Kabul Spring 2017 Report
For the students of the Homaira Rahman School, the new school year which began in April 2017, signals fresh starts and exciting opportunities. It’s always an exhilarating occasion, with the arrival of first-time students and familiar routines. HRF President Roya Rahman, who just returned from Kabul, was on hand to greet the kids for their first day back to classes. She visited the school every day over the course of the first week and purchased desperately needed supplies (notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.) thanks to the generosity of our donors, particularly Yusef and Arya Maftoon, two young students in the US who thoughtfully organized a fundraiser for that purpose. Ms. Rahman was also able to coordinate an “Ice Cream and Candy” Day, much to the delight of our students, thanks to another loyal supporter, Rohyna Nashir. We continue to be amazed and moved by the compassion exhibited by our supporters who ultimately provide the resources so that underprivileged children can enjoy memorable moments and have a chance at a brighter future.
While at the school, Ms. Rahman spent some time with each student, hoping to connect with them (she learned very quickly that English is a favorite subject with most of the kids!) and trying to attend to their various needs. It was a very emotional experience for her, but she was buoyed by their resiliency and enthusiasm – and particularly struck by how well prepared the staff was for the start of the school year, setting a high bar for teaching and learning. (Total enrollment stands at about 100 students in grades 1-6, which is full capacity.) She inspected the school grounds and noticed that certain walls could use a fresh coat of paint, dust had settled on some classroom floors and the kitchen needed some touching up. The school’s maintenance supervisor promptly took care of those issues. In addition, Ms. Rahman attended a few classes, observing the students reading aloud from books as their teachers conducted the lessons from the chalkboard, and watched in amazement as groups of students huddled in pairs around desktop computers in the computer lab. Most of these children didn’t even know how to turn on a computer a short while ago; now they are working with this modern technology gracefully and effortlessly. A newly-hired and dynamic young teacher was tutoring the eager students on the basics of computers.
Ms. Rahman also stopped by the HRF Learning Center at the OWA school in Kabul and saw that they needed new laptops for their computer lab and chairs for students. A total of 150 students are enrolled at this school. She spoke with the staff and arranged to provide them with computers and chairs. We’ve hired two teachers at the Learning Center, but we want to make sure that the students have everything they need to flourish in their studies.
In a country that has struggled to expand equitable access to quality education, for girls especially, we are very proud of our record of providing equal opportunities to both boys and girls as we celebrate our eighth year as a non-profit organization. With your help, our students and other orphans across Afghanistan – among the poorest and most vulnerable children in the world – are rapidly developing the foundational skills (both academic and emotional) and knowledge required for the many challenges that lie ahead. It’s truly remarkable.
With another successful school year completed in December – our fourth already! – Homaira Rahman School students are enjoying a well-deserved break from the rigors of classwork. They will resume their studies in March, eager to start the new academic year with renewed energy and optimism. But with winter’s chill settling over much of Afghanistan, the freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls are a persistent source of suffering. For the masses of poverty-stricken people, families spend most of their time scrounging for firewood, food, clothing and blankets in a desperate bid to keep warm and well-nourished. And without adequate shelter from the unrelenting cold, the children are most at risk – too many succumb to treatable diseases and malnutrition. To help reduce winter vulnerability for orphaned students at the OWA school in Kabul, the site of our Learning Center, HRF has extended financial assistance for the procurement of food and basic supplies, which we hope will bring them some warmth and comfort during these frigid and snowy months. HRF also made a contribution to The Children of War (TCOW) who will distribute life-saving emergency relief supplies in remote, isolated villages where there is considerable loss of life due to a series of avalanches and massive snowstorms.
In Kandahar, where most people are struggling to survive on the margins of a crowded city, we recently made a donation to Sana Orphanage, which houses more than 53 children. The money was used to purchase warm clothing – hats and coats to stave off the penetrating cold – and pay one month’s rent for the facility. Sana’s mission is to “educate, care for and provide hope to the orphans of Kandahar.”
HRF’s goal has always been to safeguard the health and well-being of vulnerable children in Afghanistan while allowing them the opportunity to reach their full potential through education. With your assistance, we will continue to provide essential supplies for children in need throughout the year and also ensure that they have all the necessary skills to take control of their lives and build secure futures for themselves and their families.
December 2016 Update: Online Fundraiser & Winter Coat Drive
2016 Online Fundraiser
Our 5th Annual Online Fundraiser successfully raised over $18,000 in 3 days! On behalf of HRF, the students and the staff, we are so thankful for your generous contributions and ongoing support. What we accomplished, we could not have done without your likes, shares and uplifting comments in response to our Facebook and other social media posts. We hope you take pride in knowing that your compassion offers opportunities for personal growth to defenseless children traumatized by war and poverty. It will enable them to brighten their communities one day.
Winter Coat Drive
The arrival of colder weather creates more suffering for the children of Afghanistan every year. For many, it’s simple things, which most of us take for granted, like coats, shoes and blankets that can literally mean the difference between life and death. To help our students battle the extreme cold, some of our loyal supporters organized a successful coat drive in Virginia recently, raising over $1300 used mainly to purchase 90 fur-lined coats, which were distributed to the kids in Kabul in what turned out to be a very emotional and uplifting event. We also waited for this occasion to give each student hand-knitted, woolen scarves embroidered with the HRF logo and colors made by a small group of widows several months ago. The kids were overjoyed to receive these essential items that they couldn’t possibly begin to afford and which will help them battle the cold in the coming months. We used the remainder of those funds to purchase various school supplies for our students at the OWA school in Kabul and to provide our amazing teachers and staff at the Homaira Rahman School with small monetary gifts as a token of our appreciation.
Summer 2016 News
It’s been almost three years since the Homaira Rahman School opened its doors to the orphans of Kabul. Thanks to your support, more than 100 marginalized boys and girls in grades 1-6 now have the opportunity to take charge of their own destinies and improve their lives through learning. We have always believed that the education of both boys and girls is critical to overcoming poverty and the oppression of women in Afghanistan, and the key to unlocking its vast economic potential in the global economy. Unfortunately most children still don’t have access to schooling across the country – our students are some of the lucky ones. They have quality teachers, books, supplies and a safe place to learn at their own pace. Our representative in Kabul, Tooba, visited the school in late May and was heartened to see the rapid progress that the children have made in a short period of time – particularly in terms of the English and computer skills they have acquired. Because it’s precisely these skills, along with math and science which are also taught, that will enable them to compete in the modern world. The kids also participate in art classes as a source of fun and to explore their creativity. We will continue to strive to provide our students with the kind of balanced and broad-based education they need in order to prepare them for the complex challenges that lie ahead.
In June, HRF gave grants to three 501 c3 Afghan orphan-focused organizations: Omeid International – to help a group of young boys travel to India to further their education; Sana Orphanage in Kandahar – to provide the 50 orphans in their care with basic necessities; and OWA, our partner organization – to help them purchase food and school supplies for their students. All three organizations embody HRF’s core values and mission and we were pleased to extend them a helping hand.
The month of August was a very busy one for the students of the Homaira Rahman School as they prepared for and took their midterm exams. We decided to treat the kids to a pizza party following the exams, which was an interesting experience for them. Most weren’t sure how to eat the pizza, whether to use forks and knives or not; but they had lots of fun trying something new and different and celebrating the completion of their midterms. We also honored four students who have reached the highest level of academic achievement this year.
Back to School- April 2016
Springtime in Afghanistan is a welcome relief from the harsh realities of winter. It’s the start of the Persian New Year (Nowruz) and typically a festive occasion – although this time the celebrations were tempered somewhat by fears of violence and economic instability. For students, the arrival of spring also signals the beginning of the new school year, which brings with it opportunities for growth and endless possibilities. After a three-month winter break, the children at the Homaira Rahman School are genuinely excited to be reunited with friends and classmates and look forward to another wonderful year of learning together. The arrival of new entrants (first graders) has also helped to energize the school. We hope that this academic year is filled with positive experiences for our students, and we will do everything we can to ensure their happiness and success.
As of May 1, total student enrollment stands at 92. We’re gradually reaching full capacity as students are slowly filtering back into school, some from remote areas who were forced to stay home due to poor weather conditions. To create a better learning environment, the classrooms were fitted with new horizontal blinds which will control the amount of light entering the teaching spaces, and several computers were repaired during the winter vacation. Also, we’ve hired three new teachers to replace three that departed recently and we are blessed to have some extremely dedicated and resourceful people who are operating the school and making sure that it’s running as smoothly as possible. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. It’s their hard work and commitment that will help build much brighter futures for the orphaned children in our care.
The HRF Learning Center at the OWA school in Kabul has just hired a new English and computer teacher. We’re very pleased with the progress that the students are making there. They are gaining the kinds of skills and self-confidence necessary to become valued and contributing members of their communities one day.
February 2016 Update
As cold weather and power outages continue to cause severe hardship across Afghanistan, the Homaira Rahman School will remain closed for the winter break until March when warmer weather sets in. While everybody is affected, the icy winters take a particularly heavy toll on children and many succumb to hunger, disease and exposure every year. To help make vulnerable children a little more comfortable, HRF sent $1,000 to the Orphans and Widows Association (OWA) to purchase food and other essential supplies; and $1,000 in early February to the The Children of War (TCOW) which was used to buy charcoal for internally displaced people (125 families) living in a makeshift settlement outside Kabul to help keep them warm and provide fuel for cooking. The charcoal was distributed to the neediest families who were grateful because their windswept homes offer little protection from the bitter cold. HRF extends humanitarian assistance annually to orphans and vulnerable families to help them deal with winter emergencies.
In a related development, HRF recently funded a micro-project which enabled rural Afghan women – a marginalized group – to use their talents to generate income. A group of 10 women in Dashtebarche (Kabul Province) made 100 beautiful blue and white scarves embroidered with the HRF logo – one for each orphaned student at the Homaira Rahman School to keep them warm. HRF compensated ($800 collectively) these kind ladies for their efforts. This small amount of money will help sustain them through the harsh winter, but more importantly, it will give them hope that they can use their skills to provide for their families. There are few economic opportunities for rural women in Afghanistan and most families live in extreme poverty. With marketable skills like sewing, they can bring a measure of stability to their households and empower themselves in the process.
We are happy to announce that the bakery whose construction we funded ($4,500), as part of a larger community development and empowerment project on the outskirts of Kabul, has just opened. The bakery contains a kitchen and space to make bread for the entire community. It is expected that 100 families – typically 4-5 people per family – will eventually live in this small hamlet and have access to the bakery. Most families have already moved in to their homes; the remainder will do so in the Spring. It’s very important for us that orphans and vulnerable children, who face a precarious existence, will benefit tremendously from this initiative. Many children in Afghanistan die from hunger and malnutrition. This bakery will provide them with free, nourishing food which will allow them to grow physically and mentally. Our involvement in the project will be limited to a one-time contribution that was used to build the bakery.
HRF intends to start a small vocational training program at the Homaira Rahman School in the near future to help graduates as they transition to a life beyond our primary school. We hope to offer them choices and teach them income-generating skills which they can use to improve their lives immediately. We’ll keep you posted.
In January, HRF President Roya Rahman attended an event at the Afghan Embassy in Washington D.C. that aimed to bring together the diaspora, especially those involved in Afghan- focused nonprofit organizations. It was a great opportunity to network with dedicated individuals to see how their diverse talents and dynamism could be used to better serve people in their embattled homeland.
HRF Awarded Generous Grant by Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Fohr Family Fund- January 2016
We are very pleased to announce that HRF is the recipient of a generous $4,000 grant from Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Fohr Family Fund. This grant will be used to provide essential school supplies, teacher salaries and nourishing meals for orphaned students at the Homaira Rahman School, and may also be utilized for humanitarian or emergency aid. We are deeply grateful for the Fund’s contribution, and we thank them for recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of Afghanistan’s marginalized children. We couldn’t possibly help these kids without such kind support.
Help HRF Raise Funds by Shopping Online to Support the Homaira Rahman School
Shop online and help HRF earn cash back at www.shop.com/hrfcares. This link will direct you to a web portal where all the stores you shop will give a percentage back to our organization. Simply sign-in to create your account and browse your favorite stores for familiar products and a huge selection of popular items – discounts and exclusive deals will also be available. You can also encourage friends and family to sign-up. They, in turn, will receive 0.5% cash back on purchases made by people they’ve invited. So whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for a loved one, or you want to treat yourself, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are also helping to raise funds for the Homaira Rahman School and other initiatives.
Amazon.com has launched a program called AmazonSmile, which helps raise funds for designated charities. Now you can shop online at Amazon.com as you normally would and at the same time help our students reach a brighter future. Simply click on “Get Started” below to sign up and a portion (0.5%) of the purchase you make will automatically be donated to HRF. There are no extra charges and it’s hassle-free.