Conservation Is the Top Priority for These 3 Organizations

When you look at the mission statements of most of the NGOs currently working in Afghanistan, the objectives tend to be what you would expect from organizations focused on helping a country rebuild after decades of conflict—achieving political and economic stability, increasing access to quality education, and improving health care. However, a small but passionate collection of organizations are dedicating themselves to what might seem, under the circumstances, like a surprising priority: environmental conservation.

WCSlogoOr is it so surprising? In an article from 2011, members of the Wildlife Conservation Society countered the perception that conservation work in conflict zones is just a distraction from more urgent issues by offering an insightful examination of the ways in which contemporary conservation projects can make an important contribution to the mission of stabilization. The article points out that in the 21st century, environmental conservation has evolved into an interdisciplinary, multitasking enterprise. No longer carried out in isolation, efforts to preserve species and wild areas are increasingly being conducted hand-in-hand with economic advancement opportunities for the people who live near and among these wild creatures and places. As a result, conservation work is proving to be an important tool for helping developing nations build civil societies and sustainable economic opportunities.

While the Wildlife Conservation Society is perhaps the largest and best-known entity dedicated to environmental work in Afghanistan, there are a number of other local and international organizations engaging in conservation projects on a smaller but no less committed scale. These organizations include the following three:

 

  1. The Center for Middle Eastern Plants

Established in 2009 under the umbrella of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the Center for Middle Eastern Plants (CMEP) is one of the world’s leading authorities on the Middle Eastern environment. With a mission to help local partners tackle complex environmental issues, CMEP creates and implements projects across the Middle East that are designed to leave pragmatic, environmentally sustainable legacies. CMEP’s services include planning, surveying, landscaping, capacity development, and conservation efforts.

CMEP has been working in Afghanistan ever since the organization started. Over the last decade, the government of Afghanistan has made a commitment to environmental conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity, as evidenced by the country’s recent signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other similar actions. In recent years, CMEP has been an important partner for Afghanistan, helping the country to build capacity and knowledge to better honor its commitments under the CBD. Working with a range of local partners, CMEP has helped to develop an ex situ conservation strategy for the Kabul University Botanic Garden, created and implemented a biodiversity research skills training program at Kabul University, and provided training and support for IUCN Red Listing (the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of at-risk plant and animal species). CMEP also runs online botany courses to help Afghans, as well as citizens of other Middle Eastern countries, to learn more about native plant species.

 

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  1. Rural Green Environment Organization

Founded in 2002, the Rural Green Environment Organization (RGEO) has helped to dramatically transform the environmental narrative in the northeastern province of Badakhshan. In the early 1990s, the province’s natural resources were all but depleted following the decade-long Soviet occupation—a serious problem given that 80 percent of Afghans depend on natural resource-based activities like farming, herding, and small-scale mining for their livelihoods. Faced with this challenging situation, Haji Awrang, the then-governor of Badakhshan’s Tagab district, developed a recovery plan that, in a forward-thinking way, took both social and ecological needs into account.

Today, Awrang’s legacy is upheld by RGEO, which continues to engage local communities in projects and initiatives that benefit the environment and the economy. With the support of Badakhshan residents, RGEO has banned illegal fishing and hunting; built a thriving system of tree nurseries, forest guard patrols, and reforesting projects; protected 2 kilometers of river; built 5 kilometers of irrigation canals and 120,000 meters of farm terracing; created more than 6,150 jobs and work-for-food programs; and incorporated environmental education into programs at local schools and mosques. In 2015 RGEO was awarded the prestigious Equator Prize by the United Nations Development Program in recognition of its outstanding environmental stewardship.

 

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  1. The Heinrich Böll Foundation

An environmental think tank and policy institute based in Germany, the Heinrich Böll Foundation works with 160 project partners in more than 60 countries worldwide to develop and implement green visions, projects, and policy reform. The foundation has worked in Afghanistan since 2012 to address the urgent issue of resource depletion.

Afghanistan is a country rich in natural resources, but due to decades of conflict and political instability, the use of these resources has seldom been effectively managed. As a result, local communities and the environment have suffered. The Heinrich Böll Foundation is working to improve transparency in resource depletion through an environmental and natural resource monitoring network, which aims to ensure that resource development projects comply with international standards of environmental and social sustainability. Today, the network has more than 50 members and is an important contact for government officials.

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 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.