Seven-year-old Nabeela loves spending time at the UNICEF Child-Friendly Space in Qalan Bafan, Balkh Province, northern Afghanistan. She’s animated and enthusiastic as she leads her friends in a review of the English alphabet, carefully drawing letters as she takes her turn at the white board.

“When Nabeela first arrived here, she was very shy but now she is social,” says her teacher, Maryam Hashemi. “She is working with all children in groups and is happy with everyone. Nabeela is a very different child in the Child-Friendly Space and outside.”

Equipped with learning and recreational materials and staffed by trained teachers, UNICEF-supported Child-Friendly Spaces are a lifeline for girls and boys in Afghanistan, a place where they can learn and grow, safe from the hardships of their often-stressful home environments.

In northern Afghanistan, a Child-Friendly Space brings joy to 7-year-old Nabeela

Nabeela’s mother, Lateefa, has seen her daughter blossom since she started going to the Child-Friendly Space. “Thanks to teacher Maryam, she behaves very well with the students,” she says. “And she really has passion towards the Child-Friendly Space. She cried a lot before. She was not playing. She was not going out. She was making excuses and she was really uncomfortable.”

Now Nabeela confidently counts to 40, as her teacher stands nearby, offering encouragement. Her classmates applaud when she’s done.

“I see Nabeela’s future as very bright,” says Hashemi. “Wherever she is, she will be successful. Whatever she wants, she will achieve it, because she is a very determined and courageous girl.”

UNICEF has been on the ground in Afghanistan since 1949, protecting children and their rights

Afghanistan has long been one of the toughest places on earth to be a child. UNICEF has been on the ground supporting the rights of children for more than 70 years, working from offices nationwide to deliver assistance to the most vulnerable.

“UNICEF wants to see every girl and boy across Afghanistan in school and learning,” says UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Dr. Mohamed Ayoya. “We will not stop advocating until that goal is achieved. Not only is education a right for every child, it is the foundation for future growth in Afghanistan.”

Help UNICEF reach more children with lifesaving support in Afghanistan. Donate today. 

Top photo: The UNICEF-supported Child-Friendly Space in Qalan Bafan, Balkh Province, northern Afghanistan, has been a lifeline for 7-year-old Nabeela, center, and the other children in her community. Stocked with learning and recreational materials and staffed with trained teachers, Child-Friendly Spaces offer children growing up amid crisis and insecurity a safe, welcoming place to learn and grow. © UNICEF. Video edited by Tong Su for UNICEF USA.