Shamsa Village was developed by a long-time friend of PARSA, Mariam Gailani, as a model orphanage based on the “SOS” orphanage system. In this type of orphanage 12-15 children live with a “mother” in a home setting and learn to live as a family. PARSA has worked with Mariam and her staff to develop and expand Shamsa Village for over five years now, ensuring that all social workers and “mothers” on staff are trained in the Healthy Afghan Child Program, and specifically in how to support children who have lost their families. PARSA is now expanding our role at Shamsa Village with the establishment of a Cub Scout Troop, providing a life skills and sports program, as well as an effort to support Shamsa staff by bringing the kids to PARSA on Fridays to work with volunteers – a unique opportunity not only for the children, who have the opportunity for a weekly outing, but also for the Kabul community, who get a rare chance to volunteer and connect with local children.
Shamsa’s Steps Ahead program is a pilot program that PARSA is developing after many years of working in orphanages training staff, monitoring health and augmenting support for education and medical programs. We have discovered that most orphanages are able to cover the bare minimum for the children to live. The children go to national schools which usually is inadequate for such a vulnerable population. We have marked out our contribution to be programs that develop education and vocation for the children so that they can be ready to transition out of the orphanages when they are adult. We have also provided skilled experts to work on health, psychosocial health and insuring that orphanage staff are managing a “child friendly” environment. We facilitate volunteers visits, partnerships with other agencies, advocacy with the government and I have started to work with the upper level management to develop their own fundraising program to provide the programs we provide in 2016. This program will be part of what we work on the national level as a part of the presidents Committee for Orphanage Reform and our work in Shamsa Village gives us an opportunity for “hands on” training for my staff in preparation for the time that we will help implement it nationally.
The goals of this volunteering project are in line with the theory behind our Healthy Afghan Child Program. An outing, meeting volunteers, and the opportunity to take part in exciting activities on Friday afternoons, when most other Afghan children are occupied with family, gives the children at Shamsa an immeasurable boost and something to look forward to each week. Having friends outside the orphanage gives the children a new sense of perspective and understanding of their city. Most importantly, activities are planned in ways that highlight the strengths of each individual child and of the Afghan culture as a whole. This helps foster a sense of value and self-confidence within the children.
A secondary positive outcome of this program is that it gives members of the Kabul community a chance to give back to the city in a direct way, as well as to learn about the situation of the city’s orphans. The program provides an arena for like-minded Kabulis to connect in an environment conducive to creative innovation in the spirit of community service.