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Ian Pounds with AFCECO Children

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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.

Every house we have visited in California is full of flowers, especially orchids, and every heart we touch upon likewise fills our journey with more beauty. As we neared the house in Manhattan Beach where Frishta (Shogofa) had spent a summer with SOLACE for children two years earlier, she started jumping from window to window on the bus. It was she, not the GPS that guided me into Nancy Grimes’ drive.


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As we chased the setting sun and the great deserts of the southwest fell into our wake the manicured trees and exotic gardens of Palm Desert, California enveloped us. Since the highway had become too boring to bear, I decided to take a shortcut across the mountains of the San Jacinto wilderness toward San Diego. We crept up the winding cut back Pines to Palms highway and the view just grew and grew. This was a great introduction to southern California. We dropped into Casa, a retirement community in North San Diego a little late for dinner. My uncle Artie and aunt Jean met us, full of anticipation. Artie had arranged for us to park at Casa and have meals with the residents, dividing the children in twos and threes among them. There was a heated pool to swim in, and a big presentation planned for Valentine’s Day. Basing our operation there the children would gain a lot of experience with American who in Afghan terms are the people that deserve the greatest respect. There are octogenarians, even folks in the nineties who were in their lives singers, superintendants, WWII veterans, rocket scientists, and a multitude of other histories.

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“Everything in Texas is big,” I exclaimed from the driver’s seat as we crossed the border from Louisiana. I used the best John Wayne voice I could muster. “The cars are big, the roads, the meat is big, and even the moon is bigger in Texas.”

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After making the long sojourn up the west Florida coast and across the panhandle, Alabama and Mississippi the Magic Freedom Bus arrived in New Orleans just in time for Mardi Gras and its first parade. This one was adults only, though, so before the parade got going the children and their two teachers walked through the French Quarter, trying on masks and otherwise marveling at the ambiance, and the already loud and carousing celebration warming up. We met two sponsors, Katie and Kelley at a restaurant for a hearty meal, but not before we had a chance to sit down with a jazz band in an open-air café. Eraj took extra interest in the bass player, and Frishta was practically jumping to the beat.

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The Magic Freedom Bus seemed to be bringing mild weather and clear skies wherever it went. Though Florida had seen a freeze the week before, as we rolled into Jacksonville the temperature normalized into the sixties and low seventies during the day. Here we would stay with Tamara and her husband Bobby who hosted Nasrin a few years ago when SOLACE for children brought some of the children to the U.S. for medical attention. It was a great reunion for Nasrin. Tamara has a lot of cats and a dog so once again the children got to experience the love and care Americans shower upon their pets. It has been an unsung pleasure to watch as the children develop from fear or distaste to curiosity to adoration in their interactions with pets along the way. At several locations there was a lap dog, which really sealed the deal. Lida asked if we could purchase one and bring it back to Kabul with us, and Mohsan could hardly be seen without carrying one of the critters around in his arms.

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