On October 2nd, 2010 Nadiah Orphanage officially opened in the city of Herat, in western Afghanistan. The three story home is located in a quiet neighborhood within walking distance to its sister orphanage, Hariwa. 

An opening ceremony was marked by the dedication of the orphanage to an American humanitarian, Nancy Jean Riess, its inspiration. The impetus for this partnership is a shared belief in the power of education and nurturing, in raising the whole child, and the degree to which this is the real cause for a better future. The orphanage is named for a young woman who dared seek education during the Taliban era, even though she risked her life doing it. Nadiah Anjuman studied and wrote poetry, and though she died tragically at a young age, her poetry is extensive and is heralded in every corner of Afghanistan today. The spirit of Nadia, Nancy and the mission of AFCECO come together in this one bastion of peace.

The ceremony was attended by local citizens and dignitaries, including the Minister of Social Affairs and the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission. After an opening prayer and a series of speeches, there was an official cutting of the ribbon across the front door. Guests then toured the facility together. There is a sizable courtyard that includes a rose garden and grape arbor. Inside are several spacious rooms with bunk beds painted red. The boys are downstairs and the girls upstairs. On the first floor is a fully equipped library, named for its benefactor Nancy. Downstairs is a large open room used for meals, parties and special public events. Soon this will include a gymnasium, also thanks to Nancy and her husband, Richard Riess. Sixty children have already moved into the orphanage, most all of them from neighboring Farah Province, arguably the poorest of all Afghan provinces. They served milk and cookies to the guests, and it was evident the guests were deeply touched.

AFCECO orphanages have three basic tenets: create a safe, clean, beautiful environment, encourage strength through diversity, and provide a dynamic education. All of these painted by an auspice of equality and respect. AFCECO ensures that children of all ethnic backgrounds come together and live as one family. Tajik cares for Pashtun, Hazara cares for Uzbek, and Nuristani cares for Kabuli. Deep seeded bias is eradicated, as children of all tribes are solving daily problems together, cooking, cleaning, and helping one another with homework. Girls are lifted from a place of self-loathing and hopelessness to developing strength of character. Slowly the scarf creeps lower from the head and a confident smiling young woman emerges. The children learn from a very early age that the only thing distinguishing them is their ability to dream of what they can become.

Another important factor is that children are not plucked from the streets but are brought forward by family or community members. The community ascribes to AFCECO’s precept that ideology is not to be promulgated, that these havens are islands of security, equality, tolerance, and democracy. If a child wishes to practice her prayers, she is free to do so, but neither is religion pushed on the children. These tenets are acceptable to all, even the most conservative family, because paramount to AFCECO’s mission is an emphasis on a healthy environment and education, what millions of poor Afghans yearn for their children.

As part of AFCECO’s philosophy all children are taught:

 

  • respect for all human beings regardless of religion, race, gender or other differences;

  • all people share basic human rights;

  • all human beings do not have to think alike or live the same way;

  • society benefits when all human beings live in peace, understanding and harmony.

Through these strong core values, AFCECO believes that the children under its care will be able to grow up with not only a strong sense of individual identity, but with an understanding that regardless of their differences, they must all work together to make Afghanistan a much better place. We are thrilled to announce this the eleventh AFCECO orphanage. In Persian the word for this home is Parwarishga, which translated literally means “foster haven”. This is the more accurate description, a place of nurturing, a place of hope