Kabul is a city where hope springs eternal. After nearly forty years of civil war there are signs of renewal and regeneration. From the CBECS (Community Based Education Centres) and the pioneering work with severely disabled children (providing social workers, physiotherapists and access to schools) to the important work to rehabilitate young offenders through the rights-based Juvenile Justice programme, Children in Crisis is at the forefront of efforts to rebuild shattered communities.

It was an enormous privilege to visit Rishkhor and Balo o Ashkar, improvised settlements on the outskirts of Kabul where Children in Crisis has established community-based schools which provide accelerated learning programmes to enable children to access state secondary schools. Rishkhor is on the side of the mountains surrounding Kabul, and the snow was too deep and muddy to reach by vehicle. We walked past a steep slope where boys were sledging on scraps of card and plastic.

Sledging on the slopes of Rishkor
Sledging on the slopes of Rishkor

In the schools, the enthusiasm of the children and the quality of the teaching were inspiring. Instead of despondency and gloom, we found optimism, excitement and a love of learning.

In another CBEC, Balo o Ashkar, we visited adult education classes where women were mastering reading and writing as well as acquiring new skills such as tailoring. The women were articulate, enjoying the companionship of other women, and clearly in charge of the discussion with us. Among the subjects we discussed were the best age to get married (the consensus was 25) to the multiplier effect individually owned sewing machines could have on their economic fortunes. Who would have guessed that Keynesian economic theory is alive and well in Kabul!

Clothes made by women tailoring students. Proving that WWE truly is worldwide!
Me taking a class at a CBEC

We met children with complex disabilities and needs. Children in Crisis has enabled these children to access life-changing hospital treatment as well as supporting them with physiotherapy to strengthen limbs and improve mobility. One girl I spoke to had been through basic physiotherapy, regained confidence in the way that she walked, and no longer feared being teased or bullied. As a result she was going to school again.

Social workers advise families on how to adapt their homes and care for these disadvantaged children so that they no longer feel marginalised and forgotten. We are determined to find ways to ensure that they can access education. Their mothers urged us to continue this programme which is having such a transformative effect on the lives of these extraordinary children.

We are determined to find ways for disabled children to access education.

Finally, we visited the Kabul Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Centre, a juvenile detention centre which accommodates youngsters who have committed crimes from petty theft to murder. The day release programme sponsored by Children in Crisis showed evident benefits in that the boys are being rehabilitated with humanity and compassion. We interrupted an Art lesson and met a group of boys who were acquiring skills which will allow them either to re-enter the education system or give them the wherewithal to find employment.

More bleak was the closed prison which was cold, spartan and Dickensian. Children in Crisis is working with the Ministry of Justice to improve conditions for these young offenders. From providing social workers in Police stations at the very start of the judicial process to ensuring that conditions within the centre meet basic human rights, CiC is fulfilling its mission statement of looking after those unfortunate enough to find themselves at the very bottom of society.

The wild eyed ponies of Kabul

Kabul is an extraordinary city. I wish I had had more time to see how Afghans work and relax day to day. We had a chilly walk in a park around a reservoir, complete with terrifying fun fair rides and wild eyed ponies that you could charge around in the snow for a few Afs. I wanted to stride off up a hill to get a view of Kabul, but was restrained by my colleague Koy. But considering that many foreign aid professionals are forbidden to leave their cars or compounds, I felt deeply privileged to have met the women, children and men that I had.

We have an excellent team in Kabul led by Timor Shah who has been with Children in Crisis for twenty years and whose father worked for CiC before him. With such a dedicated work force, a clear programme and the impetus for change and renewal, Children in Crisis is setting the pace in Afghanistan for others to follow. I do hope you will support these valuable initiatives and help CiC to transform lives.

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Girls, child labourers, or refugees fleeing the Taliban. These are the forgotten children who are being given a second chance to learn at our community schools in Kabul.
Protecting children in Afghanistan’s under-supported and often corrupt juvenile justice system.
Children in Crisis was founded in 1993 by Sarah, Duchess of York, who remains our Life President.