Afghanistan: Amid turmoil, their NGO’s focus is on training youth

Marnie Gustavson developed a fondness for Afghanistan during an idyllic childhood exploring Kabul in the late 1960s, when her father taught in the country. After a career running nonprofits in the United States, she returned to Afghanistan in 2004 and volunteered at PARSA, a small Kabul nonprofit aiding impoverished Afghan women, children, and orphans.

In 2006, she took the helm, expanding PARSA’s mission of building healthy communities and increasing its annual funding more than tenfold.

Why We Wrote This

Marnie Gustavson and Mohammad Tamim Hamkar have worked together for a better Afghanistan, training youths for leadership and community service. Now they confront a new challenge.

Mohammad Tamim Hamkar, who grew up amid Afghanistan’s turmoil – Soviet occupation, civil war, Taliban repression – joined PARSA with the goal of reviving Afghanistan’s scouting program. Having learned to adapt as his family’s fortunes fluctuated under changing regimes, he appreciated scouting as a vital part of youth education.

“All these activities are supporting young people in learning leadership, honesty, citizenship,” and hard work, he says.

Together they have transformed the lives of thousands of poor Afghan girls and boys, but in August, their joint dream suddenly took an uncertain turn as the Taliban surrounded Kabul.

“What is going on in this country?” Mr. Hamkar said to Ms. Gustavson, as they cried together. “What should we do?” There were, they knew, no easy answers. however it wasn’t long before Mr. Hamkar vaulted into action.

SEATTLE

She is the daughter of an American biology instructor, and spent an idyllic childhood exploring Kabul under a peaceful monarchy in the late 1960s, when her father taught in Afghanistan.

He is the son of an Afghan army officer, and grew up amid the turmoil of the 1980s Soviet occupation, civil war, and then Taliban repression.

For the past decade, on the outskirts of Kabul, Marnie Gustavson and Mohammad Tamim Hamkar have worked together on a rural compound surrounded by almond and peach orchards, quietly running a small nongovernmental organization that has transformed the lives of thousands of poor Afghan girls and boys by leadership training and community service.

Why We Wrote This

Marnie Gustavson and Mohammad Tamim Hamkar have worked together for a better Afghanistan, training youths for leadership and community service. Now they confront a new challenge.

But in August, the dream they pursued together suddenly took a nightmarish turn. As Taliban militants emboldened by the sudden departure of Western military forces captured one major city after another over the span of days – rapidly surrounding the Afghan capital – Mr. Hamkar felt overwhelmed by sadness. He looked over at Ms. Gustavson, her confront registering a similar dread.

“What is going on in this country?” Mr. Hamkar said, his voice shaking as they cried together. “What should we do?”

Click: See details

Leave a Reply