In collaboration with CharityHelp International (CHI), AFCECO launched the Child Sponsorship program in 2004, marking the beginning of our commitment to providing a nurturing environment for children in our orphanages, now referred to as safehouses. Over the years, this program has been instrumental in providing a supportive environment for thousands of children, with hundreds successfully graduating and pursuing higher education.

Our safehouses rely primarily on funds from sponsorships, underscoring the vital role of sponsors in sustaining our initiatives. Through transparent communication channels and rigorous financial accountability measures, we ensure that sponsors remain informed and engaged in their sponsorship journey.

To provide clarity on our sponsorship program, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions below to elucidate the inner workings of our program:

How does sponsorship work at AFCECO?

We use a dedicated software designed specifically for child sponsorship. We upload profiles of selected children along with their photos, making them available for sponsorship. Once a child is sponsored, we receive immediate notification. If the child is already residing in one of our safehouses, we inform them about their new sponsor, and with the assistance of an AFCECO staff member, they begin corresponding through letters.

For children not currently in our safehouses, we swiftly arrange for their move to one of our safe houses, or back then orphanages. Upon arrival, the child is provided with essential items such as bedding, new clothes, school uniforms, shoes, and other necessities, enabling them to start afresh in a safe environment.

All donations or sponsorship funds intended for AFCECO are directed to the account of CharityHelp International (CHI), a registered charity in the US with a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. CHI deducts a 10% fee to cover administrative costs and then forwards the remaining amount to AFCECO on a monthly basis, following an official funding request submitted by AFCECO, which details expected expenses. AFCECO ensures that the funds are spent only on items and services approved in the funding requests by CHI, guaranteeing that the money is used for its intended purpose.

AFCECO has established a communication channel for sponsors to interact directly and regularly with their sponsored children, who can correspond via emails and arrange video calls. To facilitate this, each safehouse is equipped with laptops and enjoys a reliable Internet connection. Our communication officers, who also reside in the same safehouses as the children, supervise these interactions. Sponsors receive the contact information of these officers for smooth communication.

Moreover, sponsors are invited to reach out to the communication officer or any member of the management team, including the Director, with any inquiries or concerns about AFCECO or their sponsored children. At AFCECO, we prioritize transparency and open communication, ensuring sponsors have the necessary channels to stay informed and engaged in their sponsorship journey.

How do you select children?

AFCECO has established connections with various communities over the years.Typically, community leaders recommend children for our sponsorship program. These children often come from challenging backgrounds, including families impacted by war, poverty, or drug addiction, as well as areas with limited access to education. Following an initial assessment, profiles of these children along with their photos are posted on our website for sponsorship consideration.

How do you ensure girls remain safely housed and continue to receive education despite the Taliban’s restrictions?

Following the Taliban’s ascension, we strategically adapted our operations to the changing political climate by transitioning from large orphanages to smaller, inconspicuous safehouses. We have initiated home-based classes and remote learning, and discreetly enrolled girls in private schools for grades six and above, maintaining their education without attracting Taliban attention.

To further shield the girls from detection, we house them in small residences or apartments, typically accommodating 8-15 individuals along with a host family. This setup creates the illusion of an ordinary household, significantly reducing the chances of raising suspicions among neighbors or attracting unwanted attention from the Taliban.

What about families wanting girls back, presumably to sell them into marriage?

While the final decision rests with the families by law, AFCECO actively intervenes when a child is at risk of being forced into marriage, leveraging community leaders’ influence to protect the child. Our efforts vary in success, but we remain committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of these children, sometimes even negotiating with families, such as taking even more children for the family, or engaging influential community figures.

What happens when the children turn 18?

Children stay at our safehouses, back then the orphanages, until they complete their high school education, typically up to 12th grade, regardless of whether they are over 18 years old. During their final years, we support them in preparing for their college entrance exams, known as the Kankor Exams. Fortunately, a significant number of our children, including girls, who have completed high school, have successfully enrolled in various universities. Those admitted to state universities also benefit from free dormitory accommodations.

Our first cohort of graduates was in 2014, and since then, we have witnessed between 10 to 20 students graduating from high school each year. Some of these graduates have chosen to remain with AFCECO, contributing to the organization’s initiatives and assisting younger children, in exchange for support with their ongoing educational expenses. Notably, AFCECO’s current management team, including the Director, consists of graduates who oversee all operations from start to finish, underscoring the success and impact of our educational programs in fostering capable leaders from within our own community.

Where does the money go? 

All funds from sponsorships and donations are meticulously pooled into the AFCECO operational budget, covering critical expenses such as rent, staff salaries, nutritious food, utilities, and essential items for the children, including clothing and bedding. While individual sponsors generously donate for specific children, our commitment to equality dictates that we allocate resources without bias. Every child under our care, whether sponsored or not, receives equal access to these resources. We firmly believe that no child should be left behind due to sponsorship status, recognizing that many are either partially sponsored or without a sponsor altogether.

It is worth mentioning that AFCECO operates with minimal administrative costs, ensuring that the vast majority of funds directly benefit the children’s needs. There are no high paid executives, no expensive travel packages, no consultant fees, no fringe benefits, no advertising costs, no tinted windowed state-of-the-art SUVs or any of the myriad “expenses” most large NGOs are notorious for. The director, managing director and education coordinator are all unpaid volunteers. With AFCECO, your donation doesn’t get lost in bureaucracy or overhead. Every dollar is a direct investment in the future of these children, ensuring that their well-being and education are prioritized above all else.

How the sponsors or donors be ensured about transparency? 

Ensuring transparency for our sponsors and donors is a top priority at AFCECO, and we’ve implemented several measures to provide comprehensive insight into how their contributions are utilized.

Firstly, we facilitate open lines of communication between sponsors and their sponsored children through monthly letters and occasional video calls. This direct interaction allows sponsors to inquire about various aspects of the children’s lives, from their experiences at the safehouses to their progress in education.

Additionally, sponsors receive periodic newsletters from AFCECO, which offer updates on the children’s well-being and achievements. These newsletters serve as a means to keep sponsors informed and engaged in the organization’s activities.

Moreover, we uphold rigorous financial accountability through our partnership with CharityHelp International (CHI). Detailed financial reports are provided to CHI, who then conducts audits by directly engaging with our staff in Kabul and the children. This ensures that all expenditures are thoroughly documented and align with our mission of serving the children’s needs.

Before the Taliban’s takeover, Paul Stevers, the Chairperson of CHI, regularly visited AFCECO in Kabul, dedicating considerable time to personally review our bookkeeping and receipts. Despite the challenges posed by current circumstances, Mr. Stevers continues to maintain oversight through Zoom calls with our staff, ensuring that transparency and accountability remain paramount.

In essence, our commitment to transparency extends across all facets of our operations, from facilitating direct communication between sponsors and children to maintaining meticulous financial records audited by reputable organizations. We understand the importance of trust and strive to uphold the highest standards of transparency in all our endeavors.