It has been a month of juggling for the staff and volunteers of AFCECO, while the children hunkered down and took all their midterm exams. Firstly, the final series of vaccinations against Hep B were administered. Thanks again to sponsor Doffie Rotter for her persistence in providing us with the resources and motivation to get it done! Health is one of the tenets of our mission. As you can imagine, like a school the orphanage is a clearinghouse of germs. We teach cleanliness at all times, and we are taking steps to supply each orphanage with a high quality water purification system, which would alleviate a major source of mild but nagging stomach illnesses. We are also continuing the health care education program in our clinic, and have found a potential source for eye exams and glasses.

Our first resident volunteer, Chanda Johnson, arrived the second week of June. She hails from a home-schooled, big family Kansas life, along with experience living in Brazil two years. She has been working closely with the youngest children in Sitaras I and II. Her primary focus has been to develop a better system to respond to sponsor’s letters, and to teach the 5 -9 year olds English skills as pertains specifically to letter writing. The goal is for these letters to be unique, personal, and for these youngest children to fully understand their significance and meaning and to take pride in them. It is hard to believe already Chanda is getting ready to head back to New York. We thank her for all the groundbreaking she has done while here.

Most of the children who went to America this summer have returned. They received special medical attention, and experienced another universe. They come home healthier, with better English skills, a whole lot of stories to tell, and for some of them California tans! This was possible thanks to SOLACE, a group that has developed a growing relationship with AFCECO. (There are plans for a feature story about this partnership to appear on network news.) One of our boys, Araj, surprised everyone at a host family gathering by singing in perfect key and English the song he learned last year in the orphanage, Bob Dylan’s anthem Blowin’ in the Wind. Word is a box of tissues was emptied.

“Sports have become a major element to the children’s program over the past month, and it looks like this element is here to stay. It began with the gym and phys-ed instructor at Mehan, and now we have a trainer from the Afghan national soccer team working with girls and boys at the American University field. This is blossoming into something very special, because we are going to register the girls with the Afghan National Football Association, making them the first official women’s team outside of the one national professional team. We see some natural athleticism in our girls. This program could mean matches around the country and even abroad. Continuing programs also include instruction in kick-boxing and karate for the boys, and Angela, our new volunteer arriving in August is a brown belt who plans to work with the girls.

As always it is a time for thanks. This month we send special thanks to Four Horsemen International, owned and managed by disabled veterans. Before even finishing their first visit to Mehan their 4k dollars donation came suddenly and without fuss. In addition they have asked us to provide a wish list for items we need.

Now is also a time for picnics in Babur gardens and elsewhere, to give the children some extra air and relax. In that vein our education coordinator, Ian Pounds, got a break from his classes during the school exam period, which afforded him time to visit our Jalalabad orphanages. An excerpt from his recent open journal entry describes the status there:

"I mostly observed their (the children’s) behavior, interactions, mannerisms. I wanted to detect if this experiment was working. After all, many of the children in our Kabul homes had already been raised in the Pakistan programs. These Spogmay children were all fresh from the world of remote villages, sharing little language, having had no indoctrination into the AFCECO way of doing things. It was only a matter of a few hours before I walked up to Jamshid, smiling from ear to ear. “Jamshid, I know what I came here to see: it’s working! What we do in Kabul is replicable, even here in the bedrock of Pashtun conservatism and close to a Taliban stronghold.”

As we go into August, we hope you all have opportunity to enjoy your own picnic, open air, and time to rest and do what you do for fun.

From our hearts to yours,