Afghanistan can ambush you
By John Norgrove
Over the past couple of months, we’ve been preparing a newsletter to send out to all of the people who’ve donated to us in the past year. We have taken on an intern over the past few weeks to do this for us. A new graduate, young, bright and energetic, she was interested in working for us partially because her brother Chris is in the TA, had completed one tour in Afghanistan and was due to go out again. He went to Helmand a couple of weeks ago and last Friday, which was Laura’s last day with us, she heard that the tank he was driving had been hit by an IED. Chris was lucky in that he suffered superficial injuries as he was at the front, driving. The other two in the tank were both killed. Such pain for their families.
We can only hope that this violence will die down over the next few years and each of us make some effort, however small, to try and hasten that day.
Time to blog again
I see that my last blog was at the end of May – well that’s the Hebrides for you. Summer is 20 hours of daytime, 20 hours of grass and weed growth and a race to get the outside maintenance done before the Driving Drizzle settles herself into place for seven months.
An American friend was telling me that the best bloggers write a sound bite paragraph every few hours so their followers keep going to their site to get the latest titbit. Those followers aren’t my kind of humans. For myself, I have to feel that I have had an out of body experience before I get my arse in gear so maybe I can appeal to those who prefer something that is both stimulating and infrequent, something between Viz magazine and Thomas Hardy – plenty of scope here, it’s a big gap.
Over the summer we’ve concentrated on three fronts:
Fund raising events have been the major focus and we’ve been successful for a new charity – only because we’ve received so much support from all quarters. The majority of the events have been physical exercise challenges so clearly the summer is the busy time.
Spending money in Afghanistan has been difficult for many reasons – the security of our helpers out there being the biggest problem. After a slow start, we made solid progress and are starting to build up good contacts among other charities working there who undertake schemes that fit in with our focus of helping women and children.
Our third task has been to keep in contact with our donors and we’ve just completed our first newsletter which we’ll be posting and emailing out to more than 1,000 supporters this week.
We now have to formalise our accounts and prepare our annual report.
No accounting for gains or loss
Recently someone told me about the work of Alberto Cairo who runs the orthopedic clinic for the Red Cross in Kabul. An Italian lawyer turned physiotherapist, he’s been working in this job for over 20 years, all through the Mujahadeen and Taliban years, and in that time they’ve provided and fitted more than 90,000 prostheses (artificial body parts) for free. The staff are nearly all disabled Afghans. What I found most moving though was him saying, “If you can improve the life of a person, it gives you so much joy. If I had to compare what I give to what I get, I get back much more than I give.”
Gain and loss is what our materialistic society is about. Maximise gain; reduce loss. But does this translate to receiving and giving? Clearly not in Alberto Cairo’s case.
For ourselves, we’ve suffered great trauma and loss, but it hasn’t all been one way at all. We’re both stronger people – we have a closer relationship because we’ve needed to rely on each other. I’m much more sensitive to my emotions than I was. We’re both more sensitive to others’ needs because we’ve seen first hand how grateful you are for other people’s support when you need it. We’ve made new strong friendships. I’m less concerned with squirreling money away because my values have been modified by the death of my daughter. We’ve received great satisfaction from changing some desperate situations in Afghanistan for the better.
I knew that there were things in my life that were unsatisfactory – as there still are. But the reality for me has been that raw experience is something which changes your outlook. Reading it in books etc just doesn’t do it, most of the time.