Opinion – Re: “Stop Trying to Save the World” article

We are starting a new section of our PARSA blog and newsletters called “Opinions”. We will be sharing our thoughts and ideas about the current situation, and responding to relevant articles and current affairs.

Our first piece is written by Alyssa, our Communications Manager, in response to an article entitled “Stop Trying to Save the World” which discusses the problems with international development and ways to fix it. Read the original article here.

Quote: “What I want to talk sh*t on is the paradigm of the Big Idea—that once we identify the correct one, we can simply unfurl it on the entire developing world like a picnic blanket.”

This is why I am proud of our approach at PARSA – we design projects unique to a specific community to suit that community’s individual needs, and we always ensure that the community plays a key role in the project design. MarnieYasin and PARSA’s leadership realized early on that “Big Ideas” do not solve complex problems – even using the same idea for nearby communities might not work, let alone using it for countries that are continents apart.

If donors – especially large scale donors and governments – would stop encouraging the quick fix Big Idea approach, international development would be a hell of a lot more effective, and a lot more progress would be made towards solving the problems that Big Ideas intend to (but never do) solve.

The article goes on to lay out a major problem that nonprofits are facing with the common donor tendency to judge an entire organization by its overhead costs: “this obsession with overhead keeps charities from reaching the scale required to take on large problems….It’s one number that allows you to compare the soup kitchen with the anti-corruption think tank” but it means that for a nonprofit to have any chance at successful fundraising they have to hide or minimize their overhead costs in very counter-productive ways.

The world really needs to change the way that they judge nonprofits, and the way they look at development. Great article.

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SONY DSCAs one of our newest members of our PARSA family, Alyssa Hoseman has been with PARSA for nearly two years now. She is our Communications Manager and is in charge of sharing PARSA and everything we do with the world. Contact her at alyssa@afghanistan-parsa.org.

Badakhshan – Our Program Plans

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Many of you have been following our work in Badakhshan and are interested to know what our plans are for PARSA projects in the province. Badakhshan is one of the poorest regions of Afghanistan and has some of the most alarming statistics regarding issues like healthcare, education, women’s rights, a poor economy, and extremely high rates of of orphaned children or children abandoned by their families who are unable to care for them. Yet due to its remote location Badkahshan has largely remained out of the worst of the conflicts of the past thirty years, and its people remain open-minded and open to outside assistance.

kidsFor that reason we see Badakhshan as a province where we could be as successful as we have been in Bamiyan, where the situation is similar. Hence the programs that we are planning to establish in Badakhshan will take what we have learned in Bamiyan and follow our successes there.

Our first initiative will be to establish a Trade Afghan Women’s Center. This will serve two purposes: firstly, to establish economic opportunities for women artisans. Women from Faizabad and the participating villages will be transported in and out of our women’s center where they will receive training in regionally appropriate trades and learn basic business skills. We will train them in products that we will then purchase to sell nationally and internationally through our Trade Afghan product line. Secondly the women’s center will serve as an alternative to the national orphanage that will provide housing for the twenty or so girls who are unable to live in the orphanage due to lack of female staff and space.

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Another focus for Badakhshan will be to continue to expand and improve our Scout program in the province, both by working with our current troop in the National Orphanage and by establishing a new girls troop, likely with the girls who will live in our women’s center. All our Scouts will be involved in our Voice of Afghan Youth programming. We have decided to focus our VoAY for Badakhshan on highlighting the world famous wildlife and nature of the province – from 7000m mountains to snow leopards, Marco Polo sheep and other rare creatures.

Lastly, we are working to ensure that the residents of Argo who suffered losses in the landslides of earlier this year are not forgotten. When we visited recently we were frustrated by the lack of progress and that the promises of government officials and those who handled the multi-million dollar donations have not been kept. We are following up with the situation and have already registered an official complaint with the government regarding this issue, and are looking to President Ghani who is working to improve Rule of Law to take a personal concern in this issue.

Everyone at PARSA loves Badakhshan province and we are very passionate about establishing PARSA projects there. Stay tuned to learn more about our progress, and help us by donating to our Badakhshan project through our Help Us page.

Giving Thanks for Afghanistan with Shamsa

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SONY DSCYesterday we had another incredible Friday Brunch with the kids from Shamsa Village Orphanage. This time the event was themed “Giving Thanks for Afghanistan” and we had plenty of fun activities. There were Attan instructors who taught the kids the traditional Afghan dance, the kids helped us out by cutting out snowflakes and stars to use for decorating for our PARSA Winter Fest, and Mina asked the kids to draw what they love about Afghanistan – and got plenty of wonderful pictures. She said that “almost all the pictures had a school, books, and an Afghan flag” – the kids might be from difficult backgrounds, but they love their country and love being Afghan.mina drawing

In the end the kids told jokes, ran wild playing tag and chasing paper airplanes, and had an all-around great time. The Shamsa kids love their monthly getaways to PARSA – its a break from orphanage routine and a chance to just be fun-loving, average kids. And we absolutely love having them. Once again a big thank you to our donors who make days like yesterday possible. Enjoy the pictures!

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A note on the importance of mutual understanding

Back in July PARSA was contacted by a unique Pittsburgh restaurant called Conflict Kitchen whose mandate is to serve food from countries that the U.S. is in conflict with. They serve food from the selected conflict country and set up informative, interactive activities that are designed to foster a mutual understanding between their diners and the residents of the country whose food CK is serving.

When Conflict Kitchen contacted us to see if we would be interested in helping them create an activity for kids, we loved their vision and were happy to participate. The result was a small booklet distributed to CK diners with short stories and anecdotes we recorded with kids from Shamsa Village Orphanage – check out our blog entry about it here.

Recently Conflict Kitchen came under criticism for their decision to highlight Afghanistan as a conflict country. In an opinion piece published in a local newspaper, a writer wrote that they felt CK was “promoting politics rather than dialogue” and that because the U.S. was not in direct conflict with the people of Afghanistan or the Afghan government, she felt that it “would be an insult to the thousands of Afghans and my own countrymen and women who have been lost in that conflict” to participate in CK’s Afghan program.

Conflict Kitchen wrote me and asked for our opinion on the controversy. My response is below:

In 2002 when the attack on the World Trade Center occurred, warfare changed for humanity on the global scale, and in particular for the citizens of Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan is a national war against terrorists that are both Afghan and “outsiders” such as Al Qaeda.

As Ms. Murtazashvili stated, when the U.S. joined this war, we joined Afghan leaders and citizens who want a democratic system of governance. We went to war alongside the national Afghan government to fight against fundamentalists and terrorists.

Warfare against terrorism tears countries apart. As we can see in Syria and Iraq this is the unfortunate war of the future, and Afghanistan has been one of its most high-profile battlefields. Thus although the U.S. government is not in conflict with the majority of the Afghan people or with the Afghan government, it is in conflict with terrorists who operate on Afghan soil. Consequently many Americans see Afghanistan as a country that they are in conflict with.

The wars of the future – the war on terrorism at the forefront – are a global issue, and it is imperative that friendly countries begin to build mutual understanding between their citizens. Bringing the citizens of the world together in this way is how global terrorism will fail. Thus whether a U.S. conflict with the people or government of a foreign country is direct or perceived to be so by American citizens, projects that build this mutual understanding are invaluable. This is what makes the Conflict Kitchen vision so important for a future that sees the citizens of the world united in peace.

Scouts at the Badakhshan Orphanage

Mohsin and Amin Our Afghan Scouts in Badakshan are residents of the local orphanage. They have been working with the local police on the “Messengers of Peace” project and as part of our trip to Badakhshan we took part in a ceremony marking the completion of the project. Commandant Baba Jan, a very esteemed General in the Afghan National Police, joined our ceremony and acknowledged the youth and the police for there work:  “God willing you will have a long, happy youth and a safe future for your families, unlike I had in my life. I am working with other Afghan leaders hoping that we will be able to provide you stability so you have this positive future.”  Our boys were thrilled to be a part of the ceremony and felt proud that their role was an important one. As a part of the trip we also made plans to assist the 20 girls associated with the orphanage but not able to live there due to lack of living space or older women to supervise them. We are also planning our Voice of Afghan Youth program for Badakhshan. Great to be with the boys!!!

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The Badakhshan Scouts were proud to be apart of the ceremony

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Yasin, Dawn and Marnie attending the Messenger of Peace closing ceremony.

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Commandant Baba Jan with Amin.

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Pen Farthing is the CNN Hero of the Year!

Four years ago I met Louise Hastie, a volunteer with “Nowzad Charity” which is a program to rescue cats and dogs in Afghanistan. Our first meeting took place over my kitchen table while a local vet tried to help me save an injured puppy I’d found outside my door. When PARSA moved from Karte-3 to our new offices in Marastoon we inherited a large stray dog and cat population that survived here off scraps from the open garbage pits used by the local residents; this led to Louise and I working together to get the many puppies I found in Marastoon neutered and adopted into new homes. I was then introduced to Pen Farthing, the founder of Nowzad, who worked with Louise and shared with her the impossible of making a systemic impact on Kabul’s stray dog population – not only to have the animals treated humanely by locals, but also to arrest the rabies epidemic that is still a major threat to the health of human communities, especially to children. PARSA’s Country Director, Yasin Farid, and I supported this vision as part of our own PARSA vision for Building Healthy Afghan Communities, and over the years we have had the privilege of supporting Pen and his amazing team of staff and supporters.

Today Pen won the CNN Hero of the Year Award, on behalf of the Nowzad organization. This accomplishment is a testament to his vision, perseverance in the face of incredible difficulties, and especially to his Nowzad staff – both international and national. PARSA is proud to have been a part of this story. PARSA and Nowzad work together in Afghanistan in a way that I wish more organizations could – with complete support for each other. More importantly, PARSA supports Nowzad’s vision for work in Afghanistan in the future. When I spoke to Louise this morning to congratulate her, her first words were “Now we can get the support we need to really focus on our “Trap, Neuter, Release” program!!!” This is what Nowzad is all about….and on behalf of PARSA, their partner, we congratulate Pen and his team on an incredibly difficult job well done.  For more about the Nowzad story please click here….

Oh, by the way, my family has 14 dogs, including our huge 75kg mascot “Sherak”, and all our dogs have a job to do at PARSA.  They protect the area by chasing away stray dogs which keeps our compound disease-free. We are the first example of the effective benefits of a “Trap, Neuter, Release” program. Louise and her team take amazing care of our animals. It makes our life here so much easier….a personal thanks to the Nowzad team in Afghanistan.

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Dr. Norm looking impressed by a few of our 12 family dogs.

Buzkashi Day!

There is not much to say except *amazing*! For someone who loves horses, ancient traditions, full-contact sports and modern-day warriors, standing front row at a full throttle Afghan buzkashi match is literally a dream come true. The most incredible part is the horses – their power, size, and fierce grace. They know the game just as well as the “chopandoz” who ride them. They are bred across Central Asia – historically in Afghanistan but breeding programs here mostly disappeared during the wars, so most of the beautiful beasts we saw today come from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. They are worth more than many European luxury cars – the best of them selling for $60-100,000 dollars. They are owned by the rich-of-the-rich Afghan elite – high government officials, top businessmen, warlords – who then nominate their horse’s rider (“chopandoz” in Dari) much like Nascar drivers get sponsored by whoever pays for the car they drive. The chopandoz are incredible athletes, and practically become one with the horse they ride.

As to the rules of the game, as a first-time viewer, it didn’t seem apparent to me that there are any. I used to describe buzkashi as some sort of full-contact gruesome version of polo, but now realize it is far from that, and far more confusing. There are, however, objectives that are apparent. Basically the object of the game is the “boz” which is the dead, gutted carcass of a goat or calf, which is placed at one end of the giant, sandy arena. Nearby there is a 2m meter circle dug into the sand and highlighted with chalk, and on the complete opposite side of the arena is a bright green flag. To score a point, a player has to pick up the boz and carry it all the way around the flag pole on the other side of the arena then back to the white circle and drop it inside. Seems straight forward enough.

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Well its not. First of all, reaching down to pick up a very heavy dead carcass from the back of a giant horse is a feat in itself. Add to that having 30 other giant horses kicking and stomping on you and your horse, plus other warrior-men also trying to grab the carcass (and you), or just beating you out of the way with their thick leather horse whips, and that alone would be quite a show. But then you have to somehow attach the carcass to yourself (by wrapping your leg around it) and gallop around a huge arena at full speed with all the other giants in pursuit. And dropping the carcass into the chalk “goal” isn’t easy either. As to rules, as I said, anything goes. The riders are constantly hitting each other, the horses kicking whoever they feel like, and if anyone falls off and gets trampled the game doesn’t even stop – they just pull him off to the side and everyone keeps riding. As far as teams go, there are possibly loose “alliances” that exist under the surface, but to an untrained onlooker it’s just a free-for-all. Whenever someone scores they ride their horse over to the announcer who ties a pretty red ribbon on the horse’s halter and presumably givers the chopandoz some amount of prize money. And that’s it. This goes on for several hours, and at some point simply ends.

The whole thing is quite violent, with chopandoz and horses both bloody by the end – and today’s match was apparently just a second day warmup during a ten day tournament. To me, buzkashi is the closest thing to medieval warfare that still exists in the world, minus the swords and chain mail. I imagine that all the pre-gun battles in Afghanistan – those fought against the invading armies of everyone from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan and Timur – looked something like the heart of modern day buzkashi rumble. Swords might be lacking, but the fervor is still there.

Buzkashi might not be for everyone, but it is worth seeing to remember what battles used to be like, and for experiencing Afghan tradition up close. The very best part of all of it is feeling the energy of the crowd, loud and proud, cheering on their chosen chopandoz champion, laughing and having a generally wonderful time. In the West we take big sporting events for granted – from junior-high onwards every one of us has the opportunity to attend something of the sort. But in a country still pulling itself out of thirty years of war and trying to reclaim its traditions and heritage, a buzkashi match is a rare opportunity where even the poorest of the poor can show up and have a great time (although it is unfortunately generally male-only attendance). Whether Afghans decide to keep buzkashi as is, warlike and raw, or turn it into a more “modern” sport that could one day become international is up to them (I personally love it as is!) – but the point is that it is a vehicle to bring people together in a positive way. And how exciting it is!

– Alyssa

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At Home in Faizabad

We are staying at Mr. Nasruddin’s house, a friend for quite some time now.  He has sent his family to be guests at a relative’s in order to accommodate us here.  There are 9 of us in two small rooms, intermittent electricity, no running water, one toilet, one bathing room with icy cold water  – and we chose this.  Mr. Nasruddin’s son cooks our meals, and everyone joins us for our evening dinner. You would think that it would be difficult, but somehow we have all learned to get our work done, with everyone including the drivers weighing in with their opinions on all matters.

I don’t think people who have not lived with Afghans understand the amount of talking and consensus making that goes on in Afghan culture.  There is on our trip a slight nod toward Yasin and I having the most responsibility and therefore one should at least act like one is interested in what we have to say. But mostly everyone feels compelled to weigh in with an opinion on everything. And we listen. Today we had competing agendas with half the team working on a “closing” ceremony with the Scouts for our Messengers of Peace program, a visit with a local colleague who is working with us on formulating a residential Trade Afghan women’s center that is modeled on our center in Bamiyan, and a local “Buzkashi” event, the traditional free-for-all-polo game, using a carcass of a goat or calf…we managed all three, plus Alyssa and Reese shopped for “chapandaz” clothing and came home looking, well, exotic.  Alyssa is jazzed up and muttering about how authentic warrior games are and telling us she should have been born 1,000 years ago. Reese is worn out from trying to manage the crowd that Alyssa, Dawn and I drew in an all-male buzkashi audience, and from trying to make sure we didn’t get run over by panicked horses…most of which we were oblivious to. Yasin wants a $60,000 Buzkashi horse. Mohsin, Amin and Sharif are flush with the success of having the top commander for Badakshan attend our closing ceremony and how proud the Scouts were.  And our drivers are cracking “Laghmani” jokes (the province they are both from) most of which Yasin refuses to translate.

Oh, and finally, Dawn and I finalized a contract and submitted our IRS reports in the midst of it all….Sharif sighed in contentment tonite as we sat together for dinner: “See, now we are all family and we sit for dinner”….and it does feel like that in the best way.

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Road to Shiva, and Yaks

Somewhere in the course of our Badakhshan trip our team decided that we need to add yaks to our PARSA Farm. So this morning Yasin, Habib and I started our day bright and early and headed to the livestock market to search for baby “khashgaows”. We didn’t find what we were looking for so Reese and our new driver, Noorullah, joined our team and we headed towards the mountains, with Lake Shiva as our goal, in the hope of finding yak herders on route.

Our “pair of Laughmanis” drivers – Habib and Noorullah.

The road was beautiful, following a river beneath snow-capped mountains lined by trees with autumn leaves of reds and oranges shining underneath a bright blue sky. Our search for yaks was quickly answered when we saw a group of the giant hairy beasts being herded up the road. We jumped out of the van to admire their greatness and for Yasin to negotiate with the owner. The outcome, although no promises yet, is that we will one day soon have a pair of adorable baby yaks roaming around our PARSA gardens.

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We continued on from yak-bargaining and followed the road towards Shiva Lake, a crystalline high-alpine lake that we thought would make a good setting for a Voice of Afghan Youth trip. Along the road we came upon a pair of locals leading a trio of gorgeous, full-sized, hot-blooded Kyrgyz buzkashi horses. Again we all jumped out of the car to admire their beauty and for Yasin to ask for prices. When the rider told him 60,000, we initially thought he was talking in afghanis and were already pulling out our wallets – after all 60,000 afs is what Yasin had paid for the horses who are now living on our PARSA Farm and getting such a beautiful animal for the same price was clearly an unmissable deal. However we soon realized our mistake when the rider clarified that the horse’s value was actually 60,000 dollars and all three of them were owned by a rich official who was not looking forward to giving up his prestigious animals. They were on their way to Faizabad to take part in a 10 day Buzkashi that started this afternoon (check back in with our blog tomorrow to learn more about buzkashi – we’ll be taking our Voice of Afghan Youth kids to the event).

The horses’ high prices didn’t stop us from dreaming about owning one, or from getting in a quick gallop up and down the mountain road on one of the large chestnut stallions. As a fairly experienced rider I can honestly say I have never ridden something with so much powerful grace anywhere in the world. Central Asia – from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan – is still the world’s heart when it comes to beautiful horses.

We continued onwards but soon realized that after three hours of driving Lake Shiva was still at least five hours away, so there was no way we could make it there and back to Faizabad before nightfall. We reluctantly turned around, with Reese and I having to shelve our competitive plans to experience a November swim in a glacial lake. All in all, the day was a success. We learned about tomorrow’s buzkashi which will be a perfect setting for our VOAY outing, we tentatively ordered baby yaks for our PARSA Farm, and Yasin set a new dream for himself – owning a buzkashi horse.

Livestock market, early in the morning

Yasin bargaining with the yak herders

Yasin bargaining with the yak herders

The gorgeous horses of Badakhshan.

Riding beautiful horses in front of beautiful mountains.

Returning to Argo

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In May of this year our PARSA team traveled to Ab Barak in Argo District of Badakhshan province in response to the landslide disaster that buried parts of three villages and killed hundreds of people. Usually PARSA does not partake in emergency relief, but in this case we received specific requests for psychosocial care, particularly for the children orphaned by the landslide. Our team – Yasin, Norm, Reese, and myself – made the fourteen-hour trip and found the situation in chaos. The problem was not too little help, it was too much.

The “Argo Landslide” media hype – with its exaggerated death toll of 3000 people and hundreds of homes destroyed – had gained so much international attention that every aid organization, plus government officials, individual do-gooders, and of course vote-seeking representatives of the dueling Ghani-Abdullah election standoff, had showed up to offer help (and benefit from the media attention). The provincial government received more aid money in a few weeks than it had in total in the last decade. People were handing out all sorts of short term aid packages – from bags of rice to winter clothes, meals paid for by then-presidential-candidate Abdullah were being cooked in large pots and handed out to dueling villagers among the flash of media cameras, tents were set up for the village children to get some normalcy and not miss out on school, there were even individuals handing out 500afs (10 USD) bank notes to mobbing crowds that then needed to be dispersed by firing warning shots with AK47s.

As far as we found, the psychosocial needs of the most vulnerable of the population were being taken care of at the time, the orphaned children had been absorbed into the homes of the survivors, and the immediate needs of the people were being met. Everyone was throwing around long-term promises of relocating and rebuilding the village, and of taking preventative measures to relocate homes in line of future landslides. We decided we would come back after the hype died down and see what promises had been kept.

Back to Argo

Our PARSA team is now back in Badakhshan making long term plans for our programs here. We are checking in with our Scout Troop in the Faizabad government-run orphanage and making adjustments so that the Scouts here will be more effective, plus taking notes on how the orphanage needs to be improved to meet government standards. Dawn is investigating potential women’s products for our Trade Afghan program. We are all looking for stories unique to Badakhshan for Voice of Afghan Youth. And today our Argo team headed back to Ab Barak to check on the village and see if the promises had been kept.

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The answer is a big no. The principal change we saw is that some loads of bricks have been delivered, supposedly to the area where the villages are meant to be relocated to, and a few house foundations have been built. Almost all the UNHCR tents are gone, the villagers say no media or trucks full of handouts have shown up in months, and signs of the millions of dollars that the Badakhshan government received for rebuilding are nowhere to be found. Not to mention that the disaster early in the year meant that the farmers were not able to produce their regular stores of crops and firewood, leaving the entire village in short supply for the coming winter.

With only one dump truck and a handful of workers, progress on rebuilding homes in somewhere between slow and non-existent.

Whereas on our last visit the villagers seemed tired of outsiders’ intrusions, this time they were extremely welcoming. They told us they had not had anyone check progress for months, and although they were aware of the government’s promises and money allocated to helping them, their district representatives all live in Kabul and have done nothing to demand their rights. They thanked us repeatedly for coming, offered us tea and lunch, and asked us to help them find ways to build the promised houses and bring in firewood before the freezing winter sets in completely.

What we have garnered from today is that there are two things PARSA can do to intervene in Argo. The first is to find the organizations and government officials who made promises to rebuild and help the villagers get through their first post-disaster winter and hold them responsible; the second is to launch a long term economic program for the region that will give the people a new skill and will have the potential to reduce the poverty of the village in the long run. In the coming days we will be contacting other organizations that operate in the region to see how we can best approach these two objectives. The situation in Argo is just as heartbreaking today as it was back in May, and PARSA is renewing our commitment to assisting the people there.

– Alyssa

Check out our Argo Relief Blogs from our first trip to Ab Barak here: afghanistan-parsa.org/2014/05/10/argo-relief-day-1-roadtrip/

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To work – and to the Bazaar….

Well, I really appreciate how seasoned our team is on our field trips. The operative word is flexibility. We woke up to a nice breakfast and talked through what we wanted to accomplish on the trip. Yasin’s plan was to take Reese and Alyssa to the Argo landslide they visited last spring to see how aid to the village had progressed. Mohsin and Amin were going to work with the Scout program in the local orphanage. Dawn and I, as always, have reports and proposals to work on, which we planned to get relief from by visiting the local bazaar. We are planning an activity day with the Scouts and I asked Mohsin what he had planned. He said “a field trip”!  When I asked where he was taking the kids he said “well, first we have to ask them where they want to go…” I love how our staff work with our beneficiaries because they are so oriented to having them be part of the planning and to supporting them in what they need and want.

Within an hour of leaving in our planned directions, one of our cars broke down and all plans changed but we kept sight of what we all wanted to accomplish, the car was fixed and we all got to work.

Dawn and I had a heavenly walk in the bazaar, which we so rarely get to do together, and I have very few friends who would enjoy it. Dawn took pictures, again an activity that we don’t do much anymore as we have been here so long. Then, the afternoon working on computers and talking to each other as we worked until the team came in. Great day.

– Marnie

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Back to Badakshan…

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We are a motley PARSA team.  The newest member, Alyssa has been with us for 2 years, and Yasin with PARSA 18 years.  What we have in common is that we love traveling through Afghanistan by road…and we have different ways of settling in, and coping with the long hours. Dawn and I, are old friends from elementary school, in Kabul and then again the last 10 years living at PARSA.  As we are now in our 50’s, we are testing our status as “elder’s” in a country that reveres the aged-taking the best spots in the car… after Reese and Yasin were called upon by Dawn and I to call our phones so we can find them once too often, Reese, my son, made it clear that our “elder” status was losing its shine with the “younger’s” of the group.  We have arrived after our 12 hour drive, welcomed by the family we stay with in Faizabad. A warm stove, dinner waiting, and looking forward to a comfortable night, Afghan style, which means 9 of us in two rooms.  Cozy and looking forward to our day tomorrow.

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Getting Excited for the Holidays with our PARSA Cows

At PARSA we have decided that the last months of the year are for mixing and matching traditions from Afghanistan and abroad for a Make-Your-Own-Holiday celebration. Today we decorated one of the trees in front of our offices with ornaments made by the women in Palwasha’s economic programs, including intricately beaded bananas, camels, strawberries and donkeys. Our newest baby calf on the PARSA farm, plus Kaka Daoud, joined us for pictures, and we had a great afternoon – we have fun at PARSA!!

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Shamsa Halloween Brunch

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On Friday, October 31t the kids from Shamsa Village Orphanage travelled to PARSA to join us for brunch and all sorts of fun Halloween activities. Pumpkin carving was a favorite (especially wearing the pumpkins as upside down helmets), plus mask making, pin-the-tail on the donkey, eating doughnuts from a string, sports and more. The Kabul community responded to our request to fund this great event and it was a huge success. Enjoy the photos and our video slideshow below!

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