Dates of trip: Mid November 2008 to December 2008
The following is a report from The Children of War President and Founder, Najib Aziz, on his recent visit to Afghanistan.
We routinely make visits to our schools and training center in Afghanistan to ensure efficiency and success in our operations.
Dear friends and supporters, for over 15 years now, we have been able to connect with the most needy and helpless individuals and families in Afghanistan. I most recently traveled to Afghanistan in November of 2008 and returned late December 2008.
Here are some highlights from my trip. I thank you for all your continued support.
I arrived in Kabul to visit our two schools in Kabul.
Kabul is very cold now. It’s in a valley within a mountain range, so the public school system is closed during Winter months. However, TCOW keeps its schools open, to maintain our goals for quality and to provide an effective support system for the kids. Another key point is that we are open for our students from 8am to 4pm. The public system only has 2 hours per day due to the short supply of space and teachers.
At our Kabul Boys and Girls schools, we undertook the following activities:
- Met or made contact with all students’ families to get their feedback and to discuss how they can help in their children’s education and welfare
- Conducted one-on-one discussions with each student to understand their challenges and needs.
- Met with staff and faculty to gather feedback and to give guidance on operations
- I also purchased in bulk: uniforms for all students, books and school supplies for 6 months, and medicine to stock our school clinic, and firewood to warm our schools.
In my time, we realized the following needs and challenges in Kabul:
- We needed internet access, and I’m very happy to say we now have access as of January 2009! This will be a great tool for us.
- We need to build some capacity to support effective education in the sciences. Therefore we will be investing in labs and better textbooks.
- The conditions for normal citizens are pretty bad. Costs for everyday items are sky-high. The stipends we provide barely provide enough to cover rents.
- Our girl students are spending their own monies to get to our schools via local transportation. We have one bus, but we will need to investigate the purchase of another.
Our current enrollment in our Kabul Girls school:
• students: 64
• faculty and administrators: 8 teachers (and 5 administrators shared with boys)
Our current enrollment in our Kabul Boys school:
• students: 46
• faculty and administrators: 8 teachers (and 5 admins shared with girls)
• We plan to enroll 20 new boys in the Spring of this year.
Paghman Girls School updates:
Background: Paghman is not a distinct province. It’s in the Kabul vicinity, approximately a 35 minute car ride from the center of Kabul. It’s a relatively pristine, mountainous community, similar to what you would expect in the Lake Tahoe area of California of the US.
- Conducted similar meetings with families, students, and staff.
- We find that the girls are so passionate about learning and coming to school—they are very serious about their education. And the families are highly supportive of our operations.
- We are very happy to have conducted the grand opening of our new addition to our school. Pictures have been posted on our site and flickr gallery.
- This new addition allows us to meet the demand for more enrollments. We plan to add 20 new students in the spring of this year.
- Purchased enough firewood to warm the school for the entire winter.
- Purchased medicine to stock our school clinic and a winter uniform for each student.
Additional work we undertook in Afghanistan:
When possible, and when we have specific requests that come from our donors to provide emergency relief, we act fast and try to find needy families who may need immediate relief. Our donors earmarked some specific funds to help the combat the harsh winter.
During my trip, we were also able to purchase meat (approximately $12,400) to donate. This will feed more than 1,600 families. In addition to the meat, $5,000 in cash was distributed to the needy families, and $2,800 worth of sacks of flour is in process of distributing to 100 families.
In Wardak Young Disabled Adult Training Center and a new School !
In Wardak, we currently have 12 disabled young adult students in our education and vocational training program. We have so far been unsuccessful in finding any space for expanding the school.
The goods news is that we have received land to build our first school in Maidan Wardak. The project is slated to offer 8 school rooms (2 staff rooms) and to enroll approximately 200 new students. The project is estimated to cost $35,000. So far we have been able to collect $10,000.00 to allow us to break ground, and we hope to continue work on in Spring of 2009 once the harsh winter months pass.
Final Notes in Closing:
During my travels, I saw increasing hardship and despair.
Thousands of families are spending the winter with little or nothing to give them comfort. All the while, right around the corner there are families who are better equipped and living more comfortably. So there is a growing disparity between the small amount of have's and the majority of have-not's in Afghanistan.
One day, in our distribution of food and supplies, I witnessed one of the saddest scenes in my 15 years of working in Afghan relief:
As we distributed food, I saw grown men, women, and little children shouting and crying for a single piece of meat. It was the kind of moment that made you realize that these innocent people are suffering so much and they are desperate for change and help.
With each trip I make to Afghanistan, I pray and hope that the situation has improved and that the Afghan people are able to get back on their feet. Unfortunately, each time I am disappointed and saddened to see how their lives have worsened and how much they’re suffering.
I am reaching out to you; the good hearted and caring donors not to forget that our mission is getting more difficult and therefore we much worker harder.
Still, we continue to move on with the hope for the future.
Here are some additional updates from our programs:
• We have 3 schools: 1 Girls and 1 Boys school in Kabul, and one Girls school in Paghman district
• And we have one disabled adult training center (Wardak province).
• And were excited to share that we recently broke ground on a fourth school (Wardak Province)
Some additional news on schools:
- Approximately 230 students and their respective families are enrolled in our program.
- We say the "Families" too because we pay our students a small stipend ($30 to $50 per month depending on their respective case) to help support their families. This helps us keep them in school, instead of dropping out to beg on streets or take less desirable jobs.
- Half of these students/families are sponsored by direct donors, so the other half we support through our savings and operational budget.
- Generally, our students are doing well, although the cost of living is increasing making it difficult to support them. So you'll see a common trend below that we continue to face dropouts. Due to the economic pressure on families, students leave school to take on multiple jobs to support their loved ones.
The Children of War
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