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Dear Donors & Solace Family,

It is hard to believe that it was only nine months ago that Patsy and I were discussing the numerous medical files of Afghan children whose parents all had a dream and a hope that their child would be chosen to receive medical care through Solace’s 2017 Summer Medical Program. What I also found hard to believe was that out of the many children we were only going to be able to choose seven. After considerable hours of thought, discussion and consultation Shukria, Ali, Samir, Nesar, Maryam, Raheel and Khadija all became the children of our 2017 Summer Medical Program. They became the children that would not only have their lives changed but would change the lives of all the donors, doctors, nurses, host families, churches, communities and Solace leadership team members who came together to bring to fruition Solace’s mission of  “Building Peace on a Foundation of Health”. Being a mother of three I couldn’t imagine the bravery, determination, love and trust that these children’s families must have embodied to send their children on this journey but having experienced my first year as Solace’s National Clinical & Area Director and having bared witness to this program, I now know why Solace has the reputation it has and these families trust in our organization.

In twelve hours from now Khadija (the bravest and strongest eleven year old girl I have ever met) and our last remaining 2017 child will walk out of Hemby Children’s Hospital in Charlotte after an eight week fight for her life. After four surgeries performed by an amazing team of surgeons and medical staff, Khadija now has a new life trajectory where she and her family won’t have to worry about whether the next day will be her last. Her surgeon said “I am treating her as if she were my own daughter,” her PICU nurse continuously said “gosh I love this girl” and between 30 volunteers we had a visitor with her every day and night for eight weeks which totals 1,344 hours of compassion and caring.  During her hospital stay Khadija told us she loved going to school but that she would get so sick losing blood that one day she would be able to go and the next months she wouldn’t. Khadija in two weeks will not only be returning home to her family but home to a new a future that has many months of school ahead.

Speaking of school, Shukria, Ali, Samir, Nesar, Maryam and Raheel all returned home in August to attend school after successfully receiving their medical care. Samir and Ali both had life-saving surgeries (heart) at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.  Ali said “I can now live” and that he is doing happily with the generous financial support of his host family and all of you who have afforded him the opportunity to learn academics, leadership and peacebuilding at Solace’s Peace House in Kabul. As an organization Solace always likes to witness our children continuing our mission and this became evident when upon leaving  Ali gave Khadija, who was staying behind, a card with a poem he wrote inside.  It said

“be strong, be brave, be happy and don’t be sad for being sad is not good for your mind or your body”.  

Shukria is also studying and learning in the Peace House with the financial support from her host family and all of you.  Shukria who always had a smile on her face and was the most eager to learn English will be returning next summer for surgery after this summer being a diagnosis period for her and an opportunity for three doctors to come together (each with their own specialty) to help her. Shukria was so excited to be able to attend our Peace House and be one of our three females studying there. On the United States Institute of Peace website it reads that 69% of those living in Afghanistan are youth. It is our goal at Solace to reach out to as many of the youth as our budget will allow. Our Peace House and the new manuals on leadership, peacebuilding, anti-corruption, and community giving that we are in the process of developing will be a part of helping the children (who are Afghanistan’s future) make change within their own society. My brother (who is a doctor in the Special Forces ) told me this summer that they go in to stabilize but the real work that makes lasting change and takes time is what we are doing. I would like to think it is a combination of us both working together with the Afghan people that makes the change.

Solace is a humanitarian organization.  We are here to preserve and teach through our actions the basic human rights to which all are given no matter what their race, color, religion, gender or origin. Sometimes we look around at our world at the injustices and even within our own country and wonder if basic human rights  are being preserved.  We are born free and equal.  We have the right to life. The right to not be discriminated against. The right to expression.  Nesar, Maryam and Raheel all received medical care that gave them better health but what we also watch unfold is two girls and a boy dancing together in a circle around a table to Afghan music.  Free from any thoughts about whether they are male or female. Laughing, singing, dancing and hopefully building memories and forming their belief systems on what it means to be born free and equal.

Solace makes me want to wake up every morning and go to work because there is change being made. Change being made on so many different levels and in so many different directions. The flow of giving that is not just one way but that is given back and passed forward.  It comes full circle.  Solace is a collaboration of donors, doctors, medical staff, host families, churches, volunteers, Afghan families, corporations, Solace leadership and many more: a collaboration of humans believing in and working towards a common good.

Thank you for your continued support of Solace for the Children.

Ridgely

Original artwork from Habiba, former Summer Medical Program participant who is currently residing at Peace House Academy.

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