Budd has returned from another successful trip to Afghanistan. Another 8,500 trees were planted, bringing the total to 21,481. The children were particularly excited to see him this time as their new soccer field was almost complete. When he arrived, they rushed from their classrooms to greet him and thank him. Sometimes the simplest things have tremendous impact. To read more, look at the May 2007 Progress Report.
Best, Ann, Jonathan and Budd
From the Trenches, by Budd Mackenzie
When I last wrote I was in Afghanistan, only a few days from the "big day," when the Circus was coming to town. It was a logistical nightmare. Fifty student performers needed to be transported from Kabul to Lalander, a seventeen mile, hour and a half bus ride. The war torn roads to Lalander will destroy even the most resilient suspension systems. No problem, simply call the bus company. But, there are no bus companies. Rahmanaddin Namati spent six hours one afternoon flagging down privately owned buses in Kabul, negotiating for a pick up scheduled for 8:30 the next morning. The drivers proved to be "not interested" as were their passengers. Undaunted, Rahmanaddin headed out at 5 am the next morning, driven in part by a belief often relied upon in Afghanistan, "If it is God's will..." Three and a half hours later two buses arrived on time. The cost per bus for six hours was $40.
There were acrobats, jugglers, singers, comedians, and a community feast. One sketch had a huge banner, identifying and warning the children of land mines and explosive devices. The lesson was in part delivered by song!
A good time was had by all. Well, almost all. Thirty minutes before the show began,I realized not a single woman and less than 12 girls were in attendance. Later that day I asked a small group of women why they had not attended. In response I was told "Well things are different here than they are in Kabul". The answer was delivered as a statement of fact without emotion or comment. I left the topic there. In a society where people have been threatened and punished for expressing their views, it's frequently difficult to have an open discussion on "sensitive" topics. Fear is a silencer.
I must confess that I returned home discouraged by "circus day". While Lalander currently remains free of the Taliban, we are painfully aware of the war they are continuing to wage in Afghanistan. That war includes burning down schools, threatening educators and families with daughters in school. Some who have refused to heed Taliban warnings have lost their lives. But, even in a village where a significant number of families have chosen to send their daughters to school, a "woman's place" does not include attending a circus.
Once back in the States, I decided to research our own history of women's rights. In 1850 a national convention was held in New York to discuss women's rights. The convention adopted several goals, one of which was establishing a woman's right to vote. When was that right granted? In the past two weeks two fourth graders at different schools provided me with the correct answer. Women achieved the right to vote in 1920, by amendment to the US Constitution. Colorado was the first state to ratify the amendment in 1893. Therefore, it took 43 years for the first state and 70 years for the United States to recognize a woman's right to vote.
What's the lesson? The struggle for the most basic freedoms for Afghan women will be a long one. It's a struggle that will be won, one mind at a time. We, and particularly I, must be patient and steadfast in our commitment. The consequences of retreating are unthinkable.
It is readily apparent from daily news reports that Afghanistan's future is at stake. It is imperative that we join the Afghans now in their struggle for the most basic freedoms. There is no such thing as a small contribution in a country whose annual per capita income is less than $300 a year. You can make a difference.
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