| Aug 12, 2019
My Visit to Our Team in Afghanistan
By Dr. Scott Breslin | International Director, CEO
Two weeks ago I retunred from a ten day visit with our project staff in Afghanistan. We have over 100 staff and two office locations where our staff focus on self-help groups, maturnity health, water & hygene, and literacy. I arrived in Mazar, Afghanistan in the morning via a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul. As we decended on Mazar, I was struck by the endless brown landscape with seemingly no trees, green plants, rivers or contrasting colors to the dry clayish brown terrain. When I stepped off the airline I was struck by 40 C tempatures and it was early morning! The airport was crowded with armed military personel reminding me I was now in a war zone.
But what I discovered on the ground, as I visited our staff and the projects they were running, stood in contrast with the somewhat inhospitable physcial geography in which the projects take place. The Operation Mercy staff were generous, outgoing, and motivated to help imporve the quality of life for the poor and marginalized in the region.
I accompanied our staff to a training program on maturinity healthy to an internally displaced community on the outskirts of the city. This community had been forced by armed insurgence to flee their villages in the mountains of Afghanistan. What was unusual about this maturnity training is that it was for men and taught by male Operation Mercy staff. The idea being, that since men in Afghan society are key decsion makers in Afghan families, they need a better understanding of the pregnancy process and related health issues. The program is called Birth Life Safety Skills (BLISS). See https://mercy.se/afghanistan-bliss/ for more details. I watched amazed as I sat among 40 village men of different ages in a room wth no roof. The Opeation Mercy trainers did a fantastic job keeping their attention and answering difficult questions. I've attached a few pictures. One of the older men said, "If only I would have known this information earlier. I'm glad my sons can learn it."
I also visited several Self-Help Groups (SHG) in Kabul. Operation Mercy facilitates over 20,000 women in more than 1000 SHGs in and around Kabul. SHGs have the potential to transform Afghanistan from the inside. They are having a great impact by almost every way you can meassure impact. See https://mercy.se/afghanistan-shg/ for some cool SHG stories. I also enjoyed a visit to a WASH (Water Santitation & Hygene) project. It was a real treat.
You know, it is not only the projects that are important but it is the fact that Operation Mercy staff are on-the-ground being a supportive and encouraging presence to marginalized people who are largely forgotten and overlooked. There is something transformative and good by just standing together... against the aloneness. Thank you Opeation Mercy staff in Afghanistan. You make your nation proud.
Dr. Scott Breslin, CEO