Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Sunday 27th April

Public holiday today. We are invited by the local SCA staff to a picnic in one of their villages. It is a beautiful day and it is lovely to go out of the city into the countryside. There we reach a small village and find a picnic area under the trees—all set out for us with cushions and carpets. Food arrives in big bundles. The local disability worker brings us tea from his home and plates of raisins and sweets and almonds, all beautifully presented on lace doileys. It is so peaceful that we all start to drift off to sleep under the trees.

There are visits planned for the afternoon. We will visit two cerebral palsied children in their homes. The first stop is with a woman whose husband died in a mining accident. She has a cerebral palsied 4 year old daughter and 3 other children.

She greets us in her burkha and we all go inside her mud walled home. She is an illiterate woman who has little touch with the outside world and is so brave to have us to her home and to be filmed. We ask her about bringing up her daughter and all the difficulties she faces. She just says it is Allah’s will that her daughter is disabled and she loves her and is happy looking after her. I reflect that really the Afghan way of life is ideal for care of the disabled and elderly. These communities look after their own.

The extended family are all under one roof, there is constant child care and the disabled child will always be able to stay in the home. What is lacking is the expertise to help the families and maximise their children’s care. We have these brief moments where we have a snapshot glimpse at another world, one persons life and struggle...we see their homes, talk with them and then we move on.

The next home was through the village. We entered by a tiny door carved into the wall. It was a poor home. We were greeted by the father of the disabled child—a man in his seventies, widowed and re married. His second wife is 40 and looks worn down by life. Their disabled daughter is a beautiful 3 year old who stares and fixes her eyes on yours, but doesn’t smile. She comes into my arms and curls up against me and her mother holds my hand through her white burkha.

They say the girl as a six month old fell on rocks. But there must be more than that—she cannot hear, cannot walk. The mother believes that there must be a medicine which will cure her daughter but says they are too poor to go to a doctor. I tell her that there is no medicine she can buy and beg her not to---having seen the prescriptions of myriads of expensive, dangerous drugs prescribed by poorly trained, greedy doctors and pharmacists; I do not want her money wasted.

None of the family goes to school and neither parent is literate. They give us tea and put out all their precious supply of sugar, but typically Afghan, they offer so much hospitality, all they have.
As we leave the village a strange young man approaches us and starts reading questions at us off a list:-

What is your name?
Where are you from?
What is your religion?... now that is a hard one to answer in this conservative village... the Mullah has just walked past and we are told he is as hard line as the Taliban...and here we are being asked about our religion by some mad man reading without humour or the vaguest smile from his English Language crib sheet ... not the time to mention Christianity!

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