It is with mixed emotions that we are announcing the news that Afghan Connection will be closing at the end of 2020. Please see below for reasons. Though it is a time of sadness, it is also a time to celebrate all that Afghan Connection (AC) has achieved over the last 18 years. With your generous support, we have created a legacy which has genuinely and positively benefitted the young people of Afghanistan.
More than 500,000 lives have been impacted by our work in health, education and sport. The 130 schools we have built or renovated for some 200,000 children have all been handed over to the government and allow boys and girls across more than a dozen provinces to be educated in places where few, if any, opportunities existed before. More than 1,000 teachers have benefitted from our training courses, training which has improved the quality of education and which will contribute to a continuing development in teaching standards and learning outcomes for years to come. Significantly, the culture of schooling and learning which we have helped to inculcate is now embedded, particularly in Worsaj District, where until a decade ago there were barely any literate women.
Meanwhile, our Community Based Education Programme (CBE), which supports around 3,000 children in remote areas where there are no formal schools, will be in the very good hands of our longstanding implementing partner, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. They have agreed to take it on in a seamless transition process from 2021, (AC will support the 2020 school year), alongside their other CBE programmes for some 70,000 children.
The extraordinary story of Afghan cricket and its many wider impacts, is here to stay, bringing joy to millions of people across Afghanistan. In 2008 we took bats and balls to the Afghanistan National Cricket Team when they were in the bottom rankings of the world. Their meteoric rise to reach the top ten cricketing nations of the world and to play in the Cricket World Cup 2019, has inspired a nation of young Afghans to pick up bats and follow their heroes. It has brought people together in celebration and made the country proud. AC has played its own small part in this uplifting story, running cricket projects for more than 100,000 youngsters - girls and boys and those with disabilities and visual impairment - bringing much needed happiness as well as cricketing skills, kit and infrastructure.
All our projects now have sustainability and for us, this is the silver lining. I like to think of our 18 years as a charity as symbolic of the first 18 years of life for the young Afghans we have supported. I hope, as any parent would, that these young people now have a platform from which to thrive. Click here to hear the community’s view of our projects in Worsaj.
Everything has been achieved through the hard work of a remarkable office team, deeply committed Trustees, led by our Chairman, Sir Richard Stagg, and wonderful Patrons and supporters. Thanks to our most loyal and generous donors we have raised a magnificent £8.5 million and changed thousands of lives for the better.
This is an update and not a farewell. It is business as usual: we are continuing to implement and monitor our current projects over 2020 and will report accordingly.
It has been truly uplifting to see the boundless generosity of so many giving to those so desperately in need of a better life and a better future.
Our heartfelt thanks.
So why are we closing?
Security Challenges: Although Worsaj District in North Afghanistan, the main focus of our projects, is one of the safest places in the country, security in surrounding provinces in the North is increasingly volatile. While this has not impacted our current projects, it will make future projects much harder to deliver. Likewise, it will make it more difficult for me to visit. Assessing the projects on the ground, appraising what has worked, dealing with on-going challenges and crucially, gathering community feedback, have been key to successfully delivering our education programmes.
Construction: Another key reason is that from 2020, we will no longer be able to fund school constructions, which currently comprise a major component of our work. The reason for this is that by law, NGOs are no longer allowed to implement construction programmes using their own personnel, but must outsource to local building contractors (until this year, we have enjoyed exemption from this rule thanks to an arrangement between our implementing partner and the Afghan Government). Given the upsurge in Taliban control and the insecurity in some regions, we have concerns that external contractors might come under pressure, both financially and operationally, from Taliban or local opposition groups. With these new construction rules in place, we can no longer guarantee transparency or the same high standard of construction on which we have relied.