There’s a challenge we face in all of the countries where we work – the most vulnerable children and families are often the hardest to reach, and are usually the least likely to trust an outsider.
In these remote areas, trust isn’t easy to come by. Few charities are there because of the dangerous conditions. War Child deliberately seeks out those places because we know it’s where we are needed most.
War Child has made incredible strides over the past decade helping children and mothers in Kabul and Jalalabad in the north of Afghanistan. Yet, expanding to Kandahar in the highly volatile southern region has been a long, challenging journey.
To get started, we offered to provide safe spaces and school supplies for children to learn and play. Spaces that are welcoming, have healthy snacks and plenty of clean drinking water – simple things that many of them don’t get at home. We knew that there was a critical need for our skills training and access to justice work in the region, but the chances of getting acceptance for those were slim if we couldn’t first get the safe spaces project approved.
From government officials to parents, aunts and grandmothers, teachers and religious leaders – everyone that will be impacted had a say before work began. Still, it didn’t start as smoothly as you might think. Khadija, War Child’s Afghan Child Protection Coordinator, began the initial task of consulting families and leaders, and not everyone was ready to open their doors. She kept at it though and she found enough parents and leaders that were ready to trust us. Before long, the programme was up and running in more than ten neighbourhoods. Slowly but surely we had gained the trust of the parents in these areas, but that is only half of the equation – we still needed to earn the trust of the children.
Up to this point, none of the progress would have been possible without War Child’s donors. They give selflessly to support our work, and believe that we will make the best use of their precious donations.
The safe spaces are a great chance to teach kids about their rights, and who they can come to for help. To begin with, we ask them about the worries they have. The first issue they raised was a concern about garbage in places where they usually play, so we arranged with authorities to have the areas cleaned. For those kids, to know their voices were being heard and their concerns were being acted upon was a turning point. They now trust War Child, and have begun talking about bigger and bigger issues that worry them, like landmines or abuse.
These are important conversations that need to happen, and finally, someone is listening. No child deserves to walk to school in fear of stepping on a landmine, being kidnapped or raped and today we can do something about it.
This is just the beginning for our work in Kandahar. Work is underway to begin providing legal aid services to victims of sexual violence, and helping women transition out of shelters back into their communities with counselling and peer mentoring. More children will have access to safe spaces, and education will continue. The same work will happen in Kabul, and in Nangarhar province to the east.
Many people played a role in expanding the reach of War Child’s work in Afghanistan, especially our loyal donors and supporters. Programmes like this one aren’t easy to sustain. For every child and family we help, we need many more here to take a stand and ask “how can I help?”
The best way to help is to dig deep, and give a donation today. Big or small, every donation helps protect children in war zones. So today, we’re asking you to give so that children can have the childhood they deserve.
To help ensure programmes like this continue for as long as they are needed by signing up as a monthly donor. Monthly gifts are the most effective and reliable way to help protect children in war-affected areas like Afghanistan.