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Ian Pounds with AFCECO Children

Read amazing experience of our volunteers, sponsors and employees who tell their stories of working in our orphanages

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Ian Pounds

In 2009, Ian Pounds spent five months living and working as a volunteer in Mehan Orphanage in Kabul. It is an experience which affected him deeply. Those of us who followed his weekly journal were moved, educated and inspired. We came away with a much richer understanding of the workings of the orphanages and the world of our sponsored children.

Now, Ian is back in Afghanistan, once again volunteering with AFCECO at the Kabul orphanages. He will continue his journal and we will feature his posts here on Hope for Afghan Children.

I hope you will join those of us who already make it a habit to sit down with a cup of tea or coffee each weekend while we read Ian’s latest installment.

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Rain and thunder came rolling through yesterday. The sweater has come down from the shelf. Summer has been expelled.

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April, 2009. Keeper of the key to the storeroom.I am teaching the boys the story of Ernest Shackleton, possibly the greatest success story to spring from failure. My three “keys” to good leadership seem to hold up here, but when you get down to it, leadership must be rooted in the ability to embrace failure, to wrap your arms around it and kiss it on the cheek. What I am talking about is not playing victim, not defeatist, I’m talking about what you do after looking failure in the eyes with open heart, after pressing enough to know that failure is resolved, she has made her decision, there are things in this world you cannot and maybe even should not understand. That is when you spend a few moments recalling for her the times you’ve had, when all was hope and learning, when she led you through your new home and explained to you the dos and don’ts, when she showed you she is no dummy, she knows chemistry, she knows how to fight. I remember when I sent her on a scavenger hunt. She was on the lesser team. This did not dissuade her from giving it her all. She actually thought her team could win.

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Leadership Workshop with Malalai JoyaLast night I sat on the rooftop and watched the first full moon of autumn rise higher and higher above a jagged mountain. I watched the lights of mud homes twinkling, many of them halfway up the side of the mountain; an impossible life, it seems, to haul water up and down every day. At 9:00 pm the city was quiet, so quiet I could hear crickets down by the trickling Kabul River, a singular catfight several blocks away, a man shutting down the metal door of his shop on Puli–surkh (Red Bridge). Summer came to its closure as that moon rose and I felt time as I have only felt in moments of my life, the time I stood behind bars, a scared and stupid sixteen year old, or for the first time on the side of an open highway with my thumb sticking out, the time I could not climb higher on the Boulder cliff, nor lower myself from danger, the time I watched life depart from my mother’s body. I watched that moon and the planet beside it, the same moon, the same planet I had watched all those other times of my life, when my life could have ended, in some cases should have ended, jumping from a plane, a cliff, or a bridge, a six-pack of Mexican rebels with shotguns in the back of a pickup under yes, a full moon, a gale force wind on Christmas eve piloting an 18-foot skiff across an open channel, driving drunk, swimming deep, running fast. Time has changed for me. Before, I always felt caught up in it. I no longer have this feeling. I never would have predicted it. I feel that person I was under all those moons, no longer a continuum but one singular inkblot with all its fingers and toes in all directions or none at all. Time has lost its linear quality. I no longer wonder about the people I love who have died as a loss to me, whether or not they are “looking down” on me, or even have the slightest bearing on that moon, only what they would say if they were here by my side. I recall the very first night in Kabul, April of 2009, the night I was told security was such, in all probability I would have to turn around and go back home. It was a culmination of a series of losses that felt like death in life to me. It was also the last time I felt time as a personal journey. So as I reflect upon this week, I must say it has been yet another culmination I could not have foreseen, like this moon or that, the ones that compelled me to love, or to write a poem, even though all of them are one.

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Election tomorrow. The city has shut down once again. There are hundreds upon hundreds of posters littering every street. A strange democracy, over 2,500 candidates (405 of them women) are running to fill 249 parliamentary seats. It is conceivable a candidate with one percent of the vote can win a seat. I saw Bashardost the other day, campaigning among the people. He has upgraded his little black, red and green Fiat sized car to a miniature black, red and green pickup truck, do to campaign needs. I will be going to visit him in his tent where he lives, to invite him to teach one of the leadership classes to the girls. Nowhere will you see a poster or advertisement of Bashardost. He goes to the people and let’s them decide.

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Here is what Mehan brings to life…

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Eid begins no sooner than the moment the Mullah sees the new moon. That day is today. Three days of festivities commence that resemble Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all wrapped into a three-day celebration. Try to imagine a month of fasting, no water, no food between 4am and 7pm, praying five times a day (which is quite involved. See entry on 27 June, 2009, 4pm) and then imagine how you might celebrate the end of it.

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