By Parissa, special correspondent
Slightly more difficult than expected but we managed to provide good quality shoes, socks and blouses to just over 1500 street working children in Kabul. Sadly it was not possible to easily identify only parentless street working children as was the original plan, so I had to divert to plan ‘B’, which was to provide shoes and socks to street working children, some of whom were parentless. This was done through organizations already in existence who do work with the children.
There is much more sadness then I first experienced in 2006. It seems the situation has gotten worse with an increase of street working children and beggars on the streets (in particular women with young children). The general consensus seems to be much less hopeful in terms of progression, jobs, salary and politics etc. Cost of living is very high and the lack of educational facilities means many families cannot afford to put their children through schools because they cannot afford the children not working, to increase the family’s income.
On more specific news, there are a few organisations doing good work, but they are few and far between – some of whom are really struggling with grants to continue their good work. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with some really incredible people. I distributed 460 pairs of shoes, socks and blouses to an organisation called AWEC, who are a small Afghan NGO, who work in partnership with “Save The Children UK”.
They provide educational facilities to women but also some education for working street children for a couple of hours per day. They have a good turn out, but they would have an even better turn out if they had enough funding to provide lunch for the children.Sadly they don’t.
I also distributed 150 pairs of shoes, socks and blouses to a women’s prison – where there are also some children who are imprisoned with their mothers, as they have nowhere to go up until the age of 12 to 14. AWEC provides educational services to these women and their children in prison. It was probably one of the most difficult of my experiences. There are only 85/90 children, but I was advised that I needed to take much more as the women will get aggressive if there are no spares for their other children who live at home, on the streets or at orphanages
260 pairs of shoes, socks and blouses were distributed to two different centers of EMDH (French Humanitarian Project), They also operate schools for working children and children with mental/physical disabilities. Their children are mostly from the minority group ‘Hazarah’s’, who mainly work as carpet weavers at home with their families and would not ordinarily have a chance to go to school. Luckily EMDH are able to provide food for the children and this means a good turn out for class. I distributed 260 pairs of shoes, socks and blouses to children at an orphanage in Kabul.
People told me that it was one of the best in Kabul. I found the conditions there much more diabolical then almost any other place I visited. The orphanage manger was very upset with me for insisting to deliver the goods myself and refused me entry at first. I had to go over their heads and seek permission form a government minister to do this. When I eventually managed to personally distribute there, I found the children were amazing, beautiful and alert.
They were most grateful that I distributed the goods myself. The very few times I had the opportunity to be with them without a chaperon, they thanked me and said they know other people have sent them things, but they don’t usually get distributed… I distributed 150 pairs of shoes, socks and blouses to an independent charity established by a french couple, Jack and Arrian. They have a small business a french bakery/cafe where they employ ‘Hazarah’ children, train them in baking, waitering and to learn English in the process. But as well as that, they run a school, where the children can be educated – they get grants for this work from various countries.
They provide this service to roughly 150 children as mentioned above and luckily they are able to provide lunch for the children. I distributed 150 pairs of shoes, socks and blouses to an Afghan NGO – CCA. They also provide education services to working street children, for a couple of hours per day. They are really struggling with funds also but luckily they are managing to provide lunch for the kids which garantees a good turnout. CCS were most helpful to me in doing this work, they provided me with a car and driver free of charge for several weeks, it would have been impossible for me to do any of this work without a car in Afghanistan – THANK YOU.
Finally, I distributed 100 pairs of shoes, socks and blouses to people I met through friends, they were mostly servants in the houses of people who are better off. But because they don’t make enough money from serving in peoples houses, their children stay at home and carpet weave. I wanted to visit a refugee camp, although people advised me it was too dangerous. I still felt like I needed to see things for myself. I went with two people from an organisation, who I later decided not to work with. They said they provided education for the children who live at the camps but I doubted their integrity on many matters so decided not to work with them. The camp was one of the most horrific sights I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. People living in the mud with ripped tents or just some pieces of cloth held up with bits of tree was a common sight. As soon as they discovered I was there, a big, uncontrollable group of people surrounded me asking and demanding food and money or anything else I had to give them. Sadly, I had to leave in a hurry and could not find an organisation, who had the man power to help me make a distribution there. Before I got mobbed, I did have the time to speak with a man, who was living there with his 6 children. He had escaped the fighting in Helmand. The Taliban had taken his farmland. His wife was too sick to make the journey to Kabul so he had to leave her behind with one of his sons. He was very old and his only income was from his children. The oldest, his 12 years old daughter, would beg or sell bits of a roll of toilet paper or matches if they had the money to buy it. I was able to give him some money on the spot, but only something to tide him over for a couple of weeks. That was all the money I had on me. I feel sad sharing these stories with you, but I feel it is necessary for everyone in the world to know what the poorest people in Afghanistan endure.