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Zaanha’s World

Our blog provides insight into the world of ZAANHA through our inspirations, sightings, videos and more.

The Sweater Project – A Gift of Warmth

Life is harsh for Afghan working street children especially during sub-zero winters and many children are without proper footwear as well as having only think cotton clothing. They face incredible hardships during the frigid winter months.

One young girl who couldn’t work outside for two days because of the cold was forced to go without food at for those two days. Going to school in unheated classrooms is impossible. Despite these conditions, the children are still expected to work outside during the winter to provide for themselves and their families.

What could we do to help as many Afghans as possible? The Sweater Project was born. Here’s how it works:

Little Girl Selling Tea

The feet of some children living in a refugee camp

Girl in Refugee Camp

One young girl who couldn’t work outside for two days because of the cold was forced to go without food at for those two days. Going to school in unheated classrooms is impossible. Despite these conditions, the children are still expected to work outside during the winter to provide for themselves and their families.

What could we do to help as many Afghans as possible? The Sweater Project was born. Here’s how it works:

  • ZAANHA purchases yarn at the local bazaar in Kabul thus giving business to the shopkeeper, which allows him to pay his rent and support his family. $7.50 buys yarn for one sweater.
  • The yarn is taken back to a center for working  street children where there are women and girls  who are without jobs and know how to knit. The center provides a warm and safe environment where the women can knit sweaters for which they are paid $10 a sweater.
  • The center is paid $2.50

Buying the Yarn

What a Great Selection!

And it is not only the yarn sellers, the women and girls who knit and the working street children who benefit– The $20 donation for one sweater affects the family members of all of these people — approximately 30 people’s lives are impacted by the purchase of one sweater.

An Update From Roya in Time for Thanksgiving

An Update From Roya in Time for Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you will be enjoying this bountiful holiday in the company of family and good friends.

I wanted to share some special thanks to you all from the girls at Roya’s School in Kabul and Mazar e Sharif. ZAANHA Fund started Roya’s School almost 4 years ago with 6 girls. To date, 31 girls have either graduated or are current students. The girls, unable to travel alone to central Kabul and Mazar to attend classes, learn English and computer skills in Roya’s home. Two of the original 6 girls were admitted to Kabul University last year because they had these skills!

I received a letter from last week from Roya and wanted to share it with you. Roya just got married and lives in Mazar e Sharif where she’s starting the second branch of Roya’s School. The original class outside of Kabul is being taught by one of the original students in her home.

A special thank you to you all from your friends at ZAANHA.

Warm regards,
Wendy


Salaam Alikm Dear Miss Wendy!
I hope you and your great family is doing well, I and my great in-laws all are fine here and everyone say salaam to you.

Five days ago since 31 October we started our new collection of girls in Mazar e sharif, totally they are ten girls, all of them are students from 7th to 12th class. I am going to attach their list and purchased bills of class materials. I will send you their attendance sheet monthly.

I wish to thank you for the support and help you provided, for your dedication, attention and open-minded thinking and for your readiness to help with very prompt response. When I told my suggestion to Nasima jan that I want to open another branch of this school in Mazar e Sharif, she smiled and took my hand with her warm hands, she volunteered to help me, and when I turned to you for assistance, you immediately agreed and did your utmost to provide it as quickly as possible. All this was done in order to make things easier for me, Thank you for opening this door of opportunity, which is a huge step for Afghan girls. Thank you so much Miss Nasima jan, and once again thank you dear and sweet Miss Wendy for giving me strength and succeed. With warm hug and kisses to both of you.
Roya Ahmadi

Kabul, Part II

Dear Friends,

My new motto – it’s a sign I saw on the wall of a classroom in Kabul:

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I have the privilege and pleasure of working with many, many very poor Afghan children and the sign you see above epitomizes their attitude. Talk about inspiring!

Local Afghans wishing only for peaceful and secure lives like you and I take for granted have had uphill battles for the past 40 years – most of the population doesn’t even know remember when their country was not at war. And today, that uphill battle is steeper. The economy is severely depressed, jobs are scarce, the insurgency is making inroads and the majority of people are uneducated.

Over the week I spent in Kabul at the beginning of October, I saw and spoke with the many of the over 50 children whom ZAANHA is now sending to school and I wanted to highlight 2 of them as well as give you an update on Roya’s School.

Their “before” stories are representative of the hundreds of thousands of children who work on the streets to help support their families. The remarkable progress they’ve made in the short time they’ve been in school is inspires awe. I hope you too will be moved by their stories.

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Front row from left to right: Sadaf, Shugufa, Benezir
Back row: Wendy

Shugufa

Shugufa used to get up at 5am to get ready for public school which she attended from 6am–9:30am. Afghan public schools are so crowded that they are divided into 3-1/2 hour sections and there are sometimes as many as 50 children to a class. After school she went home to change and then went out to collect cardboard and papers and the wooden sticks people use to make fires for their ovens. In the afternoon she went to Aschiana for an English class and then home to do her homework, help her mother with dinner, eat and go to bed. Her parents are illiterate and she has 1 sister and 3 brothers. The family lives in one room that they rent. Her father repairs shoes and her mother takes care of the children.

Shugufa started at in ZAANHA Fund’s private school program almost 2 years ago. She had been in the 5th grade in public school, but was so far behind her Rumi School classmates that she had to go back to the 1st grade. She was in an accelerated program, learned quickly and is now in the 3rd grade. You can’t imagine my gratification when I discovered that she is now completely literate in Dari, her native language,and is learning to read and write English. She was even able to speak a little. Her mother told me Shugufa now studies all the time when she is at home. When relatives visit, they are impressed and even a little envious at how literate she is and at how educated she is becoming. Doesn’t begin to describe the pride her parents feel!

 

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Yasin and Wendy

Yasin

I remember meeting Yasin 3 years ago. At that time, he was shy and reserved.The Director of Aschiana, Nazar, told me Yasin was a gifted child and would be a great candidate for ZAANHA’s private school program. He started at Rumi and then dropped out because the commute was long and he didn’t have friends there. For a while he didn’t go to school because his family left Afghanistan. They returned over a year ago and Nazar asked me if we could send Yasin to a private school in his area.

Flash forward to my Kabul visit earlier this month. Yasin confidently strode into the conference room. He shook my hand and asked in excellent English how I was and if I was enjoying my stay in Afghanistan! I was stunned! He then proceeded to tell me “If a person doesn’t know about knowledge, he is nothing”. Incredible for a boy who is now 11 years old and illiterate only a few short years ago. He is now 11, in the 6th grade and ranks 1st in his class. He wants to learn to use a computer and take lessons – ZF will buy a computer for him and provide the funds to take special classes. Stay tuned for more about Yasin!

Hadiesa

Roya’s School – Some of the students
(Faces are blocked out in consideration of the girls and their families)

Roya’s School was started in a small village about an hour outside of Kabul over 3 years ago with 6 girls who wanted to learn English and computers, but were not allowed to go by themselves to central Kabul where there were classes. Roya, who lived in the village and graduated from Kabul University with a degree in computer science, became the teacher and we were off to the races!

13 girls have now graduated from Roya’s School and 2 of them were admitted to Kabul University because they had computer skills and English training. Roya got married in early September and moved to Mazar e Sharif in northern Afghanistan. She is starting the Mazar branch with 10 students. Hadiesa, one of the original students and now attending a special school with advanced English courses, will take over Roya’s position in Kabul with 10 new girls. The girls who have graduated are recruiting 2 new girls each who want to learn computer basics and are teaching them. Is there any better way to reinforce what they’ve learned as well as to hone leadership skills?

I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the sunshine coming out of Afghanistan. And thank you again for your enthusiastic and kind comments. Know that I love hearing from you! Stay tuned for more…

ZAANHA — LIVE FROM KABUL – PART 1

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Greetings from Kabul

 

Kabul as seen from the air. 

Day 1- Friday

Arrived on Friday, the second day of Eid and was greeted at the airport by Nasima, her nephew Sami and a large bouquet of roses! Ever thoughtful Afghans…Hashmat, my part-time employee, as well as Aschiana’s Program Manager, met me at Aschiana and asked if I’d like to go to Eng. Yousef’s home for dinner that evening for Eid. Of course – was there ever a question?? A warm welcome was followed by a delicious dinner. Children were everywhere as were friends and other family members, all greeting me graciously.
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Eng. Yousef with 2 of his daughters and Hashmat.

Day 2 – Saturday

Saturday (still Eid) was quiet and a perfect time for catch up and preparation for the remainder of my stay. Hashmat and Nazar, Director at Aschiana were at the main center where I am staying and we were able to catch up and lay the groundwork for our discussions. We ended the day with a delicious late lunch at  Restaurant Istanbul where we feasted on kebobs, rice and salad. Of course, on the way home, we stopped for Shiriyakh, the Afghan equivalent of gelato. Trust me — the Italians have serious competition here!

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Shiriyakh – made by hand – NO machines!
Day 3 – Sunday
What an extraordinarily productive day today!! First stop was a visit to Nasima where I picked up another order of the beautiful sheepskin vests that sold so well last year. Stay tuned for a variety of new hues including a rich shade of navy. Onward to Rumi School! Rumi is one of the top private schools in Kabul and your purchases are helping to send 12 very poor and bright children there for a chance at a better education. Rumi has offered us space to start a tiny pilot vocational business school for working street children! I’m thrilled and over the top excited about this — My dream project will soon germinate!
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(1) Wendy with six of the children we send to Rumi. (2) Wendy with Mirwais (Founder), Parwana (Principal) and three children we send to Rumi.

 

And then Hashmat and I were off to lunch at American University in Kabul where The ZAANHA Fund secured a scholarship for Mahfouz, the young orphan who graduated from high school last year and supports his 11 brothers and sisters. It’s incredible to see him coming out of his shell and gaining confidence and self esteem – makes me feel like a proud mother!
I also met Hamida Mousavi, the young Afghan girl whose father is a baker and supports his family on $200/month. A donor who had paid her tuition in the past ran out of funds, leaving Hamida on the brink of being expelled from the university for lack of payment. We were able to thus far raise $3,000 out of the $4,500 needed. I was told she was quiet and shy – not so! I was pleasantly surprised at meeting this poised, enthusiastic and smiling young woman. When I asked her if she would help develop the curriculum for the pilot vocational business school at Rumi and teach some of the classes, she immediately said “Of course, Miss Wendy, and I will do this as a volunteer. I don’t expect to have any salary any salary from you.” All I could do was to hug her.
wendyhamidaWendy with Hamida and Mahfouz.
After the university visit, Hashmat and I went to see Kamela Sidiqi, an woman I met through Bpeace on my first trip to Afghanistan in 2006. I always considered Kamela an exceptionally talented businesswoman (BTW, she is the protagonist in The Dressmaker of Khana Khair) and as if proving my point, she is now the Deputy Head of Admin/Finance for President Ghani and works out of the Presidential Palace! That means that she is 3rd in command in the government – Incredible! Ever gracious, she’s volunteered to help us the with the pilot vocational business school at Rumi as well as being a business advisor for the tailoring and computer centers at Aschiana. Oh paradise!!!

Stay tuned for Live from Kabul – Part II in a few days.

Warm regards,
Wendy

ZAANHA — LIVE FROM INDIA

Greetings from Delhi!

pinkblue-copyI arrived for a whirlwind few days of approving, buying and planning new collections as well as enjoying some terrific food.

The response to our new color block Ladakh cashmere shawls, hand spun and hand woven in Kashmir (introduced at shows this summer) was so enthusiastic, that we will soon be re-stocked! Look for a full range of colors.

 

Indian artisans are diligently stitching away and putting the finishing touches on our hugely popular quilted silk/cotton jackets. New colors include navy, cobalt, deep turquoise and rich coral.We have started to schedule shows for the fall. If you would like to host a show, please email me at wendy@zaanha.com. Shows are a lot of fun and you benefit! The following pictures will give you a sneak preview of new scarves.

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And I’m pleased to report that the much loved basketweaves are back in myriad colors! They make the best gifts – for you and frankly anyone. www.zaanha.com/shop/basketweave-shawls/An almost last product report. Through the years people have told me how they loathed those annoying little brand labels on scarves. We have tried to address the problem by working with an artisan in Jaipur who reproduced our new logo using silver and other metals. I’d love to have your thoughts – wendy@zaanha.com

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One final piece of news — our new website which I and many others have toiled on for one and a half years is slated to go live at the end of the month! We have created a new brand identity, colors, logo and gorgeous new products. I will send a notice just prior to the launch. Feedback would be MOST appreciated!

And, on a travel note, Indian Accent, the superb restaurant located in The Manor hotel in Friends Colony in New Delhi has only gotten better, if that’s possible. And they are opening a branch in New York around the second week of December. Watch for it – 123 W. 56th St., NYC – it is truly the most extraordinary Indian food!

Off to Kabul on Friday and reunions with the many, many children your purchases and donations are helping. Stay tuned for another report in several days. This time, it’ll be all about the kids!

Warm regards,

Wendy

ZAANHA 2015 – FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS!

 

Dear Friends,

2015 has barely begun and already trips are scheduled, new collections are in the works

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and more and more impoverished children are being introduced to the joys of learning!

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nepalicarpetLeopard prints have continued to be popular and our Nepalese Tiger scarf (inspired by an early Nepali carpet) was a sell out!

Stay tuned for some incredible and unusual animal prints as well as chic insects (yes, bugs!)

I will be travelling to Nepal in early February to work with our artisans there. Digital printing on cashmere has finally arrived in Nepal and we are excited about showcasing some beautiful and unusual prints.

We had a tremendous response to our new quilted silk and cotton jackets and have included a visit to the fabled Rajasthani city of Jaipur. I will be working with the eponymous designer Nayika who will produce some stunning jackets and coats for us.

skywritepairOur signature is hidden in the scarf we introduced this fall. ZAANHA means women in Dari, one of the principal languages spoken in Afghanistan. What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th? Look for new colors in the spring.

Our trunk show schedule is taking shape. For those in the east and south, in March we will be traveling down the eastern seaboard and end up in southern FL! If you’re interested in hosting a show, please let me know.

Our long awaited new website will debut in early April – a new look and functionality. We’re very excited about it and will announce the launch – stay tuned!

UntitledAnd last, with the installation of the new screening room at the center for working street children in Kabul, we will now be able to have regular meetings with the children we are helping as well as many of the Afghans who work so hard to help make our programs successful. We will share some of these talks through short videos that will be posted on our website, YouTube and Facebook. See first hand what a difference your purchases and donations are making!

We look forward to having you join us for many of the events we have planned for this year.

Warm regards,

Wendy