Dear PARSA Family Members,
I recently returned from the US, and as I tend to do I walked around PARSA looking at what happened while I was gone, and appreciating what our PARSA staff is doing. We moved to Marastoon 11 years ago, and when we moved in to this large compound, sharing with Marastoon residents and Afghan Red Crescent Society staff we spent two years just trying to get the guards not to beat the local children who came to the school onsite every day. Yesterday, I went out of my residence, (which Miroweis and Mike Boisvenue are painting) and visited our Afghan Scouts team who are hosting a Scout Master Advanced Training workshop for volunteers from all over the country. Tamim and his staff were working under the mulberry trees with the Pakistani Master Trainers from the World Organization of the Scout Movement, a complete detour from the heated political climate between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The girls in our Sisters 4 Sisters program were in the “restaurant” meeting with a renowned civil rights leader and activist. One of our partner organizations, Free to Run, is preparing for the first Kabul marathon for girls and women next weekend, on our premises.
If you read the news, success in Afghanistan seems to be impossible. I would call PARSA the organization of impossible projects. I have worked here now for 12 years and it feels like I have been on a non-stop uphill trek over terrain not meant to be traversed. To work here includes experiencing obstacles to our work that never seem to stop. We have shaky infrastructure, poorly and quickly built that yields constant power outages, water stoppages, Internet instability, traffic jams, security alarms, topped off by the government’s tendency to frequently call holidays the day before the event. Government staff intent on monitoring our programs in detail, sending frequent auditing teams and changing policy weekly requiring constant vigilance and “word-of-mouth” sharing of information so as to keep our programs going. And that is just in Kabul. Each province seems to have its own separate administration and rules and we work in 18 of them. During the course of trying to complete this letter to you, I dealt with a broken power cord and dying computer, ran out of phone credit so I could not call anyone to get to the computer store and our internet stopped working, and then there was a bomb blast on the front road of our large compound that shattered some of our windows. I finally turned to my husband and said, “I can either lay on the floor and throw a hysterical fit or you need to help me.” An hour and a half later with his compassionate assistance I was back on track and working again.
I read articles about corruption and how NGOs are wasteful and spend money unmonitored and have access to funds I have never seen. There are days that Yasin and I have to scrape together $3 for bread for our staff for lunch and it is all duly documented and taken from the right places. If there were “corruption lessons” we didn’t learn them, and there are many other organizations like my own here just working through the mess the day brings, staying on track and really, really creating miracles.
Our Scouts program is an impossible project. We have been battled by ministries for 8 years, because they see NGO programs as a threat to government control and resources. We created the program for orphans initially and we are finally bringing it to communities all over Afghanistan. We have been critical to getting four national orphanage directors fired for overseeing or being part of systemic abuse. Our Trade Afghan Businesswomen’s Network is impossible as Afghans do not coordinate well and although there is a market for their businesses, at the most fundamental level it is hard for our women to produce consistent, quality products. Our PARSA Job Corps program is impossible because rather than opting for a program where the youth are only lectured at and never get hands-on experience (it is possible to be trained as a veterinarian at Kabul University for five years and never touch an animal), we instead chose to work with the youth as they learn and earn a stipend, giving them constant training and support while they are doing the job. Our Sisters 4 Sisters program is impossible because after all these years doing training in women’s programs, we’ve learned that teaching Afghan women to actually support each other is the most challenging thing to do, because in this terribly war-damaged country women are often each others’ enemies.
What do we have? We are positioned in all of our programs to make a national impact, coordinate with other outstanding agencies, and change the social landscape by promoting Afghan leaders, volunteers, women and youth as assets that are worth investing in. It has been endurance and persistence that have allowed us to persevere, along with one other quality that is fundamental to the Afghan character. That quality is that we rely on each other, troubleshoot together, and realize that our work is deeply personal and fulfilling and worth doing. And that is where you come in, as wherever you are in the world it is your $3 that we find to pay for our bread and it is your funds that help us keep going when our local contracts with embassies or other granting agencies are delayed or fall through. You are with us and we feel your support keenly. In 2018, you will see us reach out and find ways to connect that let those that want to have a more meaningful and continuous relationship with us do so, such as through the Mentorship program for Sisters 4 Sisters or through Scout Troop exchanges. So far this year 85 donors have been a part of our PARSA Family Member program and we know more of you will rejoin our Family Members before the end of the year. You as a donor are allowing us to continue to be viable in this very difficult year. That is amazing to me. We appreciate you and thank you for that and do our work always thinking about making sure your donation counts. This year I can finally tell you we are not only making an impact, we are making an impact beyond what I ever thought was possible.