- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

The evening of May 24 boasted a number of perfect spring moments, especially if you were one of 200 guests gathering for cocktails on German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth’s dramatic terrace overlooking the city. Conversation was just as pleasant, especially when word spread that the Aschiana Foundation’s third annual Kite Soiree had topped the $130,000 mark — and that was before Anita McBride, first lady Laura Bush’s chief of staff, announced that the organization’s long-awaited $100,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development had been approved earlier in the day.

Aschiana (which means “the nest” in Farsi) runs six inner-city centers in Kabul, Afghanistan, for 2,500 of the capital’s 60,000 street children. The Aschiana Foundation US, created by Marie Kux, the French wife of former U.S. diplomat Dennis Kux, and a dozen friends and neighbors 2 years ago, has raised more than $650,000 to support relief efforts for the children — mostly orphans who scavenge or beg in the streets and have little chance to attend school.

Aschiana provides a daily hot meal, a safe place to learn and a nurturing atmosphere in which to recover from the violence of war and terrorism. The children learn vocational and life skills, including land-mine awareness, and partake in health, art and recreational activities. There are three outreach programs for 3,000 additional children in Kabul’s refugee camps and a program in Parwan that reintegrates child solders into civil society.

Kite flying, once banned by the Taliban, is a favorite pastime of Afghan children and thus the symbol of this Washington nonprofit.

Mr. Scharioth, who hosted the event with his wife, Ulrike, spoke of winning “the hearts and minds of the Afghan people,” adding that his government has pledged $900 million to civil reconstruction and is “the third largest” military presence there.

“When we had peace and stability in our country,” the Germans built a bridge which is now historic because it “still stands today as a symbol of the friendship between Afghanistan and Germany,” Afghan Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad said as two sisters and one sister-in-law of Afghan President Hamid Karzai looked on.

Mrs. Kux echoed both ambassadors’ comments on the crucial importance of education. “Each time I visit Aschiana, I am struck by the children’s passion for learning; they are desperate to go to school. Education is their hope for a better life.”

Other VIPs present included Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson and wife Marcia; Special Representative of the European Union to Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell; former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers; former Afghan Ambassador Ishaq Shahryar and his wife, Havizah; former Secretary of the Army Martin Hoffman; and former head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan Lt. Gen. David Barno.

Other Aschiana supporters included Esther Coopersmith, Isabel Ernst, Jennifer and Karim Camel-Toueg, Diana Rowan Rockefeller, Nasir and Faree Khan, Ray and David Evans, Lou and Candice Hughes and Nini Ferguson and a devoted Aschiana Committee of 30 French, Afghan and American volunteers, including Shaista and Ray Mahmood, who hosted the first Aschiana Kite Soiree in their Potomac riverfront home just south of Mount Vernon.

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