PARSA has had kindergarten’s for 18 years. PARSA Afghan Senior Scouts have been teaching our kindergartens for the last three years in Bamiyan and Ghor. This month the Department of Education acknowledged our programs as excellent and some of our student’s are at grade levels above those at local schools. We are so excited and proud to have our senior scouts working in the communities this way. Reese Hume has compiled picture of children in or schools since he started working in 2007 to share with you.
It is always a difficult call to decide when to get involved…Norm was walking to the bazaar and saw this baby laying in the road. Much discussion in Dari, with many stories about what happened to it from bystander’s -“it is sick”…”it is lazy.” “It is sad because it lost it’s mother”….and we decided, Reese, Norm and I to bring it in. A call to Pen at Nowzad Shelter and he immediately offered to send his driver and bring his vet in to care for it…(what a relief to have that support). We bundled the baby into the back of the van, and sent it off to Nowzad. Dr. Hadi called me later and reported that it had a broken leg and was extremely dehydrated from lying in the road for days. Now, Norm calls that the “drop in the bucket brigade” of solving problems but it makes a difference living here not to walk by and feign indifference to suffering animal and human. Thank you Nowzad and Norm and Reese.
Most of PARSA’s very competent young directors and staff have never known Afghanistan not to be at war in their entire lives.Reese Hume takes his colleagues snowboarding whenever he gets a chance. Learning to snowboard s not always fun, but the whole effort creates a sense of possibility that life in Afghanistan could be normal. That this beautiful and harsh country could support a life where fun is had in the snow. It is also a break from a pretty grueling work schedule. Thanks for making the effort for your team Reese! (See Najib, our education manager, -left-in the snow. This is usually how Afghans feel about playing in it!)
For our young Scouts, the opportunity to give to others, is a remarkable experience. Our donors who give us items to distribute make it possible for us to teach our Scouts how extraordinary community service is and how good it feels. In acountry where there is so much of a struggle just to eat and find clothing, giving to others takes the embarrassment of poverty away and replaces with a sense of identity, and self confidence. Thanks to our donors who make this possible for our scout youth who all come from very poor families.
When I decided to move to Afghanistan, about 9 years ago, I knew that one of the hardest things for me in this environment would be to experience the hard life and abuse of animals. I knew that from living here as a child. My passion is to work with children and women, but I have had a long career of working with fragile people and I knew that I had the emotional stamina and the skills to confront children and women’s suffering in Afghanistan and do something about it. Something about a suffering animal in a society that cannot care for them, particularly dogs and cats is hard for me as an animal lover.
As a result, over the years here I learned how to rescue and care for animals, using whatever resources I could find and doing so has enhanced my living experience here as well as actually supported the emergence of a significant movement toward addressing the stray dog population. About four years ago, I met Louise Hastie and Pen Farthing (see picture of man with big dog) with Nowzad Charities and had the privilege of supporting their efforts to start a “trap, neuter release” program to address the out of control dog population in Kabul. Louise actually lived with me and my family for years as the Nowzad shelter started up. By the way, this is my hobby and what I do in my time off…and no PARSA resources have ever gone into this (you can tell I have been asked) although plenty of my own have. It is just how I have come to peace with living in this harsh and beautiful country. It is how I have learned to work here also, and most of our programs are a result of coming face to face with some difficult situation and working to change it.
So, I calculate that I have personally rescued about 150 puppies and dogs, and as a result about 14 still live with me as my dogs in our household compound. It is a soothing and fun experience to be part of a pack, head of the pack actually. Mootee (diamond) is my beautiful brindle dog, who has been with us for five years. She opens all doors and until we changed our doorknobs she would gleefully lead the rest of the pack out of the compound to terrorize our neighbors. Once we stopped here on that she took to our walls, and spends her days overseeing the three feral dogs that live outside the walls but get fed and talked to daily. The Ferals have the job of monitoring the stray dog population near our house and keeping the new intruders out. Vaccinated and spayed by Nowzad, they are the example of how a monitored dog population can stop being a public health risk.
And this year, I am so excited because Nowzad has been asked to administer a vaccination program for 200,000 dogs in Kabul, our first step toward making a change in the terrible risk people have of contracting rabies here. How do Afghan’s feel about my dogs? Many, many of them are interested in how they can have healthy and friendlyt pets to protect their compounds like I do. I love my dogs. When I lived here as a child, and our family had a dachshund and siamese cat. My animals normalize my life here, and yes, my husband (gentleman in the red chair) is a very patient man. Marnie
I was flying home from the US last week when I checked in and received the word about our Friday Scout climb. The troops, boys and girls from the Marastoon area met with our Scout directors and volunteer Scout Masters for a long hike to learn climbing skills. When I saw the pictures of our kids, many who we have worked with for years, working with the Scout Masters who have remained dedicated and loyal to Scouts through the years of war- I said to myself “this is the real story”…about what is emerging in Afghanistan. Our youth love putting on a uniform and participating in a quite formal Afghan style program, in each event that we organize. They love the intensity that our Scout masters have when they teach merit badge skills and manage the meetings. And our PARSA team have put in a long hard four years, battling government officials who did not want to recognize a civil society organization as having the right to train Scout troops, and of course, our constant struggle for funding. So I saw the pictures of the Scouts on the mountain top behind PARSA and Marastoon, with their Afghan and Scout flags, I was inspired by what our staff has accomplished and moved by what is possible here in Afghanistan. Marnie
If you haven’t been here (and even if you have), living in Afghanistan in 2014 does sound daunting. Even resident Kabulians don’t know what exactly to expect this year. Speculations on the ground vary enormously. The pessimists, both Afghan and expat, say that the Americans leaving will mean that the city (and subsequently the country) will descend into inevitable civil war. The optimists point out how dramatically Afghanistan has evolved in the last decade and believe that the large group of educated, forward-thinking Afghans will lead the country to stability. No one knows.
For us long term residents, either way life in Kabul will continue day by day. At PARSA we are dedicated to our work and to the people we work with. The women, children and families who benefit from our programs are depending on us – all the more if the situation here deteriorates. And so we have decided to start this blog so that you, our readers and supporters, can see Afghanistan and those people through our eyes and share our experiences, triumphs and defeats.
This blog will be written primarily by PARSA’s expat staff, but may have contributions from anyone. Our goal is to share and document our experiences here, and those with whom we work and know. Most importantly, our success in this endeavor depends largely on you, the reader. We need your feedback, ideas and questions. The more we hear from you the more our blog can evolve into something very meaningful, something that will touch lives around the world and connect you to us. Use the contact form below, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our RSS feed.
Our first blog will be up soon, from our Executive Director whom many of you know, Marnie Gustavson. Looking forward to staying in touch.
PARSA Communications Manager