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Inside the Orphanages

Whenever anyone visits an AFCECO orphanage, the first thing they notice is how clean it is and how happy the children are. It is as Brian Williams aptly noted, “a haven for Afghan children”, not so much a place sheltering orphans and giving them food, as it is a place where a new generation of progressive Afghan leaders can emerge. The Dari word Parwarishga means, literally, “foster haven”.

Most of the children are orphans, victims of child labor or were street children forced to beg. They have been exposed to very hostile and painful environments. They enter the orphanage in a state of wonder. This new environment is a world apart from their prior lives, a place where they can sleep and eat without fear. Here they begin a new life based on peace, love and respect. With strings attached to villages and family they are not disconnected from their country, but rather those connections are reinforced. They learn how a family can grow.

A typical AFCECO home is three stories with eighty children, every day is bustling with activity. Bread is to be made, floors swept and laundry to be hung. Some children are off to school, others are gathering with a volunteer English teacher, while still others are upstairs in drama class. They all have responsibilities. They treat one another as they would a sibling. Their free time is spent playing games or telling stories on the verandah. After school many go off to soccer or karate. They are given an hour in the evening to watch television, and have prescribed times in the library where they must do homework. Every week there are guests to attend to, journalists and volunteers, or sometimes a family member or sponsor visiting from afar. There is constant interaction between the orphanage and the outside world.

The impact of such daily living upon the children, and by proxy their families cannot be overstated. AFCECO’s girls don’t only realize their rights, they practice them. It is impossible to call such a place an orphanage, because these children are reclaiming their identity, are moving forward stronger and more resolved than ever imaginable in the milieu of Afghan society.