2016 #MyGivingStory Award Winner

By Terry Cardwell

During the time of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, my heart broke for the women who were prevented from achieving their dreams and for the children who no longer had access to education. I spent several years looking for ways to help but few were available and none inspired me to action.

In late 2004 I heard about a young Afghan woman, Andeisha Farid, who had started an orphanage for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Her goal was to raise the next generation of Afghan citizens to be strong, productive, thoughtful members of society. Girls and boys would be taught tolerance, respect for diversity, respect for the rights of others and strong values of integrity, honesty and caring with educational programs that extended well beyond the public school system. I immediately knew this was an organization that I wanted to be a part of and began sponsoring three children.

One child was 10 years old and had never attended school. A second was 9 years old and a shepherd who would walk 2 hours to school after tending the village sheep. The third was a young girl from a remote region of Afghanistan with a significant Taliban presence and a literacy rate of less than 17%.

I had the opportunity to meet Andeisha when she was moving to Kabul and starting the Afghanistan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO, www.afceco.org). I was so impressed with her work that I considered increasing my involvement by sponsoring a new AFCECO orphanage. At Christmas Eve service that year I prayed for a sign to help me decide what to do. On Christmas morning I received an email with a Christmas greeting from AFCECO that included a photo of some of the children holding a sign wishing me a Merry Christmas. I took this as MY sign and immediately contacted AFCECO to sponsor an orphanage.

My heart will always be with the three individuals that I began this journey with. Over the years we exchanged letters/photos, celebrated birthdays via Skype and spoke about their hopes and dreams. I watched them grow from young children into adults that live the values defined in AFCECO’s vision. I am proud to say that one graduated high school and is working to provide for his family, the second is a Junior at University majoring in Biology and the third is a young woman who upon graduating high school spent a year teaching the children in her remote village per the request of the tribal elders. She is now happily married and both she and her husband are attending University.

So many of the AFCECO children have similar stories full of tragedy and adversity as well as inspiration and hope for the future. Each of the AFCECO children and its founder inspire me every day to continue my involvement. I cannot express the impact that being a part of the AFCECO family has had on my life. My heart continues to break for the challenges and adversity facing the Afghan people but it is also full of joy for being part of an amazing organization that continues to raise the next generation of Afghan citizens and hope that one day an AFCECO child will lead a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

Written in support of Afghan Child Education and Care Organization.