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    Despite hardships, Afghan Scouts see a bright future



    Story by Capt. Robert Leese 

    438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

    KABUL, Afghanistan -- On a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, Aug.1, on the basketball courts of the ISAF Joint Command base on the north side of the Kabul International Airport, 85 Afghan Boy and Girl Scouts, NATO coalition members, U.S. Afghan Air Force advisors and 13 AAF lieutenants came together to build and race space rockets, an annual event for Cub Scouts in the U.S.

    In the United States, many boys and girls join scouting to learn new skills and meet new friends. These Afghan scouts are not so different; however, they are starting the journey without the help of parents. Each of the 85 children comes from two public orphanages in the city of Kabul.

    In 2009, PARSA, a private non-governmental organization working directly with the dis-advantaged people of Afghanistan began the Afghan Scouts program in the national orphanages of Afghanistan. As a part of the Healthy Afghan Child program, they have adapted the program to meet the specific needs of vulnerable Afghan children who do not have consistent support from family members. ISAF involvement began in January 2010 upon their first contact with PARSA. Since that time, weekly meetings for the boys and girls troops were held. The girls have worked on the friendship circle and many badges while the boys have earned Nature & Safety badges. All troops have participated in monthly field trips to various sites outside Kabul.

    The Space Rocket Derby, a race consisting of miniature balsa wood rockets that are propelled by a rubber band and propeller along a taut fishing line, was brought together by volunteers , some of whom are Eagle Scouts from Germany, the U.S., Afghanistan and Canada. They provided the rockets, markers, stickers and the enthusiasm to help the children design their own personalized rockets.

    In existence since 1931, Afghan Scouting has begun to emerge in Afghanistan after being banned by the country's Communist Government in 1978. In 2002, political and social changes in Afghanistan opened opportunities for the rebirth of Scouting in Afghanistan. The Interim Administration of Afghanistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested embassies of selected countries to assist in reviving Scouting in Afghanistan, and groups began to emerge, led by adults who had been involved with the program prior to 1978.

    Today, the Afghanistan Scout Association operates within the Ministry of Education Physical Education & Scout General Directorate. The national office tracks about 14,000 Scouts countrywide, all within groups under Ministry of Education auspices.

    Lt. Cmdr. Steven Michaels, BSA Eagle Scout 1979 working at ISAF Joint Command, explained, “It is hard work rebuilding and maintaining this program without sufficient funding. Afghanistan is different in that there is no spirit of volunteerism here. You basically have to pay a person to work with the Scouts, which makes everything harder. Recently, ISAF personnel in Jalalabad and Kandahar have started more troops and we have connected them with the Scout Directorate in Kabul as well as the International Asia Pacific Region in order to keep the program from straying on too many tangents. Essentially, the Afghan Scout laws are the same as those in the U.S. and other countries; however their oath is slightly different. We know this from the program that existed prior to the 1970s.”

    Currently the Afghan Scout Association is for boys and girls, men and women, and offers Cubs (ages 8 to 12), Scouts (ages 12 to 18) and Rovers (ages 19 to 25). The AAF Lieutenants had one last surprise for the scouts. As they left, each child was provided a new backpack filled with school supplies to help with their studies. It was important for the Afghan Scouts to see the Lieutenants serving their country as shining examples of a bright future.

    For a time, the basketball court was filled with laughter and the scouts were full of joy interacting with their new friends. In 2010, PARSA hopes to bring 850 children in three orphanages into the Afghan Scouts. This program is currently supported by ISAF, IJC and United States Embassy staff with reach back support from many countries Scout programs. For more information on the program visit: http://www.afghanistan-parsa.org.



    Date Taken: 08.03.2010
    Date Posted: 08.03.2010 10:04
    Story ID: 53882
    Location: KABUL, AF 

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