Eleven years ago, Lacombe-based humanitarian organization A Better World Canada launched the 100 Classroom Project for children in Afghanistan.
Over $1.4 million has since been invested in 12 schools providing permanent education to over 18,000 students, and in particular girls who often were not permitted to complete their education.
Project member Azalea Lehndorff, said according to an update received three weeks, those schools have not been a Taliban target as insurgents seized power.
“Communities had essentially gathered up the furniture and the books and they were keeping them safe somewhere. The schools themselves were being left empty for the moment. They do their best to protect the schools,” said Lehndorff who was saddened by how quickly the Taliban regained control.
“It remains to be seen what kind of regime they’re going to run. We don’t know if this is Taliban 2.0. The previous Taliban regime was very strict on not wanting girls to be in school, stuff like that.”
She said A Better World is grateful to those who believed in its work to make education more accessible in Afghanistan.
“I truly don’t believe it’s ever a waste to invest in children and their future. If we have to go back and give them textbooks and tents again — we will.”
The last time Lehndorff was in Afghanistan was in 2019.
She said while there’s been some insecurity in recent years, children have attended school, youth attended university, about 100 media channels were available for citizens to find out what was happening in the rest of the world.
“People have been going about their lives. You saw a different picture than what would have been years ago at the beginning of the war. Not perfect. Lots of issues. But lots of hopefulness.
“There are lots of people within Afghanistan that are moderate, who want progress. It’s unfortunate right that now the voices of those people probably won’t be able to be heard. But they’re still there.”
Lehndorff strongly believed in young Afghans especially, who have been exposed to new ideas while growing up in a democracy.
“I somehow have hope because of them that there’s going to be a way out of this in time. But things could get worse before they get better. I do believe that. I’m a realist as well.
“There are just so many questions. What is next? Is there going to be a civil war?”
She said humanitarian organizations will have to figure out what their role will be.
“I’m not sure what we can do next, but we should keep our eyes and ears open for opportunities to help. I hope people don’t give up on the people, the children in Afghanistan.”
Lehndorff said Canadians can also do their part by welcoming Afghan families who come here.
On Monday, 807 Afghans had been evacuated under a special immigration program along with 34 Canadian diplomats and Canadian Armed Forces personnel.
Last week the federal government also announced it would resettle 20,000 refugees who have already fled Afghanistan which is a separate commitment than its promise to help Afghans who previously helped Canada.
— with files from The Canadian Press