Across Afghanistan, four “Hope Houses” are providing shelter to hundreds of children left orphaned through family breakdown, death and destruction or as a result of fighting between national forces and insurgents.
A world away from the fractured reality of their homeland, about 300 find themselves in the Australian embassy in Kabul, playing with kites, footballs and bikes supplied by embassy staff.
The orphanage was established by an Afghan refugee in Australia, Mahoba Rawi, through her Mahoba’s Promise charity, and is supported by the embassy.
Co-founder of Hope House, Sediq Rawi, said the orphanages were occupied by children who had suffered through the insurgency, losing either one or both parents, and others whose families had broken down.
“What we did is to bring the feeling and the hope and the friendship of the Australian people back to the kids of Afghanistan,” he said.
The Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Matthew Anderson, said it was an extraordinary contrast to the hostile environment just outside these walls.
“It’s important in a place like Kabul, in particular, to embrace normalcy when you can find it and this is a very, very normal thing to do,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that Kabul can be a confronting security situation but for these kids, having visited their orphanage, they’re as safe in their orphanage as they can be and hopefully they’re as safe here as they can be.”
Through the orphanages, they attend public schools and there’s a focus on helping them become self-sufficient.
Semin Qasmi, from the Australian Embassy, hopes they’ll inherit a more peaceful and secure future.
“In most provinces in most parts of the country, where the insurgency is the main issue, there are kids who don’t have these opportunities so the ones who are given these opportunities, definitely it provides them with hope,” he said.
Fourteen years since the Hope House’s inception, the shelter has seen its first group of children graduate.
They’re not only qualifying for university, but some have married and started their own families.