Unbelievable Robbery at Our House of Flowers Orphanage in Kabul
The earthquake in Nepal on April 28 was unexpected, and the scale of its disaster has kept the caring people of the world bewildered. The House Flowers in Kabul has also experienced its own kind of “earthquake” recently: an unprecedented and frightening robbery. We ask ourselves, who in their right mind and humanly moral fiber would rob the belongings of orphans?
And yet, around 9:30 PM a couple of weeks ago, five armed masked men entered the House, forced all the staff in a room and demanded the safe. They threatened to shoot if the staff resisted. Eventually the thieves took the safe with money of the House and the back-up funds of Hewad, our partner NGO. They also took Hewad’s car. Fortunately, most of the children were in bed except one and were not aware of what was happening. And luckily no one was physically hurt. But the trauma lingered for a several days as the stress hit some of the children and staff, and they fell sick and could not eat or sleep.
The police investigation is ongoing with no definite results. They recommended that we have an armed guard from now on. Having a man with a live ammunition at the gate of the House of Flowers is the last thing we wish to have in a Montessori-medium school, but the realities of Kabul regrettably dictate otherwise. This is also another additional cost we have to undertake; the police do not provide this service for us. This is in addition to our recent decision to try to increase the budget of the House in order to keep up the annual increase in cost of living.
We are now pleading to our very generous donors and friends of the House of Flowers to help out in an emergency manner to replace almost 2 months’ worth of our budget we have lost in this robbery (“financial earthquake”). Meanwhile we need to sustain (and hopefully increase slightly) the monthly salaries of the teachers and staff, the children’s food and supplies, as well as the house rent for the remaining months of 2015.
Please accompany and help us, as we are trying to help both the House of Flowers and the Nepal earthquake victims during this difficult time. Let us not give up and abandon those children because of the dreadful and intimidating bandits who shame Afghanistan’s integrity every day.
You are our only conduit to transfer solidarity and love to those who need help throughout this unusual chapter of events.
Thank you for being there.
Mostafa and Allison May 2, 2015
[To download a Word version of this report, click on the link: House of Flowers Annual and Financial Report for 2014
House of Flowers Annual and Financial Report 2014
For nearly 13 years, since autumn of 2002, the House of Flowers in Kabul has been a stable home and school for orphan children from destitute families from all over Afghanistan. This home possess the unique structure of being designed on Montessori principles for education and child development. Over the years, this experimental design has proven itself over and over.
It is exactly this stability and consistency that is the strength of the House of Flowers, and yet this also means that each year is much like the year before. Each year is instead marked by the kinds of events that any family with children would highlight: moving to a new home, taking trips, doing homework and performing well in school, attending entertaining cultural programs, learning how to cook and sew and make arts and crafts, celebrating holidays, sending siblings off to college. All of these events took place in the House of Flowers over the past year, with the 30 children and 9 staff of the House of Flowers.
The Children and Their Lives in the House of Flowers
For most of 2014, the House of Flowers was home to 30 children. One third were girls, and two thirds boys. The youngest was Amina, age 5, and the oldest was 17, Maryam. The children come to the House of Flowers through our protocol with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, who refer desperate children or families to the House. The majority of children in the House have been there for over 5 years. Maryam, the oldest, has been at the House since she was 6, and she is now 17. She has literally grown up in the House, as have a number of the older children.
As they have since the beginning, all of the children attend the local schools for a few hours a day where they learn basic subjects along with their neighborhood peers and are integrated into the formal education system for exams, etc. The rest of the time, they receive additional lessons from their teachers in the House of Flowers. The teachers have been trained in Montessori education principles, techniques and materials, and implement the free-flowing classrooms inspired by the Montessori approach. The children work in small groups on their own tasks, using extensive hands-on materials to concretize abstract concepts and making their own projects in areas such as geography, biology, geometry, culture, and poetry, as well as strengthening their skills in math and language. As a result, the majority of the House of Flowers children have skipped one or two grades in the local schools, and they catch up very quickly on lost time if they started school late due to the difficulties in their early childhoods. Below is a quote from the House teacher Fatima, telling of two girls’ rapid progress after joining the House of Flowers:
Hadia ( هدیه ) now is 7 years old she came to House of Flowers on (31/ 5/ 2014), and another younger girl which her name is Zahra (زهره) she is 9 years old and she came in Hof on (16/10/2014).
So at first when they come in the house of flowers they couldn’t Read and write even their Name.
After work with Montessori materials with other children in Hof now on (23/3/2015) they are going to school in 3rd grade. They are very, very happy to go to school! I am very proud of Montessori Elementary Education for kids.
Besides the academic advantages of a Montessori approach, the House is designed to run on the principles of freedom and responsibility and respect that underlie Montessori education. As a result, the children gain confidence, a sense of purpose and belonging, and learn the cultural graces of their country through the guidance of the dedicated staff.
Major Events in 2014
- A fun and inspiring visit by the Kabul Mobile Mini-Circus children’s group
- Attended classical music concerts in Kabul (via the New Rotary Club)
- Field trip to Paghman lake and amusement park
- Art projects through Constellation project
- Filming at the House for inclusion in a Canadian film documentary
- Moved to a new house
- Teacher Qudsieh left, new teacher Basira joined
One security-related issue also occurred. Although the House of Flowers staff is entirely dedicated to the health and well-being of the children, Kabul is not always a stable place, and things can easily occur despite all precautions being taken. One such event was a bombing at a nearby school which shook the neighborhood of the House of Flowers and broke several windows in the House. The children have been instructed where to go in the house in the event of any such bomb or explosive event. In this case, no one in the House was injured, but it was a frightening reminder of the volatile situation in Kabul.
In the last two years, the House of Flowers has been entering a new phase, just like a family does whose children are growing up. Many of the children who came when they were 4 – 8 years old have finished high school and have begun their lives outside of the House of Flowers. Some have passed exams and have begun their university studies. Razia is now in her sophomore year studying education at Kabul University. Her sister Nadia is in her freshman year, potentially studying law. Maryam will be taking her exams and hoping to attend university next year.
Several of the boys have also gone on to take university courses while entering the work force: Waheed, Basir, Noorullah, Obaid, Gul Mohammad and Zaki are all working. These boys who grew up together are like brothers, and they return regularly to visit the House of Flowers and spend time with the adults who were so important to their childhoods. The fact that they return is highly significant – it means that they retain feelings of belonging and connection. In other words, the House of Flowers is not a “project” with an end. It is a family, with relationships that never end.
The House of Flowers experienced two major changes at the end of 2014. After struggling with maintenance issues for months, the staff decided to find a new house. They located a much newer house 1 km away and the whole house moved. This required registering the children in a new school, but the staff took care of all of that paperwork.
In addition, Qudsieh, a revered and respected teacher at the House for 6 years, got married and moved to Germany with her family. The House and the children were very sad to see her go. About a month later, a new teacher joined the House. This new teacher, Basira, has studied education, and has also worked in other orphanages. As a result of this experience, she quickly developed a great love and appreciation for the House of Flowers, seeing how much love and care was present, compared to the orphanages where she worked before. She was immediately under Fatima’s tutelage to learn about Montessori education, and has been learning it rapidly. She emails often and expresses her love for the children and how happy she is to be there.
The House of Flowers is run by 9 adults who provide care, security, education and support to the children 24 hours a day. This year the only turnover has been the loss of the teacher Qudsieh, and one new guard. Thanks to the dedication of these staff, we have had very little turnover, with the same the same manager, teacher, cook, two guards, laundry/cleaning woman, and girls’ night guard, for over 6 years. Some of them have been with us for 10 years, and some from the very beginning.
In 2014, the monthly budget for the House was $6400/month (a 9% increase from 2013).
|Monthly Average Expenses 2014|
(1 manager, 2 teachers, 1 cook, 2 cleaning staff, 3 guards/night staff) $ 2,785.00Food $ 1,300.00Rent $ 1,200.00Operations and Supplies (includes office and school supplies, clothes and shoes, medicines, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, kitchen equipment, etc) $ 450.00Energy (electricity bill, fuel for generator and heaters) $ 650.00 TOTAL $ 6385.00
The rate of inflation in Kabul has eased this year, but to keep up with necessary increases in the cost of living, we are planning on another 9% increase to $7000/month for 2015:
Projected Budget for 2015
|Projected Monthly Average Expenses for 2015|
(1 manager, 2 teachers, 1 cook, 2 cleaning staff, 3 guards/night staff)$3,035.65Food$1,417.00Rent$1,300.00Operations and Supplies (includes office and school supplies, clothes and shoes, medicines, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, kitchen equipment, etc)$490.50Energy (electricity bill, fuel for generator and heaters)$708.50TOTAL monthly$6,951.65TOTAL annually $83,424
|Financial Breakdown from 2014 and Projections for 2015|
|Carry-over from 2013||$36,655|
|Individual donors (1-3 times each, average $300)||$18,777|
|Consistent donors, members (monthly)||$ 9,940|
$97,372Expenses from 2014
($6400 x 12 months)$76,800Carry-over to 2015
(projected through March 2015 with monthly budget of $7000, annual budget $84,000)$20,572Required for rest of 2015 (based on new budget) $62,852
In Kabul, the House of Flowers is run by the staff that is paid by MEPO. HEWAD, our Afghan partners, assist with administration and government liaising.
In Ohio in the US, MEPO is run by a volunteer staff that coordinates donations and accounting. We also have a relationship with the non-profit organization Lantern Projects which hosts MEPO as a project on its website and thus facilitates tax-deductible donations for those in the US who require a tax deduction. One hundred percent of donations to Lantern Projects that are earmarked for the House of Flowers are sent directly to MEPO.
Having existed for more than 13 years, the House of Flowers has proven itself as a viable, dynamic and powerful model that works, having changed the lives of dozens of children over the years. We will continue to do so for the sake of children and Afghanistan.
Funding Appeal for the House of Flowers for 2015
Thanks to consistent support by donors and a few foundations, the past few years at the House of Flowers have been financially stable. Now that we are into 2015, we are reaching out to the friends of the House of Flowers to make sure we can continue to meet our budget for the rest of 2015.
To read the annual report, please click on the link below:
Budget Info and Increase
Currently the House of Flowers is home for 30 children from ages 5 to 17. The monthly budget in 2014 was $6400. We would like to increase the budget by 9% to $7000 per month for 2015 because of cost of living, inflation, and needed staff salary increases.
$7000/month = $2800 / year per child, or about $250 / month for each child.
What do we need to do?
Currently the House of Flowers has monthly or annual commitments that will cover 6 children for the coming year. We still need to raise funds for the additional 24 children, at about $250 a month, or $3000 for a year.
It may seem like a lot, but it’s not really, if we all work together, all around the world:
Can you find 4 other friends or family members who could join you in committing to $50 a month for the next 12 months, to provide the $250 per month for one child? It’s a great family endeavor.
What about a church group or school club or scout project fundraiser? A movie night? A walkathon? A talent show? If 100 people each donated $30 each, that would instantly raise $3000, enough money for a year for a child.
A small group of people could easily generate $250 in an evening: Only 25 people need to give $10 each! This could be a monthly event such as a potluck dinner, movie, etc.
Or maybe a consistent monthly fundraiser to raise the $250 per month? Bake sales can often generate that much money in one hour!
We only need 24 such projects to raise $3000 each, and we can meet our annual goal for our 2015 budget. We need to do this by the end of July! Surely around the world we have 24 people, schools, clubs or organizations who are willing to do what it takes to raise $3000 with the help of friends, family and getting others involved.
You may ask, “How exactly is this money used?”
This monthly budget of $250 per child covers everything that is needed to provide each child with a safe, nurturing and enriching childhood:
A Montessori-based education from two caring in-house teachers in a bilingual environment (Dari and Pushto), that transcends the ethnic divisions so common in Afghanistan. This education also emphasizes geography and awareness of the wider world, taught in a context of compassion, reflection and acceptance.
A family-style environment, where life skills such as sewing, cooking, hygiene, hospitality, traditional culture, computer skills and finances are taught.
3 nutritious meals a day, a warm, clean home with a good bed), and private storage space (many orphanages require sharing beds and do not allow children to possess their own things)
Warm clothes, a school uniform, shoes, boots
All school supplies, as well as supplemental educational materials such as globes, encyclopedias, science equipment, story books, art supplies, etc.
Full medical care. In the past this has included care for broken bones, an appendectomy, dental care, X-rays, and antibiotics.
Support for older children in preparing for exams, for going to university and/or looking for jobs.
Transportation funds to safely take the children on outings, such as picnics, the zoo, concerts, etc. by chartering a bus or taxis.
Things that make life fun for children: bonuses, gifts and treats at celebrations such as Girls Education Day, Teachers Day, New Years, International Women’s Day, and the two primary religious holidays a year (Eid al-Fitr and Eid-e-Ghorban)
Salaries for nine full-time, highly dedicated caregivers who ensure the children’s safety, security, and health while providing guidance, love and education, 24 hours a day.
Some quick data: The teachers and manager of the House, the highest paid staff members, make $330 a month. The cleaning staff make $220, and others are in between. The average salary in Kabul is $400 a month.