APTOS > Afghan orphans stop in Aptos on a nation-wide road trip
Six Afghan orphans, aged 11 to 17, spent a night in Aptos on Thursday, Feb. 23. Their visit was one of many stops on a road trip across the United States sponsored by their orphanage in Kabul. They left for San Francisco today, Friday, Feb. 24, to see the Golden Gate Bridge.
The six kids and their two adult teachers, Nasrin Sultani, an Afghan national, and American Ian Pounds, have been on the road in a 32-foot RV since Jan. 7, starting out in Boston and taking the southern route through New Orleans, Texas and Arizona.
The local link is Roger Aikin and his wife Wendy, the sponsors of two children in Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO) orphanages who were not on the road trip. The couple invited the group to spend the night in Aptos. At an informal and hastily arranged presentation in the Aptos Christian Fellowship, the six Afghan children and their teachers told stories about life in Afghanistan, recited poetry, sang songs, and answered questions.
The four girls and two boys seemed like any young teenagers on a road trip—excited and wearing new t-shirts from the places they had recently visited—until they told stories of their homeland. Their English was surprisingly good, their smiles infectious, but their stories were, at times, heart wrenching.
As part of the leadership curriculum at the orphanage, the students were prepared for cultural exchange presentations and answering questions from Americans about Afghanistan. Maria Fahim, 17, told the story of her family—seeing her grandfather killed in a rocket attack when she was very young and later seeing her family harassed and killed by the Taliban. Fahim said one of the most striking impressions of America was the apparent equality between men and women, and how American women “can dress as they like and walk together with men as equals.”
The road trip is sponsored by the AFCECO, an Afghan charity based in Kabul that has developed 11 orphanages throughout Afghanistan that serve as home and school for more than 700 children who have lost their parents. The 10 week tour of the United States is in part a reward for their highest performing students—who are given a good deal of responsibility for intercultural exchange at stops along the way, like the visit in Aptos—and in part to raise awareness and funds for the orphanage.
“The media only talks about war, war, war….they never talk about the solutions,” says Sultani. “It’s true the conditions are catastrophic… but we have to work toward solutions. We believe the future of Afghanistan is with the children, so we start with the children. We are training the next generation of Afghan leaders.”
More information about AFCECO and opportunities to sponsor Afghan orphans is available at afceco.org.