Monthly Archives: October 2009

Unpredictable…

One thing that can be said of life in Afghanistan, it’s certainly not boring! But how can I describe it? Exciting? No, that’s not the word… I’m not sure. But every day is far from predictable.

Last night there was another earthquake, the second one in 7 days but somewhat milder. Still the feelings were the same… the first few seconds you continue to lie in bed, verging on deep sleep…but are rudely awoken by continued rumbling and shaking of the room. Then you shoot out of bed and if you’ve seen the series ‘LIFE’, stand under a doorway until the shaking stops, while your cats look up at you from their comfy position on your bed, wondering what an earth you’re doing. Then it’s back to bed to continue your sleep…

With the daily demonstrations in town, the terrible attack on the guesthouse and the rockets fired at the Serena hotel… it’s been a very full on week, leaving many apprehensive of the coming week(s). With restricted movement, many more hours are spent in the office and the work continues… somewhat more somberly, with constant thoughts of those who have suffered because of this week’s events.

The Hagar Shelter has a growing number of clients, both women and children, receiving care and support. Some will be with us for a short time, others will need more longer term care. The staff are also committed to going on outreach in the local community, frequenting the local bazaars where many street children and women are found begging or looking for something recyclable in the rubbish heaps lining the street. They were telling me this week about two little girls they’d met aged 10 and 8, wearing little and walking barefoot. While talking with them informally, the girls seemed very stressed. They told staff that they had to raise 150 Afs each day ($3) and give to ‘the woman’ or they would be punished. Asked about their parents, the girls said they had not seen them for a very long time. On another occasion, staff met a very young boy. He had just come out of a public toilet and was visibly distressed and shaken up, covered in dirt. He seemed very afraid when the staff approached him and asked if he was ok. He didn’t answer but ran away in the opposite direction. Staff feared he might have just been abused.

This week I heard the story of a woman raped in her own home by a stranger and because of the shame felt, ended up marrying the perpetrator, only to live a life of misery and constant physical and psychological abuse, from a man who already had one wife and 10 children. This issue of honor and shame is difficult to comprehend, but it shapes the Afghan culture.

I once heard a leadership speaker saying “what you can’t stand, will help you understand what you’re called to do”… Some wise words… When I went to Cambodia in 2002, I met a woman in a village who had just given up twin baby boys to an orphanage, because she didn’t have the means to care for them. That made me angry and when I asked the question of ‘who is doing something to help these women so they don’t have to give up their children?’…I heard about Hagar. I got involved in their programs focusing on economic empowerment… and I’ve been with them ever since. Now, here in Afghanistan, I’m asking similar questions and hoping that Hagar can be part of the Afghan story in supporting the women and children who suffer such great injustices.

My chimney has just been swept and finally the diesel heater is at work, warming up the room… I shall make another cup of tea, and settle down to a DVD. We’ll see what the rest of this weekend brings… hopefully not too many surprises…

Advertisements

This is Hagar…

I’ve been told that ‘this is not cold’ but as far as I’m concerned, winter is definitely already well on its way! The mornings are crisp and the early evenings remind me of England in November… with the exception of clear blue skies and sunshine! It’s time for buying thick Iranian blankets for beds and wood burners for inside the rooms. After 6 years of constant heat in Cambodia, this is quite refreshing… though I wonder if I will adapt in time to face the below freezing temperatures that are on their way.

This morning as I left the house, two very young girls, street girls, walked past the car… their pretty red dresses covered in dirt and their hair matted. They must have been about 5 or 6 years old, wearing no shoes and confidently striding down the dusty street with rice sack over their shoulders. I met them the other evening, in the same red dresses, while walking home from friends, accompanied by the day watchman… they were asking for money and when the watchman told them to go, one hit my arm before quickly walking on. These are just little girls but at the same time they’re much older, tough and determined…
I just bought two big blankets for myself… how will those little girls keep warm… what am I going to do about it?! Something…
The bombing this week in Kabul left 12 dead and 87 injured… all civilians. A colleague told me of one woman’s radio interview… a mother of 5 children, 4 daughters and 1 son. Her husband was the sole provider for the family and was killed in the blast. Now she has no one to provide for her and is unable to work… “how are we going to survive”… How devastating to lose a father, husband and security all in one moment. Her story is shared by many… I wonder how many mothers were made widows this week…
These are the women and the children of Afghanistan that need to find hope again, to have their cries heard and for someone to respond. This is Hagar…

My desk transformed in to a lunch time table today, and we all sat together eating meat balls and nan bread with what seems to be a never ending supply of green tea… I’m glad to be here and am part of a wonderful team, Afghans whose paths I am privileged to be crossing. It’s great to see what Hagar is getting involved in, the vision is here and the excitement is growing