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The Origins of the CommonWell Institute

Soon after the tragedy on September 11, 2001, Afghanistan became a target country in the search for presumed mastermind of those events, Osama bin Laden. During that process, Afghanistan was deluged with military power and destruction, resulting in a devastation of its fragile infrastructure on all levels -- government, the economy and all support services.

Decade after decade of war had already taken its toll on the country and its people. Many were disabled from loss of limbs after stepping on land mines both during and after previous conflicts. As a result, Afghan citizens suffered from one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world with women’s illiteracy rate at 87.4% and a national rate of 71.3%. Afghanistan is ranked second in “least developed countries” by the UN Human Development Programme. 

Children did not escape the full-scale ravaging, as land mines in the shape of colorful plastic butterflies were designed by the Russian military to attract tiny hands.  Thousands upon thousands of Afghans lost limbs and the country was left with a sea of amputees without the capacity to work. There were scant facilities for the disabled and few for the widows whose husbands were lost in the years of fighting.

As the U.S./NATO troops engaged on the ground in Afghanistan, native Afghan Sultana Parvanta made a decision to leave her comfortable life in the U.S. and return to her homeland to assist in the rebuilding of the country. 

What she found was devastating. Her first glance was of a parched, treeless landscape where during her childhood lush groves of trees flourished and bore fruit -- the “forests” of her childhood were gone. Thousands of trees had been bombed or cut down along with the Afghan people during the years of both internal and external struggle. As a result, the environmental conditions have since impacted scores of people who suffer from respiratory diseases and skin disorders caused by the thick, dusty red air that obscures the landscape and hampers breathing. 

Sultana found these conditions to be dire.  She and her consulting partner, Elise Collins Shields, decided to take action. We could not sit idly by while our fellow sisters and brothers suffered halfway across the globe.

Thus CommonWell Institute International, Inc. was founded as a non-profit organization in 2003 to support the most vulnerable in both conflict and post-conflict regions. We are recognized by the U.S. IRS as a 501 (c) 3 corporation.

Over the years, CommonWell’s work has expanded and now includes projects in Rwanda where, likewise, the country was steeped in years of war and hardship. Peacebuilding efforts in Rwanda are on-going and are coupled with initiatives by others to gather and preserve cultural stories and traditions.

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