I’m just getting back from what we call reset. Female marines can not be with an infantry unit for longer than 45 days at a time. So the FET comes together and do additional training and classes every 45 days or so. Each of the two women FET teams gave a brief on their projects, activities, and lessons learned from the past 45 days. It was really good to hear all the different stories and experiences we are all having. Some of the FET Marines are in a more kinetic area, meaning there is more fighting and its more dangerous. Others like myself, aren’t. It seemed like those of us in the less kinetic area are able to interact more with the children and the women. We are building relationships and hopefully “winning hearts and minds” ; ) In the other areas it is harder to accomplish those things, so they are finding other ways to contribute. I guess one of the main things we learned this reset was that success is measured not by comparing one team to another, but by the improvements we make in our own areas. I think we probably learned more at breakfast, lunch and dinner sharing stories then during the classes, but it was overall a good experience.
We had our first visit to the base by Afghan women yesterday. It probably doesnt seem that amazing, but this has never happened before. We met them on patrol a few days earlier. One of the woman had a big cut over her eye and her mother(probably in her late 50’s) came and asked us to help. So we cleaned it up and gave her some bandaids. Then they show up at the base because it wasnt getting any better. We gave them hygiene classes on brushing teeth, washing hair and other things along these lines. They were so thankful and socialable. It was so much fun. The older woman told us, “may your dust turn into gold” and said we were like daughters. AND..she let me take a picture with her, which again was a first. She touched the top of our heads as she was leaving..which doesnt seem like much but it was definitely a sign of affection. Its little victories like this that make all if worth while. Or walking down the street and hearing kids call out my name, “Aziza, Aziza” (thats my Afghan name). I feel blessed to be here with the opportunity to make a difference.
The school we always visit is suffering from a lack of attendance. Last time we visited, 4 children were present out of 80…wow, right! We have been tasked with finding ways to promote attendence at the schools in our area of operation. No small task considering all these kids are up against. Most of the kids we talk to say they are scared to go to school. Others say its because of the harvest..they have to help their families work in the fields. So its my mission to get the kids back to school and to show everyone the importance of education. Wish me luck!! We are going to the school soon and handing out new supplies, maybe motivate them to show up at least one day so we can convince them to keep showing up. We had a meeting with the principal and he is a great ally in this fight.
We have a new unit here now and we’re trying to win them over. The commanding officer has given us many new tasks. Who would have tought I would come to Afghanistan and be put in charge of assessing and identifying all the schools in the Area we’re located. Its a good thing education happens to be one of my passions (thank you Madison School teachers for instilling in me the importance of education). They have never had a FET before or worked with females. Its been a challenge to show them our worth..especially in the lower ranks.
I guess thats it for now…i just want to say thank you to all those who read my emails and have spread the word. We have already began recieveing hygiene gear to hand out to the women. I got 9 packages yesterday…6 from people I’ve never even spoken to. One women told me about her granddaughter who sold pictures she drew for 25 cents, house to house, to buy toys for the Afghan kids. She raised $4..amazing. My linguist cried at the generosity of you all.
De Khodai Pu Amman (May you be in the safety of God)