Working with Local Government

Author Portrait 1_Carolyn Alesbury, Education Specialist
Marianne O’Grady and Carolyn Alesbury

Education Specialists

Save the Children in Afghanistan

March 9, 2018

As the spring flowers brought color to the gardens, and the trees were waking up after a long and cold winter, we flew into Faryab to visit the sponsorship program. The trip was long overdue and as representatives of the technical team, we were delighted to see the high quality programming happening in Faryab and Sarepul.

The early childhood, school health and basic education programs in Afghanistan are strong, highly necessary and innovative. The sponsorship staff are team players, dedicated, focused and so engaged.  With Faryab and Sarepul under new and crippling security strains, the staff face extreme challenges reaching some communities – something that must now be factored into their planning to ensure programs still reach children. Our teams partner closely with the local Ministry of Education department to provide educational activities in areas that the government cannot access. Save the Children sponsorship programming is there to support children in preparing for and transitioning to primary school, as well as ensure they are healthy and able to stay in school once they get there.

Early Learners (left to right) Mursal, Atila and Zuhra.
Early Learners (left to right) Mursal, Atila and Zuhra.

In Afghanistan, the ministry is working to get national preschools in every village, but currently only a few early learning centers are in place and functioning in Kabul. Since we know that stimulating children’s cognitive, social, language and even reading and math skills at an early age is important to set them up for success as students later on, sponsorship has been working hard to address these challenges.

We are successfully modeling community-based early learning programs for these young students, usually ages 4 – 6, throughout the country, and in Faryab and Sarepul, the local ministry officials even came to Save the Children and asked us to incorporate these programs into the primary school curriculum. This innovative approach demonstrates our strong partnership with the local government.

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit one of these early learning centers during our trip. The children were both excited and shy to sing and read with us, and to show off on the high quality playground equipment sponsors had provided here.

Early Learners benefiting from sponsorship in Faryab.
Early Learners benefiting from sponsorship in Faryab.

Another example of our close partnership with the local government could be seen in the health team’s recent visit. They provided blue prints for toilets that are low cost, high quality and long lasting. After much review with local ministry officials, sponsorship teams and village partners have built some of these new toilets at primary schools that had no toilets before or not enough to accommodate the number of students.

We are so proud of the program in Afghanistan and want to remind our sponsors, our members and our technical advisors that Afghan children are still in need.  We are working in some areas where other NGOs and the local government cannot reach – we hope that the inspiring and impactful efforts of our colleagues in Faryab can continue until all those needs have been addressed!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Taking on an Overwhelming Challenge: The Child #RefugeeCrisis

An Afghan family of three starts their long walk to Mytillini, the main port and capital of Lesvo Greece where the process of legal registration will begin. This is a walk that can take up to three days.
An Afghan family of three starts their long walk to Mytillini, the main port in Lesbos, Greece where the process of legal registration will begin. This is a walk that can take up to three days.

Overwhelming is the best word for it.


It has been more than a week since the photo of little Alan Kurdi, the three year-old Syrian refugee who drowned along with his mother and brother in an attempt to flee to Europe, captured the world’s attention. This image has put a human face on a growing crisis in which thousands of people risk everything, every day for the chance at a better life. The fact that it’s the face of a child, who deserves our protection and care, makes it exceptionally heartbreaking. 


Save the Children has been responding to the needs of Syrian child refugees since war broke out more than four years ago and our programs are already serving millions of displaced persons and refugees across the Middle East, including in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Yemen. We’re now launching responses in Greece and Serbia to address the particular needs of children (always the most vulnerable in a crisis) by providing emergency shelter, hygiene products and baby kits. 


It’s easy to be overwhelmed—to feel helpless when you think about the huge numbers of people, the sheer scale of the need, the horror of the image of a little boy alone and still on a beach. But any action you take on behalf of children can help make a difference.


If you want to get involved, there are a number of things you can do:


  • Learn more about Save the Children’s response on our website
  • Sign our petition and urge the United States to continue its tradition as a humanitarian leader and help Syrian refugees
  • Raise awareness and spread the word using #RefugeeCrisis or by following us on Twitter and Facebook
  • Donate to our Child Refugee Crisis Appeal aimed at helping support and protect homeless children and their families


Today, nearly half of all registered refugees worldwide are children and youth, and their numbers are growing dramatically. This is no way for a young person to spend his or her childhood. And we can change that. Over the last 4 and a half years, I have traveled many times to the region, meeting with families and children.  There is something each mom, dad and child wants – to have a life free from terror and just a chance to be normal again – to live in a community, go to work, go to school, to laugh and play.


No matter how overwhelmed we may feel by the challenges of helping these children, it’s even more overwhelming to be a child refugee—torn from home, family and everything familiar. We are the grown-ups, and it’s our responsibility to take on these overwhelming challenges and help guide children to safety. Please join us.


A Traditional Wedding in Rural Afghanistan


Najzla Arzoo

Education Officer

Saripul Province, Afghanistan

August 10, 2015


Let us take you to Saripul province, one of the northern provinces of Afghanistan where we are implementing sponsorship funded programs, for a glimpse at a rural Afghan wedding.

Typically, the boy’s family together with some relatives will go to the girl’s house to get the formal positive response, which is confirmed by the receipt of a basket of decorated artificial flowers and a tray of candies and chocolates. This arrangement will then be taken to the boy’s house, accompanied by family members playing music and dancing, where more relatives have already gathered to wait for the basket. This becomes the engagement party. After the meal is served the family will continue playing music and dancing.


Girls baking bread for a wedding party

The night before the wedding ceremony there is another party called Henna which is commonly celebrated in the girl’s house or in a hotel. There will be around one hundred relatives and friends of both families. Guests first go to the home of the family that invited them to the party, before all gathering at the girl’s house together. Except for close relatives there will usually be separate halls for men and women to sit, be served their meal, play music, and dance. Henna, dye from the henna plant, is applied to the groom and bride’s palms after the meal. The bride and groom do not see each other at these gatherings prior to the wedding, but are permitted to meet on other days.

In rural areas, wedding parties are not celebrated in wedding halls but directly in the bride’s house. The wedding begins with the gathering of a few girls in the groom’s house for some pre-wedding preparations. Girls and women from both families will design and decorate the bride and groom’s room. They prepare silky curtains, bed sheets, and other handicrafts. Usually hundreds of guests are invited to the wedding. In most cases, men will be invited for lunch and women will be invited to join them in the evening. After dinner, the bride and groom, in their specific wedding attire, will be accompanied by their close relatives and friends to a special decorated camp for all guests to see.


Preparing a trunk of gifts for bride in Eid

The couple’s faces are then covered by a shawl and a family member places a mirror under the shawl, symbolizing the bride and groom seeing each other for the first time through the mirror. Then with help from close friends or relatives, the bride and groom cut the cake. They will hold each others’ hands and give the special sweet water prepared of sugar and water, or juice, to each other to drink. This is followed by hours of celebration with music and dance, only breaking for guests to give gifts to the bride and groom.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Nezamuddin Learns to Make #Teaching Easier and Fun


Amanullah Qasemi

Education Officer

Faryab Province, Afghanistan

April 20, 2015


Nezamuddin is one of the teachers in Gorziwan district of Faryab Province, one of the Sponsorship impact areas in Afghanistan. He is 57 years old and has been a teacher for the last 12 years. Nezamuddin teaches history, math, Dari, and Islamic subjects for grades 7th to 9th and is also a member of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). He is married and has seven children, four sons and three daughters. He has 14 grandchildren and all his unmarried eligible sons, daughters, and grandchildren are going to school.


Nezamuddin Presenting

Nezamuddin is a very friendly man and always welcomes me warmly when I meet him out in the field. He says that the majority of parents in their community are illiterate due to limited access to education and several years of civil war. He adds that also a decade ago parents were not interested in sending their children to school because they didn’t know about the importance of education. But after Save the Children started programs in their village in 2006 and established the PTA as a bridge between the school, the community and the parents, PTA members and teachers mobilized the community and raised awareness. Now the majority of school-aged children are attending school. He says that now all parents in his village believe that education is the right of each child and have dreams for their children to complete their education and become teachers, doctors, and engineers and serve their community by earning money for their livelihood from such a good way.


Nezamuddin in a Work Group

Nezamuddin has seen a noticeable difference since Save the Children entered his community. He says that lecture was the only teaching method before, but now he and the other teachers use different active child-centered methods in the class, through interesting and child friendly teaching and learning materials. Nezamuddin continues to receive training on child-centered methodologies, positive discipline methods, and disaster risk reduction. Save the Children has also provided access to books for the children, playground equipment in the school yard, safe latrines and drinking water, construction of a school boundary wall for ensuring safety, and school desks and chairs. Nezamuddin says these have all been factors to increase child attendance rates and learning outcomes. The children are interested in attending class and participate and learn better. Nezamuddin adds, “As a teacher, teaching a class has been much easier and more enjoyable for me now comparing to the past.” Nezamuddin thanks Save the Children and sponsors for supporting their school, teachers, and children and providing such a golden opportunity for them!

Your sponsorship has helped to make the Gorziwan district PTA and other teaching programs possible. What other ways would you like to hear about how your sponsorship helps children?

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Parents get involved in Sponsorship Funded Programs

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 3 - Shazia Azizzada - Blog Writer 4

Shazia Azizzada, MIS Officer

Faryab Province, Afghanistan

February 2014

Khal Mohammad of Faryab Province is not educated as there was no school available when he was a child, but he still serves his people by participating in Save the Children programs. He is an active member of the School Health and Nutrition Committee and feels responsible for mobilizing community members to support programs and send their children to Child Focused Health Education groups.

“Being illiterate,” he says, “is like having eyes and not being able to see. Now that we have a nice school, I strongly support children attending and growing up to be teachers, doctors and engineers to build their country.”

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 3 - Parent of a Child - Khal Mohammad With His Grandchildren 2Seven of Khald Mohammad’s 26 grandchildren go to school and two more enrolled this year. These two girls attended Save the Children’s Early Childhood Development (ECCD) programs, he says, and, according to their teachers, they perform much better than children who did not. That’s why he encourages his villagers to send their children to the groups.

“Before Save the Children started their programs,” he says, “almost no one knew about the importance of education or hygiene or child protection, but now community awareness has increased. For example, it was common to drink river water, but families now collect safe water from the school well. The quality of education has improved too, and more children are enrolled in school.”

He compliments Save the Children for the programs implemented in his community and for helping people understand how to play an active role in village development. 

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.


AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 3 - Parent of a Child - Khal Mohammad in School 2


Chain Weaver Grandpa

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 2 - May 2012, Author - Shazia Azizzada 2Shazia Azizzada, Sponsorship Management Officer

Faryab, Afghanistan

July 11, 2012

Afghan children, even amid the turmoil of a three-decade war, continue to play traditional games. For 80 years “Baba Zanjeerbaf,”meaning “chain weaver grandpa or old man,” has been a favorite.

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 2, May 2012, Photo 1The tradition behind “Baba Zanjeerbaf” tells of a spiritual old man who ties people together with long chains to bind and strengthen them so
that when one is in need they can all help to support them.

The game, played by girls and boys of all ages usually in a group of around 10 to 20, is very common in Faryab and Saripul provinces where we are implementing Sponsorship-funded programs.

From the group one child is chosen as “Baba Zanjeerbaf” and another as the group leader. Holding each other’s hands, the children stand in a line with the group leader and “Baba Zanjeerbad” at each end. The group leader and children then sing a song of questions which are answered by the
“Baba Zanjeerbaf”:

Children: Baba Zanjeerbaf!

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bali! (Yes)

Children: Baba zanjeer bafti? (Did you weave the chains?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bali! (Yes)

Children: Poshte koh andakhti? (Did you throw them behind
the mountains?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bali! (Yes)

Children: Baba amada? Chi chi aworda? (Did Baba Zanjeerbaf
come? What did he bring?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Keshmesh wa Nakhod! Bya wa Bukhor! (Pea and
Raisin! Come and eat!)

Children: Ba sadaie chi beyayem? (Which sound should we come

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Ba sadaie peshak! (The sound of a cat!)

Children: Meyaw…Meyaw…Meyaw (imitating the sound of cat)

The children then swap positions and start the song again,
this time imitating another pet’s sound. This continues until all the children
have swapped their position and have imitated different pets’ sound, then the
song changes:

Children: Baba Zanjeerbaf!

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bali! (Yes)

Children: Zanjeer ma bafti? (Did you weave my chains?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bafta shod! (It is made.)

Children: Zanjeer mahkam ast ya shol? (Are they strong or

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Kash ko wa bibin! (Pull it and see.)

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 2, May 2012, Photo 5Then the “Baba Zanjeerbaf” pulls from one end of the line and the group leader pulls from other, until the chain breaks. The child where the chain breaks is penalized by the group leader to sing a song, dance or tell a joke. The side of the chain with the most children is the winner.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.

The New Year festival (Nauroz) in Afghanistan

AfCO March 2012 Blog Post Author Photo with children 2Dr. Sohail Azami, Sponsorship Manager

Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan

April 20, 2012

Nauroz, the New Year Festival, takes place on the first day of the Afghan month Hamal. Nauroz, which means “new day”, has been celebrated in this region for at least 3,000 years. It marks the start of the solar year and the first day of spring. The festival is rooted in the Zoroastrian religion, a major religion once practiced here.

Today, Afghans celebrate Nauroz with family and friends, enjoying traditional foods. Special to this holiday is haft mewa, or seven fruits. Haft mewa includes almond, pistachio, walnut, raisins, apricots and dates which are soaked in water overnight.

Another holiday dish is Samanak, which is made from wheat germ and slowly cooled until it becomes a creamy and sweet pudding. For New Year’s dinner, an Afghan tradition is to prepare seven types of food whose name start with the Afghan letter of “Seen”, the “S” sound. We call this special meal haft seen, or seven “S”.

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post - Photo 3 - March 2012Many cities in Afghanistan host festivals to celebrate Nauroz. In Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in northern Afghanistan, thousands gather at the historical shrine of Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed and the fourth Caliph of Islam. Famous for its Blue Mosque and centuries old history, the shrine is deeply respected by Afghans. T Mazar-i-Sharif also hosts a Red Rose Festival, named for the red roses that naturally grow in the deserts nearby.

New Year’s Day is right after the schools’ winter break and on the 3rd day of the year the schools reopen. To celebrate the holiday, children receive new clothes and enjoy picnics with their families. They also enjoy playing soccer, volleyball, playing music, singing songs, dancing and flying kites.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more