Dazzling them with my magicI was part of something special on Saturday night. I spent an evening with Lida and Hala and Maria and Frishta and Mohsan and Eraj. Six Afghan children visiting the USA from their parwarishga in Kabul, accompanied by two of their teachers.

Parwarishga is an Afghan word that means foster haven, something much more than an orphanage, although all the children there are orphans in some sense, their parents dead or disabled or emotionally destroyed or economically shredded by years and years and years of war.

You hear so many bad things about the conditions in orphanages in Afghanistan; not these orphanages! You hear much about ingrained male attitudes that deny Afghan women and girls rights; not from these boys, not from these girls. You hear so much despair about finding a way forward for Afghanistan; not from these young people! They know the way forward is through education and community and love and Afghans doing it for themselves and they are the living, breathing, laughing, learning, teaching, passionate embodiment of this real hope for a better life amidst the ruins.

Maria, with Eraj and Mohson behind and Nasrin and Ian futher backKids are magical anytime, but these six two-legged, stunning wonders, are for me what is best in us humans. The atrocities and killings and torture their young eyes have seen defies description. Yet… here they are, grouped around the table to see my salt-shaker-slammed-through-table amazing magic trick, those keen little eyes observing intently… and whamo! as soon as the trick was done (little applause, no amazement, I was, uh, not very subtle)… “I can do it! I can do it! I saw what you did!” and they were off and running with tricks of their own and games that made us adults look silly, accompanied, all of it, with giggles and teasing and laughter.

Maria and Frishta with Sophie Cull, the director of the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death PenaltyThen, music and songs with Eraj plinking notes on the piano as they all sang “Heart of Asia” their school anthem written for them by Ian, the only American in this otherwise all-Afghan operation. Ian, who spent five months working with the girls and boys in their Kabul orphanages, falling in love with the children and their mentors who have dedicated their lives to making a reality out of their vision for a better homeland, Ian, who then came home to America only to sell his house and his car and cut up his credit cards and return to Afghanistan and his new Afghan family. Ian, who with Nasrin, accompanies these six children on their journey around the USA. On the road some people ask them, “Don’t you want to stay in America?” and they say “No, Afghanistan is my home, I want to return and help build a better homeland.”
Lida, Hala, Maria, yours truly and Lillie, one of our hosts

We can help

These amazing children need our help. The wonderful Afghan organization that houses them and teaches them and cares for them and loves them up and builds a community of hope is called AFCECO, Afghan Child Education and Care Organization. Go to the link and tell your friends and give as much as you can. You may want to sponsor a child. I think of it as lifting a child off death row. What a privilege to be part of this LIFE project.

Here’s some video for you

First, Maria, who intends to be an engineer, telling a small part of her story:

And here’s the magic show. (Can you spot Denny LeBoeuf from the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project being bewitched along with the rest of us?)