Helping War Refugees
Shelter Now was founded at the end of the 1970s. It was set up in response to the largest movement of refugees the world has ever seen, triggered at that time by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Several million refugees crossed the border into Pakistan, crowding into the region surrounding the border city of Peshawar. In 1983, Shelter Now was registered as an international aid organization, and began distributing food, drinking water, milk and other aid items to thousands of refugee families.
Shelter Now also began building emergency accommodation and soup kitchens in the refugee camps. Clinics, schools, wells and houses for widows followed. The work continued for many years, as war and repression in neighboring Afghanistan repeatedly brought waves of refugees to Pakistan – until the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.
Afghanistan: Helping the Returning Refugees
Shelter Now has been working in Afghanistan since 1988 and has been officially registered there – under various governments – since 1992. Shelter has set up a number of factories for producing prefabricated concrete sections, designed in particular for building roofs to assist with reconstruction of homes. To allow a normal family to be able to build a house, the material is sold very cheaply or, in some cases, given away for free. Other key Shelter Now projects during those years included rebuilding irrigation systems and setting up a center for street children in Kabul.
In 2001, 24 Shelter Now workers – 8 westerners and 16 Afghans – were arrested by the Taliban, accused of spreading Christianity. The arrests later proved to be more of a hostage-taking. Faced with the threat of a US invasion following the September 11th attacks, the Taliban were keen to have a bargaining chip. The workers were freed in November, in a dramatic rescue operation.
Since the summer of 2002, Shelter Now has been back working in Afghanistan. A number of "Villages of Hope" have been rebuilt for returning refugees, along with schools, both for girls and boys. A sizeable eye clinic that had previously been destroyed in Kabul was rebuilt in cooperation with other partners. Shelter also took on a center for the deaf and mute in Kabul, where children and adults can receive schooling and vocational training. In northern Afghanistan, Shelter Now runs a school, offering English and computer courses and conducts a number of projects to provide drinking water for the local population.