From Katrina to Madina- Rose Vines


When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it took from me many things. It took my home and my entire neighborhood. It took one of my elderly neighbors, who had no time to flee as the surging waters of the shattered 17th Street canal flooded his home. It took my family and scattered them across the country.

Katrina took from me, but it also gave to me, and one of the most important things I gained was a much stronger sense of empathy, of kinship, with those who experience disasters in their own lives. And that empathy led me to Madina.

Madina lives in an orphanage in Afghanistan. She was born two weeks after 9/11 in Farah, a very conservative province where the Taliban presence was strong. There was no school for girls in the region. Madina’s dad had kidney disease and her mum suffered from epilepsy, and at an early age Madina had become the housekeeper of the family. But she was passionate about learning and threatened her parents that she would run away if they didn’t let her go to school

So, at the tender age of seven, Madina and her little brother were taken in by AFCECO, the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization, in Kabul. AFCECO is something special in Afghanistan: an orphanage that provides equal education for boys and girls, from early childhood on through university.

After Katrina, I had an urgent desire to help those who were suffering. Afghanistan was much in the news, a disaster sprawling across decades. I dug around online and found AFCECO. And there, looking out at me from the AFCECO sponsorship page, was Madina, clutching a toy duck in one hand and toy koala in the other, with a huge grin crinkling her face. As an ex-pat Aussie, the koala caught my eye, but it was that grin that made me sign up to be her sponsor.

Over the years, I sponsored other children at the AFCECO orphanages and, when my mother died and left me some money, I donated a music room to the orphanage. They named it the Lorraine Music Room, after my mother, and Madina was one of the children who spent hours there learning and practicing. Her chosen instrument was the oboe, an instrument I played when I was young.

It might seem strange to say I’m thankful for Katrina, but I am, because it led me to Madina. She is a constant example of resilience, persistence and triumph in the face of adversity.

I wrote this in support of AFCECO

Note: This story was written by Rose Vines, in support of AFCECO for #MyGivingStory contest in 2017.

Building the Future in Afghanistan by Beth Deaton


As I sit in my living room the week before #GivingTuesday, a few short days before Thanksgiving, I realize I have much to be grateful for. I have a safe and beautiful home. I have been the beneficiary of a guaranteed education with a whole world of opportunities available to me. My family and friends are nearby to offer support and companionship. But one of the things I am most thankful for is the privilege of supporting a group of people who have not had many of these advantages provided to them, and instead of accepting the world they have received, have chosen to build something better together.

Through Charity Help International, I sponsor several children at AFCECO orphanages in Kabul, Afghanistan. Though the homes are referred to as orphanages in English, most of the children do, in fact, have parents – parents who have often defied family and social pressure and economic hardship to offer their daughters and sons a better life.

And it truly is a better life. In a country where educational opportunities are few, AFCECO children attend school and have access to computer classes, sports, music lessons and art programs. In a society where women are often treated as second class citizens, girls and boys at AFCECO interact as equals. The children come from many different provinces and ethnic backgrounds and might have been raised to view each other as enemies, but at AFCECO they are a family. And by building this family together they are helping to build a future where all children in Afghanistan can be as safe and secure as I am tonight in my living room.

I have sponsored several children through AFCECO, both girls and boys, and each one has been remarkable, but Nazaneen was the first and through her letters I have watched her grow from a child of 11 to a determined and beautiful young woman of 16. I chose her initially because of the hint of defiance in her expression as she looked at the camera. Her mother had passed away without access to adequate medical care and Nazaneen dreamt of becoming a doctor.

Today, Nazaneen is a dedicated student who achieves top marks in her classes. She has recently switched her sport from karate to kick-boxing. She is deeply concerned about the state of her country, of the attacks and bombings in Kabul, of political compromises with long-feared war criminals. I worry, too, of course, but knowing that she and the other children like her are going to be shaping Afghanistan in the years to come, I think that they will be facing a much brighter future. And it is a privilege to have a chance to contribute to the future they are building. That is why, this #GivingTuesday and every month throughout the year, I will be giving to Charity Help International to support AFCECO.

Note: This story was written by Beth Deaton in support of AFCECO for #MyGivingStory contest in 2016.


    We have 40 amazing talented young female musicians in our orphanages. Please join in this chance to nurture something so positive in our children and consequently Afghanistan.


    Please consider purchasing one of these very expressive and unique works of art produced by our very own students from the orphanages. You can also make a donation to the Art Program.


    Sports have become a major element to our children’s program. For our Girl’s Football Team, we have a trainer from the Afghan national soccer team working with our students at the American University field.


    For 13 years children coming from poverty and violence have lived together in orphanages that are bastions of true democracy, places where everyone is equal.


    Our girls at orphanage express themselves by practicing dance, an art that is still prohibited by societal norms in Afghanistan. Our children practice Attan, Afghan traditional dance, as well as ballet, western classical dance.

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