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The Sitara Orphanage Peshawar,Pakistan
Since late 2001, we have been supporting an orphanage run by RAWA in Peshawar: in fact this is a joint venture between FemAid and RAWA which we launched together.
It was named after our first major sponsor, designer Stella Mc Cartney who held a charity sale at the Thadeus Ropac Gallery in Paris, selling specially designed T-shirts for this cause.

Situated at the north of Peshawar, in a typical slum- a far cry from the majestic crumbling beauty of the old city, the surprisingly spacious house is in a cramped street in something of a residential area. There are seven rooms which house some 50 children aged between 6 and 12 30 boys to 20 girls.

These children have been saved from refugee camps and slums.RAWA’s orphanages (of which there are half a dozen within Pakistan) receive children who have lost at least one parent, usually their father (here ten have actually lost both), or whose parents for reasons of sickness and/or extreme poverty are unable to care for them. Widows frequently feel they are too poor to look after their offspring (of which there is a national average of seven). At Sitara, there is one child here who narrowly escaped being sold- unlike his unfortunate elder sister whose present whereabouts are now unknown . Another two were brought here after their widowed mother would chain them all day when she went out to work. They still bear the marks of their shackles on their wrists. Parents prefer to ensure safety for their sons than their daughters ; apart from their inferior status as girls, they might bring in money through marriage : according to Muslim law (unlike India where brides have to bring in an ample dowry), the husband has to pay what is known as 'bride-price',basically payment to parents a kind of compensation for removing their work force and transferring her potential fertility to his clan (as if purchasing a heifer). because of the intense poverty girls are sold off at an increasingly younger age, sometimes before puberty (and these marriages are consummated...)Likewise, I visited their orphanages which cater for children who have lost at least one parent, generally their father. In Pakistan, nearly all the poorest boys and some of the girls (Pakistani or Afghan) from age seven onwards do some kind of work after class, often until nightfall : begging at gas stations, rag-picking, collecting paper off rubbish mounds ( one kg for one rupee) , hammering nails into shoes, making metal wire sponges (25 dozen for 10 rupees-sold individually at 8 rupees, $1=50s). Needless to say, these frail kids look at least three years younger than their well-nourished Western counterparts, their growth has been stunted by poverty. I could not believe their age at the orphanage and checked by looking at their teeth:: six/seven year olds looked like Western four year olds, and that does come as a shock.

What we financed at the Sitara orphanage until 2005

We had decided to finance as much as possible of the running costs, including rent, electricity, food, clothing, education etc.
To the existing budget, we have decided to pay for the weekly visit of a doctor, put her /him on the payroll, in fact as soon as he/she has been found . The children are very often ill, with the blinding heat and the staggering Pakistani urban pollution, asthma, dysentery, skin complaints and now malaria are the summer’s offerings.
We also want to buy games- toys are not part of this culture. In each orphanage, I have seen dolls and soft toys- on display in the shelves, never in children’s arms. (But there again, babies over there are always in someone ‘s arms when they’re not in their cot, so they don’t need cuddly substitutes for human warmth.) However, the subcontinent is adept and expert at board games of every kind, including chess and these are the ones we should purchase and encourage.
As with other orphanages, we sponsor some of kind of birthday parties ( to the extent that birthdates are known, often they are not) and attempt to develop relationships with the children : have their birth dates, keep an eye on their school results. They need to know some people in the world care about them.

In January 2003,an enthusiastic supporter from Cornwall supporter, Sadie Brinham sent each child an individual box of toys and clothes: the reaction was total amazement, never had they ever had such a present in their entire lives!

As from Spring 2004, we financed a tailoring class for girls and a carpentry class for the boys. For the first course, fifteen girls, including Lina, Frazana, Razia, Saliza, Rana, Shazia (I and 2), Shahla, Lida, Pakhana, Zalba, Laida, Nilofar, Basira, Soama,, who have had at least four years primary schooling have been chosen. They will learn some elementary pattern cutting and how to use a sewing machine: 15 sewing machines will be bought.. On the boys side, Mohammad, Zakir Mahmood, Watan and Fahim will launch the carpentry course. The average age of the pupils is nine/ten. This is the age where most Afghan children are at work and, for girls, thoughts of marriage begin to cross their parents' mind. The aim of these vocational classes is to equip them with marketable skills for when they return to Afghanistan because return they certainly will have to some day. Those with one surviving parent may be summoned to go home any day, once the situation back home becomes more stable. The return will be a harsh one after the respect and comfort these children have known at the Sitara orphanage, but the fact that they will be able to earn money as result of these classes will be a great help for the rest of their life.

Sitara's new godmother- sponsor Margaret has launched a great scheme in the US, she is selling cuddly 'Olie loves the World' baby blankets to help the children in the orphanage!

Henceforth, we will be concentrating on vocational courses of the same time for other orphanages:the first course has started already for boys and girls and English lessons are being held in Sitara.