“People have to know that most of the 32 million people have no choice, Angela Azar says to me in an interview over the phone. “They can't even get out. They can't even get to the airport. They have no choice but to live there. Most of the orphans and widows can't even get out of their villages. They've never been out of their villages, so they don't have the choice but to be there. There's 32 million people that need our help -- need our help in a huge way.”
Angela is a multi-hyphenate; a mother of six, an anesthesiologist, an Afghan, an American. But she is also the founder of the World Orphan Foundation, a group dedicated to supporting orphans in her home country.
The people of Afghanistan have hardly known peace in 45 years. From the Afghan war in 1978, which led to Angela and her family fleeing to the United States, to the first American strikes in 2001, the Afghan population has consistently been in the crosshairs of violence they did not provoke or deserve.
The American war in Afghanistan was the longest running war in American history, lasting 20 long and devastating years. But the effects the invasion will have on the country, and the Taliban Takeover that occurred as a result of the sudden pull out of American troops last summer, will last far longer. The World Health Organization has warned of millions of children suffering from starvation and malnutrition, with the UN releasing shocking statistics proving that nearly 97% of the population lives below the poverty line.
The recent UN report has shown just how dire the situation in Afghanistan truly is - more than half of the population, 24.4 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 12.9 million children. To put this number of children into perspective, that’s more than the entire population of the state of Pennsylvania. That number should shock us.
But the worst part is, it seems the world has moved on - last summer we watched in horror as Afghans pushed their way onto airplanes and fled their homes. Images following the Taliban takeover quickly went viral - but now, barely eight months later, it seems the global community has collectively changed the channel and found new tragedies to click, share and post. Afghans continue to suffer with our silence.
Angela refuses to move on. “This is something I’ve always, always wanted - ever since I moved to the U.S. I’ve wanted to help orphans. And it was always my dream to someday open an orphanage in Afghanistan.” Angela was born in Logar, a small village in the rural eastern section of the country. She moved to the States at the age of nine, and has never been able to return.
The World Orphan Foundation was born from a need to help, but not knowing for sure where to turn - something many of us today can relate to. “Which organization is going to be able to get my donation directly to those people in need? I decided, you know what? Let me see if I can start my own organization.” She laughs, “And my first thought was, I want to build an orphanage.”
And now, the World Orphan Foundation has created several sustainable and community centered projects in Afghanistan, with special attention to the key areas of health, education and emergency aid. Its board is entirely female and its staff is made up of volunteers, a point Angela tells me very proudly.
“Of course, we have to pay our staff members in Afghanistan because they're doing a phenomenal job. They’re able to deliver the food that's needed to the doorsteps of people in need, in many regions that are very, very unsafe. I don't know of too many who would be able to go into the rural villages like we do. So that definitely sets us apart from the other organizations.”
It’s important to note that since the events of August 2021, Afghanistan has been entirely monetarily cut off from the rest of the world. More than 75% of the previous government’s budget came from international funds. Without it, the country has suffered in innumerable ways. Which has made the work of the World Orphan Foundation all that more important. From flood relief to winter blankets and food box distribution, Angela and her team have worked tirelessly to make sure every cent that comes through their organization is put to the best use.
I ask Angela what the average person can do to contribute. She says other than monetary donations, raising awareness is the most important thing. She asks that we donate what we can and continue to spread the word. “All we want to be able to do is to help raise awareness so that the people can get the help they need. And whether it's through our organization or another organization, it doesn’t matter. Any help would be very impactful.”
Vela Scarves is proud to support the World Orphan Foundation and the incredible work it is doing to support orphans in Afghanistan, as well as the financial stability it is providing for its all female staff. You can support this cause by purchasing the Afghan Firoza scarf from our Solidarity '22 Collection. 100% of the proceeds are donated to the World Orphan Foundation.