Thursday, May 6, 2010

Put some teeth into it

One thing I couldn't help but notice in Afghanistan were the smiles of the children. They were everywhere. Oh sure, there were plenty of shy, confused and despairing looks - but by and large, especially considering the conditions - the faces were dominated by beautiful, contagious smiles.

On the last day of the trip, a bridge in my mouth fell out. Three teeth gone. (My first thought? - It's a good thing Vicki is a vegetarian.:-)) After the initial surprise, I got to thinking about the children in Afghanistan. Access to dentists - forget about it. Insurance - what's that? My own boys had braces and have perfect teeth. If they got sick - nothing but the best doctors for them - spare no expense. Yesterday, I went to the dentist - with root canals, implants and crowns - we're talking about a $6,000 bill. Sure I could live without the teeth - but I have insurance and access to the best dental care in Seattle.

More than once on our visits, we were asked to help get medical assistance for people. For children, teachers and even high ranking government officials. I went on the journey with eyes wide open looking toward education issues. I wasn't naive about the other problems but what I saw was a "system" that has many broken parts and all the components need to be addressed before the system will function in a sustainable matter. A driver from Kabul told me that Afghanistan had so many things that were broken - transportation, education, health care, infrastructure, police, corruption, etc. - that fixing them all at once wouldn't work. He said - "We need to fix just one thing and then move to the next. It's too hard ... takes too much money and too much energy to fix it all". He's probably right - but one short visit and some research isn't enough for me to be sure or claim expert status.

I am convinced however that the Ayni approach of building schools and making them a center for community development is a model that can work. If we can't fix it all at once, I am sure education is the best place to start and the fastest, most effective catalyst for change.

1. Education leads to longer and healthier lives
2. Education leads to lower birth rates
3. Education decreases harmful traditional practices
4. Education teaches much-needed leadership skills and civic responsibility, and it provides a foundation for democratic governments
5. Education is the path to rebuilding nations destroyed by conflict and building peace.

These aren't opinions - they are facts proven over decades and demonstrated across cultures, countries and continents.

Thanks again for following my musings. Your support encourages me and makes me smile - with and without my teeth.

1 comment:

  1. Your comments show that you have taken good advaantage of the opportunity you had to be a part of the Afghanistani community for a brief time and to come away with some thoughtful impressions. Good.

    Hope you get your teeth fixed soon.