In 2009, PARSA’s First Scout Troop Went from This….

In 2008, PARSA was working in the national orphanages, struggling to teach the government social workers how to work with the children. We were finding it almost impossible to convince them to come out of their offices to talk and play with the children. We were learning that culturally, the more important your position the less you work and there was little motivation for the social workers to make much of an effort in the national orphanages.
Reese, my son,and I took a break from our Kabul work to travel to our Bamiyan offices by road.  High in the Shibar pass we ran into snow and we were passing a family whose car slid into a ditch when Reese who was driving stopped  and said “I am going to pull that van out of the ditch.”  He went around to the back of our van, pulled out equipment and rope and got to work.  Securing the van with the rope prompted much discussion and advice from the men in the stranded vehicle, as well as numerous attempts by them to tie the rope securely.  Reese ended up tying the knot that worked and within 10 minutes had them up and on their way.  When he got back into our van I asked him “Where did you learn all of that?  I didn’t even know if we had a spare tire.” He said “Scouts.  Knots and being prepared.  The lessons never left me.”  I said “That’s it! Scouts for the orphanages.  It has uniforms, activities programs, events and the adults will get engaged.”  And that is how we decided to start the Afghan Scouts program in the orphanages.

The following week, Yasin, Reese and I visited the Ministry of Education, Scouts Department to register our intent to start Scouts troops.  We were eager to get a handbook, and instructions for how to run an Afghan troop.  We decided to start in Alluhoddin Boys orphanage as our male staff could work there.  We met Mr. Sadat, director of the Scouts and Sports department.  He had disappointing news.  “We have nothing here.  No manual, no uniforms, no banners.  We have 20,000 children in the Scouts program but we have no trained Scout Masters and no program for the children.”  We politely asked for permission to start anyway in the orphanages.  Mr. Sadat reviewed his financial needs for the program and we left a bit daunted by our task but determined to get started.  We appealed to our small donor and pulled together very small donations (which is how we start all of our new programs), found handbooks from Scouts programs in other countries, and Reese dredged through his memories of his Scouting experience. We started with 24 boys in Tai Maskan orphanage with Reese and Mohsin running weekly meetings and activities. With a big assist from Eagle Scouts who were serving in the military in Kabul, the program took off, and soon we were able to start troops in Marastoon, and in Alluhoddin Girls orphanage.

Ambassador Eikenberry with the US Embassy became involved and after six months we were able to acknowledge our troops with him as our special guest in the US Embassy.  By the end of the year, HALO had stepped up and granted us $12,000 for our Scout programs.  We also had the fortune to finally track down two men, who had been working in the Ministry Scout department and who had received international training from the World Organization of the Scouts Movement (WOSM) as Scout Masters, Tamim and Mustafa.  Mustafa had been an Afghan Scout Master before the war with the Russians.  It was their dream to launch a national Afghan Scout program and reregister with WOSM.  We hired them in our first interview with them, and today after 8 long years of work we now have 1800 youth participating in 17 provinces and a full curriculum.
Our government social workers never learned to be Scout Masters.  They were just relieved to have adults come and entertain the children, but the children in the orphanages of Kabul and Ghor grew in leadership, started advocating for themselves, worked on community service events and loved being Scouts.  Many youth are still working with us that started in that first year.
To This….

Our Afghan Scout story is truly a story about making change.  We started small, stayed true to our commitment to the children, and grew our network of support.  This month, June 2017, after a long difficult and complicated journey we finally have been asked to join the Ministry of Education to take the lead in developing the national program.  
We salute our staff who started the original program, Reese, Yasin and Mohsin- our donors who took a chance on our vision for the orphan’s the many Eagle Scouts who helped us every way they could while in country, and Tamim and Mustafa for never wavering from your dream to have this program for Afghan youth.
And now onto our next challenge- the national program.

One Reply to “In 2009, PARSA’s First Scout Troop Went from This….”

  1. Mike Smith

    Divine Providence or some such force arranged for Reese and Marnie to stumble upon the family whose car was stuck in that ditch. Similar serendipitous events have enabled PARSA to become involved in helping Afghans to help themselves rebuild their lives and nation. It’s an effort that will and must continue.

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