Writing about Andeisha Farid is tough for me. There is somethingabout the enormity of her early childhood deprivation in an Iranian refugee camp, lacking necessities of the most basic kind— clean water, sanitation, education, community, you name it—that is hard to fathom. But with wisdom and love, Andeisha’s parents got her to a Pakistani refugee camp, where conditions were better and where, despite being separated from her parents and her siblings, she at least managed to get an education. Feeling blessed she’d been able to learn to read and write, Andeisha then courageously charted the next chapter of her life. She took up the challenge of bringing Afghan children the chance to obtain an education in safe, clean, loving places.
Decades of political instability have taken a profound economic and social toll on Afghanistan. In the 1970s, the country’s central governments grew increasingly unstable, until in 1979 the Soviet Union sent troops to support the tottering communist regime. In 1989 Soviet troops withdrew, and in 1996 the Taliban established theocratic rule. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the Taliban were driven from power, and a new government was established.
This history of chaos and violence has led to a society where the average life expectancy is just forty-five years. Afghanistan has the second highest death rate in the world and the second-highest infant mortality rate in the world. Just 28 percent of fifteen-year-olds can read or write.
In 2003, motivated by the love of her country and her people, Andeisha established a safe house for twenty Afghan orphans, child laborers, and street children in Islamabad, Pakistan—this was the beginning of the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO), of which Andeisha is founder and chief executive officer. Partnering with CharityHelp International, AFCECO now runs eleven orphanages in Afghanistan and Pakistan that were described as “a haven for Afghan children” by NBC News’s Brian Williams when he visited.