Everything You Need to Know About Kids 4 Afghan Kids

Improving the education sector and expanding opportunities for young children in Afghanistan is the primary concern of numerous nonprofit organizations around the world. These include the Bayat Foundation, Sahar Education, Afghan Institute of Learning, Creating Hope International, and Development and Relief of Medical for Afghan Nation.

One organization working to address educational needs in the country is Kids 4 Afghan Kids. Based in the United States, the nonprofit is supported by American students, among other charitable partners, and also works to enhance cultural understanding between students in the two countries.

It was created by an American teacher and her sixth-grade class.

Kids 4 Afghan Kids was founded in 1998 by a group of Grade 6 students in Northville, Michigan. Along with the support of their teacher Khris Nedham, they wanted to provide humanitarian assistance to kids in Afghanistan who lacked the resources they had.

Targeting the Wonkhai Valley, a rural mountainous region southwest of Kabul, students raised $100,000 in three years to support the construction of a six-room school, medical clinic, guest house, bakery, and a community well. The school opened with six teachers and 465 students from Grade 1 to 6 and now has nearly 1,200 students and 16 teachers.

Students at the Northville school continue to raise money for the development of schools and other resources in the Wonkhai Valley. They achieve this via bake sales, silent auctions, and selling bracelets and Afghan products at craft fairs and other events like the Alternate Christmas Fair and Northville Victorian Festival.

Kids 4 Afghan Kids was recently added to Global Giving’s list of permanent organizations. Nedham, who still serves as its US director, earned a Citizen Diplomacy award in 2007 and addressed the Sarasota World Affairs Council in 2014.

It has helped build four schools in Afghanistan.

Since the completion of its first school in March 2001, Kids 4 Afghan Kids has raised money to support the build of an additional three schools. The first school had six classrooms. Kids 4 Afghan Kids has since built high schools. Its next goal is to build a community college for graduating students; 165 students graduated from its schools in 2014 alone.

It has supported clinic and orphanage construction.

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During the construction of the first school in Afghanistan, Kids 4 Afghan Kids thought a lot about health care and the importance of maintaining a healthy student body. They wanted all students to be able to make the most of this new educational opportunity. The nonprofit raised money to construct a clinic across the street from the school with the purpose of providing maternity care and vaccinations for polio and MMR.

Staffed by a physician, nurse, pharmacist, nurse-midwife, and registration clerk, the clinic saw more than 200 patients per day upon opening and vaccinated roughly 98 percent of children in Wonkhai Valley. Students at the Northville school have also regularly donated eyeglasses to be used by Afghan students.

In 2002, Kids 4 Afghan Kids took notice of a significant need for an orphanage in the area. At the time, more than 30 boys were living at the school. These boys, with the help of adults in the village, dug out space for the basement of an orphanage.

During this time, students at the Northville school agreed to raise money to support the construction of the building. The orphanage now provides shelter to approximately 50 boys.

It works with a variety of partner organizations.

Since Kids 4 Afghan Kids was launched in 1998, its fund-raising avenues have expanded to include Global Giving and AmazonSmile. AmazonSmile donates 0.5 percent of the purchase price on eligible products to the nonprofit of the user’s choice.

It is considered one of the most reliable humanitarian organizations.

Following the construction of its first school, Kids 4 Afghan Kids earned recognition as one of the Center for International Disaster Information’s most reliable humanitarian organizations. Education is a valuable and in-demand resource among children in remote regions in Afghanistan. As a result, constructing schools is significantly less problematic than other charitable acts.

“For 15 years I have been answering inquiries from schools regarding how they can best respond to international emergencies,” noted CIDI Director Suzanne H. Brooks. “There have been canned food drives, used clothing or toy collections and other activities which, while they are well intended, are often problematic for the relief agencies in terms of transportation, warehousing and distribution and inappropriate or potentially harmful for disaster victims in terms of cultural, religious, and dietary needs.”

Spotlight on Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization

As Afghanistan works to rebuild after decades of unrest, it will have many challenges to face in the future. Fortunately, the country has access to an invaluable resource that will help it meet those challenges head on: its youth.

In Afghanistan, people under the age of 25 comprise nearly two-thirds of the country’s total population, according to the United Nations Population Fund. And despite—or perhaps because of—the difficult circumstances into which they were born, these youth are proving to be some of the most resilient, resourceful, and determined people on the planet.

As an example of what Afghanistan’s youth can and do achieve when they decide to take their future into their own hands, we should look no further than Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization. One of many Afghan organizations launched and led by young people, this Kabul-based NGO has grown from a movement of young activists in a single province to a country-wide network of passionate young change agents. Read on to learn more about the organization and how it is working to make the world a better place for all Afghans.

What is Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization, and how does it work?

Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization

Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization (ANGO) is a grassroots network that works across Afghanistan to encourage and inspire young people to take an active role in building a better future for themselves and their country. Through long-lasting programs and initiatives that are specifically tailored to youth, ANGO strives to mobilize and empower young people, encourage tolerance and acceptance, and create an engaged and hopeful young generation that is prepared to lead Afghanistan toward a peaceful and prosperous future.

What are ANGO’s beliefs?

A set of core beliefs and principles underlie all of ANGO’s work and activities. They include the following:

Nurturing hope—One perpetual consequence of unrest is a sense of hopelessness among individuals and communities. A desire to revive this lost hope is at the heart of ANGO’s work.

Empowerment—Empowering Afghanistan’s young people is a critical step in creating a future that will inspire pride among all Afghans.

Inclusiveness—A just society is one that listens to and brings together all of its people from all circumstances and walks of life.

Critical awareness—Information and resources are essential tools for analyzing and resolving issues in a peaceful way.

Accountability—ANGO holds itself accountable to its partners and beneficiaries, striving to ensure that projects are carried out to the highest professional standards.

What are the focus areas of ANGO?

ANGO’s activities and programs fall into four key focus areas, each of which is an important reflection of the organization’s beliefs as described above. These focus areas include the following:

Civic engagement and advocacy—ANGO’s civic engagement and advocacy unit works to engage both youth and adults in civic and volunteer programs and events. Engagement in public discourse is a key element of this focus area. By speaking with and to others about the issues that matter to them, young people will learn how to take ownership of them and effect change in a more impactful way.

Citizen journalism—There are many untold stories in Afghanistan, and ANGO is tapping into the power of citizen journalism to shine a light on those hidden tales. ANGO seeks to provide Afghan youth with the media and communications tools and skills that they need to express themselves, share their views and grievances, and make important contributions to public discourse around future development and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Social inclusion—Afghanistan is home to many different groups of people. ANGO’s social inclusion initiatives help people of diverse backgrounds come together, find common ground, and develop a foundation for long-lasting tolerance and peace.

Capacity building—Many Afghan youth have a desire and drive to change things, but need help when it comes to developing the skills and knowledge required for the work. ANGO’s capacity-building activities help to address this gap, providing training in key areas such as leadership, media literacy, civil rights and responsibilities, and the use of information technology.

What kinds of projects does ANGO undertake?

Some examples of specific projects that ANGO undertakes include:

Society of Youth—ANGO maintains Afghanistan’s largest network of volunteers and young leaders, more than 170 people strong. These volunteers take on a wide range of civic engagement projects that include clothing drives, emergency aid support, and tree planting.

Afghan Voices—Established in 2010, Afghan Voices offers key media skills training to the country’s young people. Alumni from the Afghan Voices program have produced media work for organizations such as Global Fund and National Geographic, and have received national and international awards for media, such as documentary films.

60 Second Film Festival—Centered on the theme of peaceful coexistence, the 60 Second Film Festival offers an important platform through which aspiring filmmakers and engaged audiences can come together to share ideas and spark dialogue.

A Look at the Future of the Bamiyan World Heritage Site

As one of Afghanistan’s two official World Heritage Sites, the Bamiyan Valley contains cultural and archaeological remains which make it a treasure to be safeguarded. Unfortunately, the site’s most famous cultural asset—the two colossal Buddha sculptures carved into the cliffs of the valley—was destroyed in 2001.

However, many efforts have been made since that time to preserve other aspects of the site. Today, an extensive rehabilitation plan, which includes the creation of a brand new cultural center, is currently in development.

The Site Remains Vulnerable

Despite these positive steps forward, the Bamiyan Valley remains vulnerable to threats such as environmental damage and security risks. This has resulted in its inclusion on a number of “at risk” lists, notably the list of World Heritage in Danger and the World Monuments Fund’s Watch List. Before the site can be removed from these lists, there is still a great deal of work to be done.

This question of what to do to ensure a safe and protected future for the Bamiyan Valley was the central focus of a recent three-day technical meeting. The event was organized jointly by UNESCO, the government of Afghanistan, and several other international partners. It was financially supported by the government of Japan.

Image by Johannes Zielcke | Flickr

International Efforts to Reinvigorate the Site

Held in December 2018, the meeting brought national and international experts together in Salah, Oman. The result was three productive days of dialogue and strategizing about the future of the Bamiyan World Heritage site.

Meeting participants also went on field visits to several Omani heritage properties, including the Land of Frankincense World Heritage site and the Al Baleed and Khor Rohri museums and interpretation centers. The purpose of these visits was to draw inspiration from these models and explore the elements of their management and operation plans that could be applicable to Bamiyan.

At the meeting, specific topics of discussion included:

The Current Status of the Bamiyan World Heritage Property

To improve communication and access to information, the meeting proposed that all of the technical information about the Bamiyan site (produced by UNESCO and other agencies and experts) be centralized into a single system. This could then be shared by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Information and Culture in order to facilitate better coordination among different stakeholders.

Such a system would make coordination around particular issues, such as illegal construction and land acquisition within the World Heritage property zone, much easier to implement. The meeting also recommended the establishment of a management plan and a relevant governance system for Bamiyan. Finally, conducting an inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage that could then be integrated into national and local government databases was recommended.

Sustainable Development of the Bamiyan Valley

Much of the discussion on this topic focused on a few particular elements of a previously-created Bamiyan Strategic Master Plan, notably the traffic plan component and a bypass road. These developments are an important part of improving access to the site and increasing the quality of life for the local community.

In order to ensure that development will not interfere with future preservation and rehabilitation efforts, the meeting recommended that further technical, geological, and economic feasibility studies be undertaken. The meeting also stressed that future development plans in Bamiyan should be based on accurate GIS-based cultural mapping information, rather than on previous maps which are now outdated, but still occasionally in use.

Potential Rehabilitation of the Eastern Buddha Statue

At an earlier UNESCO meeting (held in Tokyo in September 2017), four technical proposals for the rehabilitation of one of the destroyed Buddha statues were presented. At the Oman meeting, participants supported the authorities’ decision to further investigate the suitability of these proposals. In the meantime, emphasis was placed on the importance of properly preserving the existing fragments of the Buddha.

Image by Regional Command East | Flickr

Opportunities and Challenges of Bamiyan Site Management

The meeting first recognized the recent efforts made by the government of Afghanistan to revise its 2004 National Law for the Protection of Cultural and Historical Properties to incorporate best practices based on international cultural conventions. The recommendation was made to accelerate the adoption of this revised law as well as to implement further regulations and guidelines as necessary to support the protection and promotion of Bamiyan.

There was also further discussion about how best to secure the proper financial and human resources to manage the site, and to implement proposed initiatives such as a museum and an archaeological park. Meeting participants encouraged the Afghan government to promote further outreach activities for an enhanced interpretation of the World Heritage site.

Donor Initiatives in Bamiyan

The Bamiyan World Heritage site, and its related preservation efforts and development activities, has received strong financial support from a wide variety of international donors. The meeting recognized and acknowledged the generosity of these donors.

The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation was a supporter of the project “Preservation and Promotion of the Bamiyan Valley through Culture-Oriented Sustainable Development.” The government of Japan was also recognized.

Featured Image by Johannes Zielcke | Flickr