As Patron of Mahboba’s Promise, I am delighted to congratulate the organisation on its continued work in giving hope to so many who would otherwise struggle to survive.
This year, we have witnessed a decline in the stability of Afghanistan and a subsequent increase in the incidence of poverty. The government has had little success in filling the void left by the withdrawal of troops. This is a time when civil society organisations like Mahboba’s Promise are absolutely vital. Although the situation in Afghanistan does not attract as much media attention as some of its neighbouring countries, it continues to be an extremely challenging place, especially for women and children left destitute by decades of war.
Australia is a country with firm commitment to equal opportunity. We come from diverse backgrounds and we have a tradition of reaching out to people less fortunate.
Mahboba’s Promise upholds values of compassion, tolerance and peace by serving vulnerable women and children in Afghanistan. It strives to empower them to improve their quality of life. In Australia, Mahboba Rawi is a role model for inclusiveness and women’s rights.
I encourage you to support the exceptional work done every day by this significant organisation.
In November 2014 Sara Kerrison, a second year university student from Australia, spent two weeks at Mahboba’s Promise Hope House in Kabul. This is her reflection:
He came up to my window before the car had even stopped, the small boy. It was so cold that I could see his breath on the air as he asked me for change, I couldn’t speak the language enough to even say no to him. So we just stared at each other. He was grim but he had bright eyes. This was my first night in Afghanistan.
Looking at him I wondered how much one child can possibly tolerate. On top of being orphaned and homeless in temperatures that reach below freezing, the street children of Afghanistan have to cope with the added danger of random Taliban attacks. Theirs is a life of certain uncertainty.
When I finally arrived at the offices of Mahboba’s Promise later that night I was full of immense relief to meet all the warm and beautiful children who call Hope House their home. If not for Mahboba’s Promise I thought to myself, it could have easily been one of these children knocking on my car window that night.
The following two weeks were a particularly difficult time for Afghanistan. Kabul was fired on by Taliban missiles, and it suffered several very serious suicide bombs; even the Police headquarters were attacked. Despite this, when people ask what that time of my life was like, I tell them that because of Mahboba’s Promise it was full of more happy moments than I can possibly count, and that I wasn’t afraid – I was hopeful.
For those two weeks I lived with the children of Kabul Hope House, I sat in on their classes, shared their meals and helped with their homework. I played soccer with the boys and danced with the girls. At night I would sit by the fire drawing pictures with the younger boys, or giggling endlessly while looking at funny pictures of dogs and monkeys on my computer.
Whether they are from the Panjshir Valley or Sydney, Canberra or Kabul, all kids deserve a chance to live a normal childhood. Mahboba’s Promise gives them that opportunity; to live, learn and laugh in peace. In a country full of uncertainty, Hope House is like a sanctuary in the centre of a storm.
Most of Australia’s foreign aid investment is going towards infrastructure, but my experiences have led me to believe that it is people-oriented projects such as those run by Mahboba’s Promise that will make a real long-term difference in Afghanistan.
Projects like the Panjshir Valley Girls School, the midwives training and the backyard gardens initiative have a much larger impact than teaching a single person. When you empower someone with knowledge, you give them hope for their future and when people are skilled and have the resources to positively engage in their own community, Afghanistan will heal itself from the inside out.
We cannot build Afghanistan better, to ensure peace and prosperity, we have to invest in hope.
I will never forget the children of Hope House, and the hope they have given me, the greatest success and satisfaction of my entire journey was making them smile. So when people ask me if Afghanistan was a sad or scary experience I tell them that the only thing I am sad about, is that I couldn’t have stayed longer.
One of the highlights of my 18 months in Afghanistan was spending time with the kids from Mahboba’s Promise. The Australian Embassy in Kabul has a close connection with the charity, including funding various projects. During my time in Kabul, we loved inviting the children to the Embassy for soccer, face-painting and cricket. We were also warmly welcomed by the children when we visited Hope House.
Spending time with these children, who had already experienced so much hardship in their young lives, absolutely reinforced the reason that I wanted to work in Afghanistan in the first place. The work that Mahboba and her team do to ensure that these kids will have the best possible opportunity for a bright future is commendable.