Annual Report for 2014

[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

 Overview

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.

 

Growing Up

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.

 

Changes

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.

 

Staff Longevity

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.

 

Financial Breakdown

In 2014, the monthly budget for the House was $6400/month (a 9% increase from 2013).

 

Monthly Average Expenses  2014
Salaries

(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
Salaries

(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
Foundations (grants)  $32,000
 Total

$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

 

Logistics

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.

Conclusion

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.

New Budget and Critical Funding Appeal Ideas (April 20, 2015)

Funding Appeal for the House of Flowers for 2015

Thanks to consistent support by donors and a few foundations, the past few yeapril 14 2015 (5) (Copy)ars 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:

House of Flowers Annual and Financial Report for 2014

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:

Some ideas:

  • 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.

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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.

 

         

In Conclusion!

By all of us around the world sharing our blessings in a network of care and support, this is easily doable. Having existed for more than 13 years, the House of Flowers has proven itself as a viable, dynamic and powerful model that works, having fundamentally changed the lives of dozens of children over the years. We will continue to do so for the sake of children and Afghanistan.

Thank you in advance, on behalf of the children and staff of the House of Flowers.

An Afternoon Outing – Making Childhood Memories (April 2015)

Do you remember the thrill of your first visit to an amusement park? Now the children of the House of Flowers will also have such memories, thanks to the efforts of the staff who organized an afternoon outing last week to Paghman near Kabul. The amusement park is near a beautiful lake, and the whole House took a picnic lunch to enjoy after riding the ferris wheel, the giant swinging thing, and some spinning things – the standard exciting fare of amusement parks around the world.

In the pictures below you will see the various joyful stages and adventures on their trip. Enjoy!  I’m sure the children did!


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Life and the changes that it brings… (Feb. 2015)

All is well at the House of Flowers! It’s been a peaceful past few months with some of the usual changes that life brings:

  • Winter was bearable, with the children staying warm and enjoying some holiday time. During that time, one of our girls, Farah Haz, came down with acute appendicitis and had to get her appendix taken out, but she is now fine.
  • One bit of bittersweet news is that at the end of January, Qudsieh, a teacher of the older children at the House for the last 8 years, gave her notice to the House since she had decided to move to Germany with her family. This is a huge loss for us and also for Afghanistan, since she was one of the few adults in the country who know the Montessori principles that we employ in the House. She was very dedicated, talented, and hard working. We wish her the best in her future endeavors, and hope that she will stay in touch and continue to give her good energy to the future of Afghanistan in new ways perhaps.
  • At the same time, the staff found a new house to move to. The old house was getting very run down and needed constant repairs and the landlord was raising the rent. The new house is just one kilometer away, is much newer, more reasonably priced, and is next to a big field where the children can play soccer and cricket. It’s a good move! A  huge undertaking by the staff, but well-worth it.
  • Our friend Reza Mohammadi works in Kabul and visits the House regularly. Recently he was there when several boys who had grown up at the House of Flowers came to visit. They are now either working or are in school, and it’s just incredible to see them as grown young men.
  • jan 2015 reunion of boys reduced
    Boys who grew up in the House. From L to R: Zaki, Noorullah, Gul Mohammad, (manager Fahim), Obaid. All are working or in university!

 

Lots of New and Great Pictures from the House! (Oct. 28, 2014)

It’s been a bit of a quiet spell, with ‘life as usual’ at the House of Flowers: no big news, which means life is a happy normal! Around the House, Afghan politics and security issues continue to swirl, but otherwise, inside the walls of the House of Flowers, all is well.

We just received an enormous download of wonderful pictures from the House – 118 to be exact! It’s not possible to put them all on the website, but here are a bunch of them, and by seeing them all together you can get a good feel for the neat things that the children in the House are doing during their days:  shopping for new shoes, learning English, and doing a lot of Montessori education activities in math, geography, language and more.

Thank you to all of you for making this continue to happen for the children of Kabul…

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26) High school graduates and new girls at the House… (May 2014)

March 4 2014 (5) The election is over and life goes on in Afghanistan, especially at the House of Flowers. The last months have been stable in the way that makes it possible to say that nothing remarkable has happened, and life is just about as normal as it can be! The children play, go to school, learn, do art, entertain visitors…

Eight new girls joined the House in the last two months. We are very happy to be able to know that more girls are with us, settling in to the safe and enriching environment of the House of Flowers.

In the meantime, five of the older children, who have been with us for years, graduated high school and took their university exams: Waheed, Noorullah, Nadia, Zahir Shah and Gul Mohammad.  The significance of this is huge: that these children who came from such difficult backgrounds have graduated from high school! We are very very proud of them.

We are grateful to the many people around the world who have been offering support in so many ways recently:

-Robin Fasano and Colin Baker, working in Kabul, delivered a wonderful load of clothes and toys to the children, and have also arranged for a new washer and dryer.

-Paola Valitutti and Susanna Fioretti joined forces in Italy for an annual House of Flowers fundraiser in Salerno, raising over 2500 Eu.

-Colette Fischer in Colorado recently wrote a book called Lovelight Magic, inspired by the Montessori education of her children, and is donating some of the proceeds to the House of Flowers. 

 

Here are pictures of some of the new children at the House of Flowers: March 4 2014 (15) March 4 2014 (21)
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25) The New Year Is Coming! Update, and the Shift to Paypal (March 9, 2014)

This update was sent to our email list on March 5.

Dear Friends, In less than 3 weeks it will be  New Year in Afghanistan. 
The children of the House of Flowers will be getting their annual new clothes and treats on this day that corresponds with the start of spring – the perfect time to commemorate the start of a new year.
And this year will be a momentous one in Afghanistan. The pending election in April as well as the NATO troop pull-out mean that the near future is even less predictable than usual. But our staff is prepared, and they have instituted some higher security measures for the children until things are more clear.
 In the House of Flowers, life goes on:  the children are doing art every Saturday under the tutelage of Mohammad Sayed, a friend in Kabul who met the children through the Kabul Rotary Club. The older children (Waheed, Basir and Nadia) are preparing to graduate from high school and take their university exams to follow in Razia’s footsteps in college. The younger ones are reaching the end of their winter school holiday, which began with good report cards from the children’s local school.
As has often been the case, the House of Flowers children perform extremely well in school, largely due to the additional educational experiences they receive in the House of Flowers. The House of Flowers teachers were particularly proud of Mirwais, now in 7th grade, who received a glowing report card with high test results and very complementary comments from his teachers at the local school. 
 In the past couple of months a few of the children have left the House of Flowers, having to move to the provinces with extended family. We are sad to see them leave, but we have confidence that their time in the House of Flowers has given them a stronger sense of confidence, knowledge, and peace. Six new girls have entered the House of Flowers in recent weeks, so we will be getting to know them as they settle in. 
 The Annual Report from 2013 is posted on the website, with a full financial accounting of last year’s activities. We continue to need consistent support, especially with inflation rate in Kabul, but we’re happy to report that the House is much more financially stable. 
 One important website update: Wepay has stopped offering its credit card payment service to organizations such as ours, so we have switched our credit card payment system to Paypal. Monthly recurring donations can also still be set up through the new Paypal system, so please consider becoming a consistent donor/member.
 Happy Spring and Happy New Year, 
Allison and Mostafa