Quilt project helps Afghan women

BY RACHEL CLARK | BALTIMORE | September 30, 2002

"People are really responding to it well, and wanting to try and support it."

—Roxanna Farris

Earl Daley, a 76-year-old Presbyterian church member, has spent the past few weeks preparing his house for buyers, moving into a senior home and helping the women of Afghanistan.

He said he's "busier than a cranberry farmer during harvest season."

The South Dakota resident felt compelled to spearhead a Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) fund-raising project when he read a brochure about a quilt.

"The quilt project has become pretty big," said Roxanna Farris, administrative assistant at PDA. "People are really responding to it well, and wanting to try and support it."

PDA and many other denominational disaster response groups have been participating in the quilt project, a national effort coordinated by Church World Service (CWS).

For people like Daley, it's a hands-on way to reach out.

"When I got unanimous approval to do this, I felt real good," said Daley. "When everyone said they would all play, I felt I didn't need the car to come home. I could have just floated; I was real enthused about it."

Daley has spent the past two months circulating the quilt around different churches in South Dakota, and has been eager to spread the word about the project.

"I met an Air Force chaplain and told him about it," Daley said. "Now he wants to bring quilts to his churches, too."

Daley and others in the faith-based community are reaching out to help residents of Afghanistan in a time when tensions are high.

According to Christian Aid, the U.S. initially pledged huge donations of money to Afghanistan but did not follow through.

"By way of example," according to a Sept. 18 Christian Aid report, "despite the huge donations made by the U.S., on 13 August, President Bush refused to release funds approved by Congress for Afghanistan. This amounted to $134 million for reconstruction and $40 million for refugee assistance."

Christian Aid suggested that other countries and relief organizations are hesitant to contribute resources to such a shaky government and economy.

However, CWS and other response groups are determined to help people in Afghanistan. A particular focus has been on helping Afghanistan women, since they head many families.

In the ancient desert trading city of Herat, women wrote and produced a play designed to gently encourage women to resist the societal and family-induced pressure to have a large family over a short period of time. After the play, women discussed prenatal and postnatal health practices as well as caring for newborns and older children.

The Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) Information, Counseling and Legal Aid Project offers walk-in refugees information on the repatriation process and legal matters. The NRC has helped about 5,000 Afghan refugee families in its centers near Peshwar.

And Pakistan Red Crescent volunteers have helped Afghan refugees living in camps in Pakistan by teaching hygiene to women and children. About 200 females attend the twice-daily health sessions to learn about basic toilet habits, diarrhea treatments, nutrition, hand washing and nail cutting. The International Federation of the Red Crescent has already seen a decrease in health problems like diarrhea, respiratory illness, and skin and eye infections as a result their educational programs.

While these relief groups are active in the country of Afghanistan, Daley has personally supported these women from as far away as South Dakota.

"The impact the quilt has had there is fabulous," said Farris. "And Daley has just been phenomenal in the two months he's had the quilt."

Daley - who modestly said he hopes he's been a help -- said he became a Presbyterian after he returned from his March 1948 honeymoon because the minister who married him was Presbyterian. In the midst of his personal responsibilities, he has found time to help others.

"We're getting ready to move to a retirement village in November, so we're busy spiffing up the house and the yard and everything else," he said. "So life is pretty busy."

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