From the moment I could open my eyes I saw my village turned to rubble by a Soviet airstrike. From the moment I could hear I listened to the screaming voices of helpless widows and orphaned children. I carried these tragedies as burning ashes in my heart throughout my life. One war bled into the next, and the next. As I grew older I learned that war is not the only disease embracing my ill-fated nation. A dominant medieval and decaying ideology is far more perilous than the legacy of war. Oppression blanketed my country, crushing women to the point they became less than mules, to the point they could only escape by suicide. One day, war will finally end, but this will not end the devastation. All that will be left are powerless women, boys who only know how to use a rifle, and girls whose lives are deemed useful in so much as they can be sold as child brides. These grim realities turned the ashes in my heart into fire and triggered me not to sit in a corner, but to stand up.
For me there is a practical remedy for the ignorance, oppression, hatred, and poverty so deeply imbedded in society; raise a new generation of boys and girls. It began with bringing twenty orphans to the school I directed. When I saw how quickly they responded, I felt hope. I thought that if we could do more than feed and house these children, if we could educate them, teach them to embrace equality, empower them with a sense of security, they might give back to their country what their country desperately needs: Afghan teachers, Afghan midwives, Afghan engineers and of course, Afghan leaders. That is the basis from which I began the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO).
For me there is a practical remedy for the ignorance, oppression, hatred, and poverty so deeply imbedded in society; raise a new generation of boys and girls….if we could educate them, teach them to embrace equality, empower them with a sense of security, they might give back to their country what their country desperately needs: Afghan teachers, Afghan midwives, Afghan engineers and of course, Afghan leaders.
Visit one of our orphanages and you will experience an island of peace. Pashtun cares for Hazara. Tajik cares for Nooristani. Uzbek cares for Kabulese. Boys learn that the future of their country depends on walking side by side with their sisters as equals. All of them respect the gift of education; all understand the responsibility and the value of freedom. Only in this way will democracy come to Afghanistan, from within.
When asked what is the best thing about the orphanage, one of our older children, Farzana, contemplated this question for some time. Then, with a smile and a light in her eyes she uttered two words. “Working together?” she said almost as a question. Yes, Farzana, working together, because without the help of so many individuals, we would not be here. Special thanks must go to Charity Help International, in particular its founder Paul Stevers. Through him and his organization hundreds of people sponsor our children. All of the sponsors are to be thanked for their undying support. And above all, I wish to extend my cordial thanks to my Afghan colleagues, the widows and hard working men, and of course the children themselves who have stood beside me and never once let me down. There is a saying in my country that one flower does not make spring. Because of these people and so many more who believe as I do that the future almost entirely depends on these children, there is hope for a new beginning.
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