Newsletter: June 2010
The high ceiling of the orphanage was suddenly filled with rose petals, red and pink and white, floating down upon my head, and in front of me sixty or so of the Mehan girls cheered. “Happy Teacher’s Day!” So begins this week’s journal entry by our volunteer, Ian Pounds. It is safe to say Teacher’s Day is one day of hope and progress in Afghanistan. The zeal with which children universally shower their teachers with love should make clear to everyone just how dearly Afghans value education. On Monday Ian was given a hero’s welcome by the Mehan orphanage children and staff only to wind up for a second celebration at the new orphanage for older boys. Ian teaches 13 different groups of children and directs a singing and drama group. All his programs are continuous and in full gear. You can read all of Ian’s reports from Kabul at the Hope for Afghan Children web site, a meeting place by sponsors, for sponsors:
Thanks to the funds donated by Doffie Rotter and Jeff Mays, our newly established orphanage in Jalalabad is solidly up an running. Presently the children there are studying for their final exams, which will be followed by a long summer break. Our Herat orphanage also follows this schedule, as they do not have the winters that dictate a reverse schedule here in Kabul. Next month we will devote much of the newsletter specifically on stories from these new orphanages. Right now there is so much going on we must devote this installment to several special opportunities that have come our way, both new and ongoing.
To start with, fifteen of our children are preparing to leave for the United States where they will receive special medical attention. Solace for Children, the sponsoring organization, is to be applauded for the safe, responsible and hugely beneficial work it does. Aside from addressing medical needs, it is an opportunity for these children to experience a myriad of things in the world that heretofore have been absent in their lives; stores, planes, highways, buildings, foods, but also freedoms.
It has been a while since we gave an update on our two emissaries to Italy, Mahbooba and Farzana. Along with their having maintained a demanding array of course work, Farzana has taken up jazz dance and Mahbooba performed in a concert playing keyboard for a part in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The level of trust and coordination and special care that has gone into this experiment is astounding, and our two host families are heroic in this regard. Our two girls have completed a full year of school in Milan, and will return to the orphanage for a summer visit. They have been given an extraordinary opportunity, and the significance is not lost on them.
As you already know from last month, we developed a relationship with American University of Kabul. This led to volunteers from the world-class faculty coming to teach the children at Sitara I and Mehan. This in turn led to use of the football field, which in turn led to a posting on the university web site, which in turn led to the student council inviting the children to perform at a fundraiser from which half the proceeds are going to AFCECO. Fifteen of the girls from Mehan stood up in front of a good portion of the student body and performed four songs, two American folk songs from the sixties and two Afghan songs. The mostly Afghan audience roared with approval. After the performance, one by one students approached the orphans, giving a single rose to each and every one of them.
That same week we received an inquiry from the management of the five-star Serena Hotel in Kabul’s city center. The hotel invited fifty of our youngest orphans to attend a celebration of bio-diversity month, wherein gardeners gave educational presentations. This was followed by outdoor fun such as kite flying and badminton, and then a tasty lunch of mini burgers and fries. During the festivities, while enjoying the happy children frolicking among the amazing rose gardens and fountains, one of the managers suggested the hotel host a real AFCECO event, perhaps even a fundraiser there at the hotel. Yet another thread connected to another thread.
Finally, Andeisha was approached by a member of the United States Army. As part of their sweeping “hearts and minds” campaign soldiers stationed at the new Kabul Compound have been tasked with distributing goods to children in need. Here was a sight to see, a six-foot-six inch tall warrior in battle fatigues kneeling next to tiny Samia, handing her an adorable stuffed bunny. In addition to a broadening experience for all, the gifts were mostly and refreshingly practical: school supplies, shoes, pillows. The commanding officer has since determined to raise funds to fully equip the new group homes for older boys and older girls.
Considering all these special opportunities we are reminded of the single most important element in AFCECO’s credo that of inclusivity, of bringing people together from every segment of society to create understanding, peace and equality regardless of religious belief, gender and race. If it were not for adhering to that credo, the children might never benefit from knowing there are such people as Steve Skulmoski, a Canadian veteran who received wounds while serving in Afghanistan. This man used a portion of his medical assistance money for sponsoring a child.
To all these people and to you: our warmest appreciation of your willingness to extend a hand outside of the normal boundaries of your lives.