Investing in education
Children are the future of every country. Therefore their education is one of the most sustainable projects that a society can invest into – but only if there are any sources of funding. Conflictfood is investing a share of the sales revenues in educational projects at the countries of origin. Personally, we carefully select these projects and convince ourselves of their standards.
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In Afghanistan we visited a very special project – all together it is a children’s home, orphanage, school and a shelter supporting and encouraging disabled children. On the outskirts of Kabul 113 children found a safe place flooded with light and a place they can call home. It is not without a reason that this house is called ‚Paiwand-e-Noor’ – literally meaning ‘fountain of light’. This house is a peaceful haven far away from the shadows of the war.
Scar(r)ed by war
Build in 2005 the project not only shelters orphans but also children who cannot be sufficiently supported by their own families. The kids are between 6 and 18 years old. Almost half of them do not have any relatives or come from districts far away from Kabul. The other half is living with their families in Kabul who themselves are struggling to support their education. Every morning they are picked up, every night they are brought back by the orphanage’s transport service.
All children who are playing and learning here are traumatised. Growing up in a country that has been struggling with enduring conflicts for the past 38 years, they experienced the dark side of war. War injuries have physically disabled many Afghan children. Some stepped on landmines or were injured by grenades, others have been mutilated by so-called ‘butterfly bombs’ – weapons that are perfidiously disguised as toys or pens to attract children. When the kids play with them, they explode.
Due to their physical limitations many children and youngsters are excluded from society. The aim of the project is to help children, who need protection and support, including them into a family environment and enabling them to pursue a school education and a career so they can finally live a self-determined life.
Education – a path into an independent future
Precisely, the project ‚Paiwand-e-Noor’ encourages the children to attend regular school education and complete their degrees. Afterwards they can decide if they want to pursue a craft training or any higher level of education. Together with a team of voluntary tutors from a private university of Kabul, the supervisors especially support the psychologically and physically challenged kids. Moreover, at the house the boys and girls can learn to carpenter or tailor. They are offered diverse tangible knowledge, which might serve them to earn for a living in their future.
Dreams instead of traumas
In good weather the kids are enjoying the small playground or the grass soccer field close by. A national sports club provides them with the possibility to use all the facilities and play their most favorite sports there. Physical activities help them reduce emotional stress and process the traumatized past. No matter which physical constraints they experienced through the war – here everyone is part of one team.
Moreover, to actively help the children with psychological trauma psychotherapist Karin Struck from Germany is supporting and visiting ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’ on a regular basis. During her stay in Kabul she lives and works together with the kids. Since she is fluent in the local language Dari, she is connecting easily with them. Finally, with her constant work she tries to stabilize their mental state.
Also, the medical doctor Dr. Gulab Gul is in charge of their wellbeing. At war times the doctor himself was a refugee child. That is why he is committed with heart and soul to the project.
Community comes first
Passing on important values like understanding, friendship, tolerance, and gender equality are the educational key concept of ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’. Family and community structures form the base of the living together. Inside of the enlivened common rooms the kids handicraft, crochet and play together. In their dorms they have their small own empires simply put together with a bed and cupboard. Nevertheless, this is more than most of their families could offer them at home.
Still, for many years the housing was in poor condition. The ceilings, floors and windows were broken and the plaster was crumbling off. During winter humidity and coldness caused typical diseases like the flu. The desperately needed renovation works started in 2015. Again, the kids played an active role renovating. They made crucial decisions and were trained by the craftsmen to gain practical knowledge for their future. Finally, the house is now prepared for the highly changing Afghan weather conditions.
The beginning of a success story
By the end of 2014 fourteen youngsters successfully graduated from school. Three immediately started studying at the university and one is already working as a dentist right now. The other eleven graduates found employment too. Every now and then they visit ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’ and it still feels like home.
The project is not just of temporal character. Periodically, the project manager Abdul Saboor has to send reports to the ‘Verein für Afghanistan Förderung Bonn’. Also ambassadors of the German-based association are visiting the project regularly to check the development. Thanks to the financial support of ‘Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung’ the project was flourishing. Several TV-broadcasts introduced ‘Paiwand-e-Noor’ to the Afghan public and right now it is more popular then ever – 200 kids have been put on a waiting list. Unfortunately, the funding period expired in spring 2016. Now the future of the house is uncertain.
The financial donations of Conflictfood’s saffron sales could fill that gap. Apart from paying the staff and costs of maintenance, we also invest in IT-equipment for the project.
Kids are our future and many people in Afghanistan are struggling to invest into their education. Therefore projects like Paiwand-e-Noor are worth a mint. Exactly that is why Conflictfood is offering financial support to this children’s home – so that the fountain of light continues to sparkle.
Spending three whole days with the kids and supervisors was a personal enrichment for us! Together we played soccer, we observed them doing incredible artworks and received two handmade beautiful scarves as a gift. We are totally looking forward to our next visit!