Cultivating Hope in Afghanistan


 Khaled Hosseini

 Photo by John Dolan

By Khaled Hosseini

I’m often asked how I feel about the impending drawdown of international forces in Afghanistan. Were I to rely solely on the press for my information about Afghanistan, my answer to this question would be less than optimistic. But as a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the co-founder of a philanthropic foundation supporting humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, I can honestly say that I feel hopeful.

Certainly the challenges facing Afghanistan are enormous. Over the last 30 years, virtually every institution of some meaning was destroyed. The fabric of society was torn. Millions of people became uprooted and an entire generation learned far too much about warfare and suffering.

Yet against all odds there has been progress in recent years. Today, there are women serving in key government positions, and international nonprofits of all types are assisting the government in rebuilding hospitals, homes, schools and more. Afghanistan has seen remarkable improvements in infant mortality, maternal mortality, and life expectancy. Millions of children are back in school and millions of Afghans have access to telecommunication. Most importantly, Afghans are a resilient, hard-working and resourceful people, eager to rebuild their country and put the dark past behind them. Recent polls have shown that, despite the challenges faced by the country, a majority of Afghans feel hopeful about their future.

It is audacious to aspire to end human rights abuses in an unsettled nation, but GoodWeave’s progress in just one year proves to me that where there is a willingness to try, much can be accomplished.

In 2007, I traveled to Afghanistan with the United Nations. While I was there, I met repatriated refugee families who lived on less than $1 per day, spent winters in tents or holes dug underground, and whose villages routinely exposed children to the elements every winter.

Yet the refugees I met did not ask for charity. What they asked for was access to some very basic resources—shelter, jobs and education foremost among them—so that they could work to fulfill their own hopes and dreams.

So inspired was I by their hope and determination that when I returned from that trip, my wife and I established a family foundation, The Khaled Hosseini Foundation. We established as our mission the goal of assisting those who are courageously providing humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable groups in Afghanistan—woman, children and refugees.

My hope for Afghanistan’s future springs in large part from the work of our foundation’s grantees and those they serve. GoodWeave is one of these nonprofits. Building on nearly 20 years of experience in India and Nepal, GoodWeave expanded to Afghanistan in 2011. Since that time it has worked to end child labor in the Afghan rug trade and offer educational opportunities to the children in weaving communities.

Photo © U. Roberto Romano

It is audacious to aspire to end human rights abuses in an unsettled nation, but GoodWeave’s progress in just one year proves to me that where there is a willingness to try, much can be accomplished.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from our grantees is that each of us can make a meaningful difference in the future of Afghanistan if we choose to do so. If what you have to give is an old winter coat or a few dollars to purchase rice for a hungry family, you can reach out to Trust in Education, a grassroots nonprofit providing assistance to select villages in Afghanistan. If you are a student or teacher, you can join us in our Student Outreach for Shelter (SOS) initiative partnering with the United Nations to fund the construction of life-saving shelters for children and their families. Through GoodWeave, and others whose work we share on our website (www.khaledhosseinifoundation.org), you can help provide economic and educational opportunities, healthcare and more. No amount of assistance is insignificant or too small. I know that I am not alone in needing to believe in a brighter future for Afghanistan, in hoping women play a central role in the rebuilding process, and in envisioning a time when peace once again is the story of the Afghan people.

I encourage you to join me in supporting those whose work is laying the foundation for that peace today. I can assure you that doing so will cultivate hope not only for those you are helping, but in your own heart as well.

 

Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, was born in Afghanistan in 1965 and sought political asylum in the United States in 1980. A San Francisco Bay Area resident since the 1980s, Khaled completed medical school and was a practicing internist between 1996 and 2004. In 2006 he was named a Goodwill Envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, and in 2007 he started The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to provide humanitarian assistance to the women and children of his homeland.