Return to Afghanistan

Apr 11

As I begin to write this I am in the hotel in Dubai where I spent the night on the way to Kabul.  My traveling companions and friends from the Lamia Foundation based in Nashville, TN joined me at the hotel late last night. The flight to Kabul leaves at noon today (Thursday, April 11th). I’m very anxious to see our Eternal Threads partner since I was unable to go this last year. We have a lot to catch up on and it’s a blessing to be able to meet face to face. Emails and cell phone conversations are great and we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without the advances in technology over the years, but nothing is as good as being together to share and encourage one another. It’s easy enough for me to get discouraged in the U.S. with the work we are doing and always hoping and praying that we will have the funding to fulfill our commitments we’ve made to help the women, but I know how much more it takes to stay upbeat and hopeful when you are working in the field against almost insurmountable odds.  They are the profiles in courage!

There are those who weigh in on what we do and analyze the projected results by the standards of …”is it enough?”…”are you really helping?”…”what good can it do to help a few when the problems are so immense?” Even though we constantly do evaluate what we are doing and try and answer all of these questions for ourselves, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that some analysis is best left to others.  You can’t really do this unless you believe that HOPE is what you are giving along with the skills and income for products made and it is that hope that is the intangible result of what we do. It is hope that inspires others to do great things in the world around them. I see it over and over again and it inspires me.

When our partner in Afghanistan wanted to start another tailoring course in the village where we work, I asked him to send me an email with his thoughts about the reasoning for it. Below is his response which for me was affirmation of all that we are trying to do and quite frankly what our military, NGO’s, government agencies and any one involved is hoping for….inspiring others that their lives can be better.  Here is what our partner wrote:

“When we first started our work the village leader and most of the men would not let our village women participate in our community programs because they always traditionally keep the women far from public skills and education. It was a shame for them if a woman would go out and learn something, even next door or in a neighbor’s house.

But with the affection of our community programs for the village women and the benefits and income they make from Eternal Threads programs it totally changed the mindset of the men in our village. So now, even men and village elders are asking us for more programs for women.

We have carpet-weaving, embroidery and education programs, which are very beneficial for the village people. So now they are asking for tailoring skills programs for the village women. If they have women tailors in their own village then it will help 10 women financially to buy food and other things they need for the winter season.”

After starting the course he sent me the story below in the words of one of the women trainees. (We have since sent money for her to buy food for her family so that she can remain in the course and not be forced to make other choices.)

Story of one of Eternal Threads’ tailoring program trainee

“I am a 26 years old widow. My husband died 3 years ago when he fell off a building working in Iran.  I have 5 children, 4 girls and 1 boy. I was asked many times to remarry different people in our village. Even the village boss is asking me to marry him, but he has 3 more wives and I don’t want to marry him or anybody else.

My husband’s brother is taking care of my family, and also I wash clothes and do other work in the village to pay for food to eat. The village boss and my husband’s brother are trying to force me to marry the village boss because my husband’s brother works for him. He says if I don’t marry the village boss he will lose his job and he will not take care of us anymore.

Fortunately, the Eternal Threads program came in like a “saving angel” who lifted my hopes and made me hopeful to live again.  So, I decided to participate in these classes to learn tailoring skills because I want to show them that a woman can also work and take care of my children. If I marry the village boss, he will sell my daughters and get all that money for himself. I don’t want to do that. I want to participate In Eternal Threads Tailoring Program and be a tailor, making money and taking care of my children and not be dependent on them. I am really trying to learn the tailoring to show even the other women in the village that women are not slaves or servants. Women also can do what a man can do.

I started resisting against them. I hope and wish that I am not ashamed In front of my village men and women, because I am the first woman standing against the village boss and their wrong believes. Please stay being my supporters.”

Someone asked me in an email just before I left the U.S. why I work with women in other countries and why I don’t care about women in the U.S.?  I care very much and I can’t necessarily explain why some of us are called to do what we do. I applaud the magnificent efforts of those that are working on projects for U.S. women…especially my friend Joyce Dalzell who founded Faith Works in Abilene, Texas. I think that no matter what our circumstances are we can all be inspired by those who overcome odds to change their lives for the better. I think American women (and men) of all circumstances can stand with women anywhere in the world and we will be better for it.

On Sunday I will travel to the area where our tailoring courses are. I can’t go to the village because it would put our partner in danger to be seen by “some” as working with a foreigner, but I will be able to visit the tailoring course in the city and the jewelry project that we support. I have graduation certificates to give to the women just finishing the course. They actually finished at the end of the month but are continuing a few more days for my visit. This will be the first time I have been able to visit them and I wish that all of you reading this could be with me. These women suffer in ways that is truly unimaginable to most of us. Just being in their presence is humbling to me. They are the ones who can change the world around them if they are given the skills to improve their lives and that of their families. Men in Afghanistan are realizing that it is a good thing for their wives and daughters to be educated and to be part of the society. HOPE rises to the top.

Village Tailoring

The Village Tailoring Course

On Friday we meet with a refugee woman and her daughter living in Kabul who make the wonderful organza bags that we put your purchases of jewelry in.  I’ll try and blog as often as I can so stay tuned and thank you for your support and encouragement.

P.S. When we landed today and walked out of the airport to go to the parking lots where our trusted driver meets us, it was a spectacular spring day and the air was “peaceful”.  (The only way I know how to describe it.)  A strange feeling considering where we are, but I tried to soak it in on the walk to the car…it’s a good way to start.

Blessings from Kabul,