Deborah Ellis and CW4WAfghan PARVANA’S FUND
Canadian award-winning author, Deborah Ellis, has generously donated all the royalties made through the sales of her books, The Breadwinner and Parvana’s Journey to the volunteer non-profit organization, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan.ca).
The Breadwinner trilogy and its inspiration came out of a visit to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Deborah Ellis travelled there to collect research information for her adult non-fiction book Women of the Afghan War. While living at the camps for three months, Deborah had the opportunity to speak with Afghan women and hear their experiences.
One story in particular left a lasting impression: A woman from Kabul mentioned that her daughter was pretending to be a boy in order to support her family. After hearing this, Deborah knew that she needed to write a children’s novel about a child with a similar story. In the spring of 2001, The Breadwinner was published. After the events of 9/11, teachers and parents needed resources that would help North American children understand what their peers were facing in the Middle East and The Breadwinner was catapulted into the spotlight.
Subsequently, The Breadwinner has been made available to young readers in countries around the world. The sequel Parvana’s Journey was followed by Mud City, the final instalment in the trilogy.
Deb called her friends at CW4WAfghan and announced, “I have a cheque for you for $3,000 as an advance on my first book about Parvana. I don’t know how the book will sell but this is a start to help a school in Afghanistan.” Since that day in March 2001, the royalties from these two books have brought in an astounding $850,000!
The royalty funds coming in from Groundwood Books are managed by CW4WAfghan in a special account called PARVANA'S FUND. Grants are made from the fund towards education projects for Afghan women and children through the long-standing relationships CW4WAfghan has with Afghan partner organizations with projects aimed at improving the quality and access to education. These projects have included a number of Women's resource centres; a library run by young Afghan women in Kabul; a home-based literacy program in Paghman province; a girl’s high school in Ghazni Province; computer classes at a women’s shelter; literacy classes at the Centre for Street Children and Women in Kabul, a library in Herat, and two small community schools in a remote area of Kabul and in Faryab Province (more information on these projects is located on the web site www.cw4wafghan.ca HOW WE HELP). In addition, 10% of the royalties will go towards sponsorship of CW4WAfghan to help cover a portion of the on-going operating and administration expenses of this uniquely Canadian volunteer organization.
On donating her royalties, Deborah Ellis modestly says, “So donating the royalties is not that big of a deal, especially when I ask myself the question, ‘What would I have done with the money here?’ I could have done some neat things for myself, but over there we’ve built schools, we’ve put kids into education, and we’ve put women to work. We’ve done so much more over there than I could have done here…”
Her stories of young Parvana were the early beginnings and since that first trip to refugee communities in Peshawar Pakistan, Deb has travelled the world writing about the lives of children in conflict zones and how the vision and remarkable courage of youth worldwide can give us all hope for the future.
Deborah Ellis writes:
“Parvana and Shauzia are fictional characters, but they are very real people to me. I enjoyed their company when they were in my head, on their way to being put onto paper. Their anger, their frustration at the obstacles the world kept thudding in front of them, their sorrow, loneliness, and their triumphs when they could get them - these intimate moments they shared with me like a gift. I often try to imagine how they are managing now, in an Afghanistan that is both dangerous and hopeful. I wish I was as strong and brave as they are.
I've received amazing letters from children who also see Parvana and Shauzia as real. They send me drawings, write sequels, and write of their own experiences with terrors great and small. The most common question I get when I meet these kids is, 'If governments know what is happening to children, why don't they stop it?' Why, indeed.
We all want to be brave, we all want to find it within us to stand up to tyranny and side with those who are being beaten down. Sometimes we look to literature to remind us of how great we can be.
The money the books have raised has put women to work, children in school, and food in people's bellies. I've been frequently astonished at how easy it is to radically improve someone's life. It's an honour to be a part of it.
Once you see how great the need is, it just makes sense to do what you can do. And this was something I could do,” Deb explains.
Read more about Deb's books at www.Groundwoodbooks.com
Read about how these funds are helping in a small library in Dara Village, Afghanistan.