Orphanage Brings Hope to Young Girls of Kabul

(By: Robert J. Galbraith in Kabul, Afghanistan)
23/10/05

Twenty young girls, ranging in age from 2-17 years, are being saved from broken families and the savage streets of Kabul, Afghanistan in an orphanage set-up by a concerned Canadian.

The Marmen Orphanage, established by Torontonian, Adena Naizi, is the last hope for these girls, amidst the violence and brutality of everyday life, while living in a country that is still struggling to get on its own two feet.

“These girls are all my sisters,” explains 11-year-old resident, Adela Abdul Salam, who’s mother passed away, and her father can’t adequately feed or clothe the family. “My father carries stuff for other people, and is addicted, so his addiction takes all the money. I have five sisters, one who is here with me – Wazma is four.”

Adela and her sister consider the orphanage their home and its residents their family. “I am very comfortable here because we have good food, dresses, a good bed and we go to school.”

Adela and her sister are the lucky survivors in a heavily over-crowded city (Kabul is a city with the infrastructure for half-a-million people, but due to war and drought, 3.5 million people make it their home). Each day, hordes of parentless, ragged, child-beggars of all ages, roam the streets of Kabul like stray cats, foraging for a few Afghani dollars to buy a loaf of bread and a little rice.

Orphanage Assistant-Director, Afza Hosa, is like a live-in mother, gathering her children together to great a small group of Canadian soldiers who are visiting the refuge and distributing 20 winter blankets and toys to the children. The orphanage has no central heating.

“These people (the soldiers) have followed through with items, they have helped us a lot. I am very happy with them. They always bring us rice, clothes, blankets, toys, school supplies and even a television and DVD player,” explained Hosa. “They help us a lot when they bring us cooking oil, rice, etc. This allows us to buy more clothing, because I don’t need to spend as much on food for the kids. It’s a big help,” said Hosa.

The six soldiers involved in this single humanitarian effort have volunteered their time, with permission from their supervisors, to help the orphanage, through the CIMIC Team. (The Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) team provides the link between Canadian troops and the Kabul civilian population within the Kabul area of operations. It conducts liaison and provides support to the surrounding communities. This support sometimes takes the form of project management, such as digging wells or delivering school and medical supplies. It can also involve liaison with the local community leaders).

“It’s nice to be able to be actively assisting the local community, especially young girls in the orphanage who are disenfranchised with the community,” explained Chief Warrant Officer, Jeremy Pressnell. “The greatest impact on the CIMIC has been the very presence of the Canadian military at the orphanage.”

Even though the orphanage has supporters like the CIMIC Team, life outside of the orphanage can be life-threatening, says Pressnell. “Orphanage girls are at risk of abduction as they have no families to exact retribution. Those that would do no good know that. The girls are easy targets, so by giving a regular security presence we reduce this possibility.”

Pressnell has been told by the orphanage that security is a very serious concern. The threat of being picked-up off the street by those that would prey upon them; rapists, pimps and child abductors.

He says that although some Canadian Military personnel (who have visited the orphanage) have inquired about the possibility of adopting children from the orphanage, it is not possible due to barbaric incidents that have occurred in the past. “There was an intervening period between the Soviet departure and the Taliban rise, where adoptions occurred, and the children were used as beggars by the adoptive, who amputated their limbs to get better donations. After this, the government at the time banned all adoptions.”

As the CIMIC Team finished handing out the blankets and toys, and spending over an hour giving the children the hugs and love that warmed the hearts of both the children and the soldiers, one of the children asked the assistant director when they will see their aunts and uncles (as the children refer to the soldiers) again.

But orphanage Assistant-Director, Afza Hosa did not answer four-year-old Azma, as she knows this will be the last visit from the children’s aunts and uncles before they move on to Kandahar.
“Now unfortunately, they’re (the CIMIC Team) going to Kandahar,” she said. “Now our help will be cut-off. Now we have to rely on other donations.”

The CIMIC Team is moving to Kandahar as part of the redeployment of the Canadian troops. Kandahar is in the hostile, southeast region of Afghanistan. By November 29th, Camp Julien will be vacated by the Canadian Forces and handed over to the Afghan National Army.

“I have a dream for the kids,” concluded Hosa. “To have a nice computer, so they can learn from it and I can send them to computer school and they can learn the Internet and computer skills. I also have a dream that we would have enough money in the bank for a year, so I wouldn’t be so stressed.”

Those wishing to help the children at the Marmen Orphanage can send cash donations to the Afghan Women’s Association, based in Toronto, or CARE Canada.

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