Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) XOXO

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Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) XOXO : XOXO Love and Forgiveness through play

Herat, AfghanistanHerat, Afghanistan
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Afghan children learn how to express, and action love and forgiveness through colorful, multi media, tactile interactive play. This traveling exhibit, XOXO, was piloted in Pittsburgh and will be brought to mulitple locations in Afghanistan where children have never seen anything like it before.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if children could express love and forgiveness and be given tools to let go of grief, anger, resentfulness and share this with adults.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Afghanistan has had generations- long conflict, with children growing up surrounded by strife. They live in a world where revenge and violence are daily occurrences. The idea of love and forgiveness is not talked of as a concept that could be made a reality and basis for society. Children are the future and need to grow up equipped with another way of thinking, with experiences that tell them they can put the past behind and forge a new society.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Afghan children will learn about and express their feelings about love and forgiveness and learn through active play that they can put down grievances, let go of sadness and anger and work together in a caring way. Children in the exhibit hall write out bad feelings or happenings and then feel empowered to wash those away and move on. Central concepts of love, respect for all and kindness are shown as actionable by everyone and core to human life and children walk away knowing there is another way of being possible in their community. They share their insights with adults in their lives so extending the reach of the project and sowing seeds of change and transformation in people of this distressed nation that gives hope for the future.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The exhibit is for children and at their level, making it approachable and engaging to the young. An example: children write down a loving thought and compress it in a machine to create a token to give to someone thereby expressing emotion in a concrete way. Children hug a mirror reflecting themselves and others demonstrating the power of encircling love and self acceptance. Children come away having expressed emotion, experienced the concepts of actioning love and forgiveness, giving them a tool kit of emotional knowledge to use in their lives. Adults too, benefit from this child's eye play and see they can access long suppressed emotions, put down the negative and move on. Life seems brighter, the future more hopeful.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The pilot project at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh has been a great success with many children returning multiple times. Parents too have been engaged by the concepts. Children love the hands on, interactive nature of the exhibition. The message that they can express love and forgiveness and action those feelings in their lives is demonstrated in their time there. They do it, and take away the knowledge that they can do it again, in the outside world. This exhibit makes concrete concepts that are usually defined more through language, giving children actions. AIL believes the exhibit can be brought to Afghanistan with some modifications for culture and on the ground practicalities. It is the right time for such an exhibit and AIL is the right partner to bring it to the country, as it already does work in the field of love and forgiveness through workshops and conferences.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Multiple exhibits created and then sent touring around Afghanistan would be ideal with the final goal of establishing a permanent children's exhibition or museum in Kabul and Herat and then other major urban areas. Afghanistan does not have children's museums at this time. AIL believes XOXO could be the seed to start some new way of thinking both in the minds of children and the hearts of adults, and on a national scale in the form of permanent children centered museum space. Other areas of the world could benefit too, as this can be replicated and adapted to suit any culture or country.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

AIL has a project on love and forgiveness already in place, giving workshops and holding conferences and has had success in raising funds for this work. The 2012 Herat conference resulted in many requests for workshops at schools and other locations so AIL now has an established ongoing project providing training in this area.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

No one else in Afghanistan is proposing something like this as far as we know. There are no children's' museums in the country. AIL held the first ever conference in Afghanistan on Love and Forgiveness in 2012 in Herat and is considered an innovative leader in this area of work. In the past, concepts such as peace and love and forgiveness having been taught to teens and adults and through language rather than actions or hands on experience so this approach is something very new and will be exciting to all.

Founding Story

As soon as I saw the children and their parents interacting and expressing love and forgiveness in the XOXO exhibit in Pittsburgh, I knew that this was what we needed for Afghan children. So often what our children express is the violence and war they have experienced but this exhibit gives them a chance to feel wonder and joy, to hug and be hugged, to hold hands with another and “see” love, to speak and “see” the difference between loving and sad speech, and to express love and forgiveness--Dr.Sakena Yacoobi


The Pittsburgh Museum has preliminarily agreed to collaborate with AIL and Creating Hope International (CHI) and send staff to help set up the initial exhibit. AIL and CHI have been working in Afghanistan for over 17 years and AIL has Learning Centers and clinics that provide quality, comprehensive healthcare, education and training. AIL has over 400 staff in the country and offices in Herat, Kabul and Pakistan and is well respected by all.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

, HER, Herat

Country where this project is creating social impact

, HER, Herat

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Foundations, NGOs, Customers.


None to date

Primary Target Age Group

3 - 5, 6 - 12, 13 - 17.

Your role in Education


Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a particular program or initiative.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)


Intervention Focus

Extracurricular, Professional Development, Community, Parenting, other.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Putting Children in Charge: Giving children a voice and cultivating agency via experiential learning, project-based learning, and civic engagement.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Whole child development is undervalued: Essential parts of development get left behind as children get older, such as healthy habits, executive function, and social and emotional learning.


Connections in Afghanistan to help get the exhibit into the country.


AIL has been so successful in its work because it is community based and only enters into work in an area when a community requ

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

Love and Forgiveness are traditionally concepts explored through language. This project uses more than language to help children access emotion and explore the concepts of love, forgiveness, peace , reconciliation and caring and sharing in community. Children who learn these core values will grow up to be adults who seek to incorporate them into daily living and expect them in regional and national governance. We want children to know how things should be, not only how they have been in Afghanistan.

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

a)We will be setting up the exhibit and inviting preschool and school aged children and members of the public to engage in the activities offered. Lesson plans will be developed to help prepare teachers to continue to work with children who have been to the exhibit. Teachers will be encouraged to continue activities modeled after the exhibit, amending them to suit their situations.b) Site to be determined within Herat, Afghanistan.c) 2-4 weeks. d)6 hours a day. e)Staff and teachers from AIL schools and Learning Centers and the Herat Office.

INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.

Research and observation is proving that learning by the young is more dynamic and complex than previously believed. The importance of play as a platform where interpersonal skills, self- confidence and knowledge are gained is being emphasized as crucial to later success in school and adult life. The play time of children is now seen as learning time and as important as the traditional structured learning environment. AIL has opened people’s minds in Afghanistan, especially through education of preschool and the young but also through introducing the concepts of love and forgiveness.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?

Play is learning and has value beyond itself, as children learn about the world and themselves through the interactions they have while playing, whether with other children, or building blocks or coloring crayons. Children’s brains are growing and forming connections and this play time is vital to proper development of skills, both social and mental as well as physical. What the XOXO exhibit does directly links in with AIL’s approach to learning. This is not a lecture, it is a hands on, interactive experience of self discovery and engagement with others, while exploring concepts of emotion.

SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.

All funding will come from grants and donors.

Shipping & construction of exhibit $150,000
Travel & Transportation (consultants, students) 29,000
Rental 10,000
Utilities 3,000
Communication 3,000
Salaries (AIL staff and consultants) 55,000

MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?

AIL is a non profit organization devoted to education, healthcare and training of the neediest Afghan people. This project fits into AIL’s mission as stated in its mission statement. The mission of AIL is to provide education, training and health services to vulnerable Afghans in order to foster self-reliance, critical thinking skills, and community participation throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan.

FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?

The funds would be used to set up the pilot project using a few components of the exhibit to test out people’s response and to continue the development of the follow up teaching component and test this out in the classroom setting. This exhibit is a new concept for Afghan society.

PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh developed the XOXO exhibit and have agreed to help AIL bring this to Afghanistan. In addition, AIL is working with Creating Hope International on materials development and logistics.

COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.

No, because we did not find anything that fit with what we are doing.

VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?

XOXO mini exhibits in schools, XOXO kits available to teachers, some traveling XOXO exhibits, children’s museums with XOXO at the forefront in Herat and Kabul and 3 other large Afghan cities.

IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time

Lesson plans for teachers would include follow up interviews for children and questionnaires that children can fill out about how they are using the lessons at home. Key data points showing increase in: number of times love is shown, showing love to more people, being able to forgive, being able to connect with people, being able to connect with more people outside the family. We hope for better results for showing love for more people.

IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

Not Applicable - yet! (we are at the idea stage or start-up)

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?


Other (please specify)
Number of Employees:


Number of Volunteers:


APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Pretence/ Socio-Dramatic Play, Creating a Supportive Socio-Emotional Environment.

Other (please specify)
AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.