Today's post is not about an individual woman, but about a movement designed to allow us to help Afghanistan's girls. Last week, I attended a luncheon with my friend, Sonia Cooper (pictured above wearing the bright pink scarf), which was designed to introduce people to AFCECO (Afghan Child Education and Care Organization) firstname.lastname@example.org.
This organization is designed to house and educate Afghan children in need, and to prepare them to become a more enlightened generation to (as their handbook states) "...lift our country out of the decades-long morass...." As part of this goal Ian Pounds (email@example.com) from Vermount has moved to Kabul and devoted his future to teaching and caring for these children. In the photo on the left, I am pictured with Maria Fahim of Kabul, who in the past three years has learned how to speak excellent English; her dream is to become an engineer.
Girls of an earlier generation (i.e., before AFCECO), couldn't have dared to have such a goal.
Coincidentally, this weekend's edition of the Wall Street Journal (I used to be one of their book reviewers), has a front-page story about education in Afghanistan, where only the small area around Kabul has a literacy rate for females of over 20%. For men, on the other hand, there are (out of 34 total) only four provinces in the entire country with numbers that low.
The reason I was even able to be lucky enough to meet Maria is that Ian has been chosen to travel around the United States with these children in order to a) introduce young Afghanis to he United States, b) inform audiences about what is being accomplished thanks to this remarkable organization and its orphanages, and c) raise money to fund this program and - possibly - find sponsors for the children in need. Here are a few of the statistics I learned while I sat and enjoyed lunch with Maria. In Afghanistan today:
- Over 1 million children suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome
- 70% of school-age girls do not attend school
- Over 400,000 children have been maimed by land mines
- In the past two years, the number of orphans has risen from 1 million to 1.6 million
- Over 600,000 children sleep on the streets
- 35% of the country's children have lost one parent
- Approximately 2,500 girls and women have attempted suicide by self-immolation
- At least 8,000 "enemy combatants" are boys aged 14 or younger
There were six children from Afghanistan on the tour, and several of them bravely spoke about how the Taliban had adversely affected their lives and their families. And then, with Ian playing the guitar, they sang "Blowing in the Wind." How amazing it must be for these youngsters to escape the conflict at home and experience a completely new way of life. From Florida they were traveling in their motor home to New Orleans, Texas and California; The Big Apple will be their last stop before returning to Kabul.