As I sit in my living room the week before #GivingTuesday, a few short days before Thanksgiving, I realize I have much to be grateful for. I have a safe and beautiful home. I have been the beneficiary of a guaranteed education with a whole world of opportunities available to me.
My family and friends are nearby to offer support and companionship. But one of the things I am most thankful for is the privilege of supporting a group of people who have not had many of these advantages provided to them, and instead of accepting the world they have received, have chosen to build something better together.
Through Charity Help International, I sponsor several children at AFCECO orphanages in Kabul, Afghanistan. Though the homes are referred to as orphanages in English, most of the children do, in fact, have parents – parents who have often defied family and social pressure and economic hardship to offer their daughters and sons a better life.
And it truly is a better life. In a country where educational opportunities are few, AFCECO children attend school and have access to computer classes, sports, music lessons and art programs. In a society where women are often treated as second class citizens, girls and boys at AFCECO interact as equals. The children come from many different provinces and ethnic backgrounds and might have been raised to view each other as enemies, but at AFCECO they are a family. And by building this family together they are helping to build a future where all children in Afghanistan can be as safe and secure as I am tonight in my living room.
I have sponsored several children through AFCECO, both girls and boys, and each one has been remarkable, but Nazaneen was the first and through her letters I have watched her grow from a child of 11 to a determined and beautiful young woman of 16. I chose her initially because of the hint of defiance in her expression as she looked at the camera. Her mother had passed away without access to adequate medical care and Nazaneen dreamt of becoming a doctor.
Today, Nazaneen is a dedicated student who achieves top marks in her classes. She has recently switched her sport from karate to kick-boxing. She is deeply concerned about the state of her country, of the attacks and bombings in Kabul, of political compromises with long-feared war criminals. I worry, too, of course, but knowing that she and the other children like her are going to be shaping Afghanistan in the years to come, I think that they will be facing a much brighter future. And it is a privilege to have a chance to contribute to the future they are building. That is why, this #GivingTuesday and every month throughout the year, I will be giving to Charity Help International to support AFCECO.