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Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

Kabul-based PARSA, an international aid organization that works with orphans and the disabled in Afghanistan, rebuilt a training center for Afghan orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, Afghanistan.

For half a dozen years until his death last month, American musician and pop star Prince privately sent thousands of dollars to support Afghan orphans, a humanitarian organization in Afghanistan told VOA.

The pop star helped Kabul-based PARSA, an international aid organization that works with orphans and the disabled in Afghanistan, rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul.

“We received a check for $15,000,” Marine Gustavson, executive director of PARSA, told VOA in Kabul. “It created for my staff a place to bring the kids together, a place to have a five-day workshop where the scoutmasters can stay and can do camp activities and works.”

Because of Prince's donation, the number of children in the PARSA scouting program rose from 30 to about 2,000.

"He was instrumental,” Gustavson said. “He donated to something we needed."

“He continued to donate to the Afghan scout program until the end of his life,” she said, adding that Prince donated $6,000 a year after his initial gifts.

The late pop star, however kept his philanthropy a top secret.

“Because of the kind of man he was, he did not want people to know about his philanthropy,” Gustavson said. “It was his secret. I just wanted to tell people to honor him. It is a side of him that most people do not know.

“I think it was special to him, and it was outside of the public domain.”

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Unknown to youths

The young scouts who benefited from Prince's largesse were equally ignorant of his identity.

“It is a rock star group,” one of the girl scouts told VOA. “I do not know his name.”

The history of scouting in Afghanistan goes back to 1931, under the founding leadership of King Nadir Khan. The program, however, diminished into nonexistence after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s and the emergence of the militant Taliban into power.

According to PARSA, the organization’s scouting program is designed to empower Afghan children and steer them away from the lure of extremist groups. The program currently has over 1,800 registered youths across 14 provinces.

“When he was alive, we did not know about the assistance he had provided,” said Kamaal Sadat, Afghanistan’s deputy minister for youth affairs. “We came to know about it after he passed away. We are saddened by his death. We are thankful to him. Be there more people like him in the world.”

VOA's Noor Zahid contributed to this report from Washington.