Pashtana Rasoul is the Executive Director of AFCECO as of January 2016. Pashtana came to AFCECO at 8 years of age in 2003. Prior to arriving at AFCECO, Pashtana and her younger siblings roamed the dusty streets and grimy alleyways of Peshawar city every day selling water in order to earn desperately needed money for their family based at a refugee camp in the outskirts of Peshawar city. Born to a lieutenant who served in the Afghan army during the Soviet invasion of Afgahnistan in the 1980s, Pashtana and her family fled their home in Afghanistan and settled in a refugee camp when her father was captured and retained as prisoner by a Jehadi war faction during the fall of Soviet-backed Afghan regime. When AFCECO founder Andeisha Farid visited the camp in which Pashtana was living, Pashtana was one of several children that caught her eye as good candidates for AFCECO’s child sponsorship program. Quickly after Pashtana’s profile was posted on AFCECO’s website, she was sponsored by a U.S.-based donor, launching Pashtana on a journey to AFCECO’s Sitara Orphanage. Here, she began a new life in an environment entirely different from where she came from.

Afghanistan is going through a major shift as the international community moves out; the economy has crumbled and fighting has spread over all the country, which has put this nation at a complete disarray. Billions of dollars poured into this country by the world community are now believed to be either stolen or wasted. And Afghanistan is still considered the worst place to be a woman. 10% of eligible girls attend school, and of those a significant number do not attend regularly or drop out before 7th grade. This is due to war, poverty, displacement and the danger from being attacked with acid or poison.

The story of Parwarishga must begin with the modern history of Afghanistan. Nowhere, it seems has the poison of war come together with the poison of religious extremism and outdated ideology to such an extent and with such devastating effects upon children. These effects have been embedded to the point that many people claim it to be a cultural issue, that the burqa and all it represents, that the seething hatred between Pashtun and Hazara, are somehow indicative of the Afghan spirit and therefore cannot, or even should not, be tampered with. But a young Afghan woman named Andeisha Farid did not see it that way. She herself was born in war and raised in camps, but was lifted by education and perhaps more importantly a community of peers and adults striving right along beside her, challenging, reaching, never giving up hope for the dream of peace and equality and perhaps one day, a homeland

AFCECO’s aim is to bring up the next generation of Afghan citizens, so badly affected by three decades of war, and to help them grow into strong, productive, thoughtful members of society. The girls and boys in AFCECO’s orphanages are taught tolerance, respect for diversity, environmental sensitivity, respect for the rights of others, and strong values of integrity, honesty and caaring.

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.

AFCECO is an Afghan non-profit organization based in Kabul running orphanages and educational centers for Afghan orphans and street children.

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