming the lives of thousands of Afghans in the process. The following are some of Turquoise Mountain’s most important achievements to date.

 

  1. Restoration of Kabul’s Old City

The stunning transformation of Kabul’s Old City, also known as Murad Khani, is perhaps Turquoise Mountain’s most impressive achievement so far. The historic district in central Kabul was once the heart of a vibrant community. However, as a result of years of unrest, it had fallen into significant disrepair. By the time Turquoise Mountain began its rehabilitation project, much of the area lay buried under many feet of accumulated garbage, and the entire district was ranked as one of the world’s most endangered sites on the World Monuments Fund Watch List.

Turquoise Mountain has slowly and painstakingly set to work to rehabilitate Murad Khani. Workers cleared mountains of garbage, lowering the street level by up to 2 meters and uncovering beautiful, though derelict, homes and buildings. Artisans then carefully restored 150 of these structures to their original glory using traditional skills and techniques like mud-plastering and architectural woodwork. Today, Murad Khani is once again home to a thriving community of residents, as well as to the Turquoise Mountain Institute, an artisanal and vocational training facility for traditional Afghan arts and crafts. In 2013, the restoration of Murad Khani was awarded the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award of Distinction.

 

  1. Implementation of Community Development Projects

The Turquoise Mountain Institute is only one of a number of community facilities and development projects that call Murad Khani their home. In order to better serve and meet the needs of local residents, Turquoise Mountain also constructed a new medical clinic and primary school in the rehabilitated old city. Located on the banks of the Kabul river, the Feroz Koh Family Health Center was established in 2011 to provide high-quality family medicine to some of the city’s most vulnerable populations. Services offered at the center include pediatric and maternal services, radiology, psycho-social counseling, dentistry, and minor surgery. The staff estimates that the center serves more than 20,000 patients every year from cities as far away as Nuristan and Kandahar. The Murad Khani Primary School, which was established in 2012, serves more than 100 students. Subjects that are covered include English, Dari, mathematics, and peace education. Students also learn some traditional arts and crafts such as calligraphy and miniature painting. In order to accommodate even more young students, a new primary school with improved amenities is scheduled to open in 2019.

 

 

  1. International Exhibitions

Turquoise Mountain has sought to not only boost domestic interest in a revitalized Afghan arts and crafts sector, but to raise the profile of these traditional arts on the world stage. With this goal in mind, the organization has successfully arranged and executed a number of high-profile international exhibitions of Turquoise Mountain artisans. From March 2016 to October 2017, for example, the Freer and Sackler Galleries at the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, hosted an exhibition titled “Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan.” Featuring the work of some of Turquoise Mountain’s most dedicated craftsmen, the exhibition gave hundreds of thousands of visitors a new perspective on Afghanistan and its traditions. In addition, during the summer of 2018, the work of Turquoise Mountain artisans was displayed in the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace in London in honor of the 70th birthday of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (HRH is one of the founders of Turquoise Mountain).

 

  1. Prestigious Commissions and Partnerships

For Turquoise Mountain, reviving traditional arts and crafts means enabling artisans to earn a living from their work. To this end, Turquoise Mountain aims to help its craftsmen secure prestigious commissions and partnerships that can bring their work to a wider international market. For example, the first major international commission received by Turquoise Mountain was for the celebrated Connaught Hotel in London’s exclusive Mayfair neighborhood. For this project, Nasser Mansoori, one of the finest woodcarvers in Afghanistan and a master at the Turquoise Mountain Institute, worked with London designer Guy Oliver to create beautifully detailed wood panels and carvings for one of the hotel’s principal suites.

 

  1. Expansion into Other Countries

Turquoise Mountain’s work in Afghanistan has been so successful that the organization has recently expanded the scope of its activities into other countries. As of late 2014, for example, Turquoise Mountain has been working in Myanmar to preserve and restore key historic buildings in downtown Yangon in partnership with the Yangon Heritage Trust. During the first restoration project (of a building at 491-501 Merchant Street), the organization undertook a comprehensive program of vocational training in traditional construction techniques, such as decorative lime plasterwork, alongside the renovation work.

This Foundation Helps Promising Students in Need

Improving access to quality education is a top priority for many international charitable organizations working in Afghanistan, and Bamyan Foundation is no exception. Dedicated to promoting and providing assistance to Afghan populations that are high-need or at-risk, Bamyan Foundation believes that supporting education is one of the best ways to bring about sustainable and equitable social development and stability in Afghanistan. Read on to learn more about Bamyan Foundation, its educational initiatives, and its local partners on the ground in Afghanistan.

 

What is Bamyan Foundation?

bamyanfoundationBased in Washington, DC, Bamyan Foundation is a registered nonpartisan charity that works to support social and economic development in Afghanistan. In particular, it focuses on community organizations that are meeting a critical, locally identified need in Afghanistan with limited external aid. The foundation believes that providing targeted assistance at the grassroots level is one of the best ways to make a significant, long-term impact on social and economic mobility in Afghanistan.

Bamyan Foundation is managed by an international team of skilled and dedicated professionals who are committed to volunteerism and service. This allows the foundation to maintain extremely low overhead costs (in 2016, overhead was about 5 percent) so that dollars raised can go directly to Afghans who are most in need.

 

What kinds of programs does Bamyan Foundation operate?

Bamyan Foundation’s most important initiative is the scholarship program it operates in partnership with a number of Afghan schools. This initiative supports promising students by covering annual school tuition fees and providing stipends for related expenses like books, transportation, supplies, and uniforms. The scholarship program was launched in 2016, and, to date, has provided scholarships to 150 students.

Every year at the close of its annual fundraising campaign, Bamyan Foundation allocates funds based on total incoming donations to each partner school; the foundation and the school then agree on how many students to support and which type of scholarship each student will receive. While there are always more deserving students than funds available, the scholarship program is highly scalable so that more students receive support should the foundation exceed its fundraising goals. Partner schools also agree to keep the foundation appraised of the students’ progress through mid-year and end-of-year reports.

In addition to the scholarship program, Bamyan Foundation recently worked with the Haider Abad School in Bamyan to construct and fund a new library. The project was supported by an anonymous donor who had previously led a number of other educational and humanitarian initiatives in Afghanistan.

Construction on the library was completed in late 2017, while books, computers, and other equipment were purchased in early 2018. Open since April 2018, the library is staffed by one professional librarian and two assistant librarians chosen from the school’s student body.

 

Who are Bamyan Foundation’s partners?

Bamyan Foundation’s partner schools are located in some of Afghanistan’s most marginalized Hazara communities (the Hazaras are an ethnic minority group from Afghanistan’s central highlands region who speak a variant of Dari). These schools include the following:

Baba High School (Bamyan)— A rapidly growing institution, Baba High School has more than 300 students and covers kindergarten through 10th grade, with plans to expand up to 12th grade by 2019. The comprehensive curriculum includes math, science, history, as well as Dari, Pashtu, and English literature. To help increase their chances of success in today’s economy, students begin learning English and computer skills in the first grade. After graduating, many Baba School students apply to nearby Bamyan University. Interestingly, in Dari, baba means “grandfather” or “respected elder.”

Rahnaward-e-Noor High School (Ghor)—Rahnaward-e-Noor High School is located in one of the most remote regions of Ghor Province, and is breathing new life into a long-neglected community. When the school was established in 2011, there were only 32 students; today, there are 350 students from grades one to 11, and a 12th-grade graduating class will be established by 2019. As at Baba High School, students begin learning English in the first grade; they also have classes in subjects like public speaking, writing, and music, and enjoy special workshops on democracy, tolerance, and human rights.

Khedmat Learning Institute (Kabul)—Founded by respected Afghan political economy scholar Dr. Timor Sharan, this unique educational institution recruits at-risk youth from the most disadvantaged provinces in Afghanistan and trains them to become future leaders. Students at Khedmat take intensive courses in science, English, computer skills, and literature, as well as leadership skills training. Prominent public leaders are frequently invited to the institute to give motivational speeches and share their knowledge and experiences with the students. At the end of the program, students are expected to return to their home communities and become leaders of and advocates for change.