While constructing the first school discussions developed around the fact that the children of the village had never had the opportunity for health care. We decided that it was necessary to provide health care in order for our students to be healthy. This included vaccinations (polio and MMR) and maternity care. We decided to build a health clinic across the street facing the school. The clinic opened shortly after the school opened. We had a physician, nurse-midwife, nurse, pharmacist, and registration clerk. The village was excited for health care and the clinic saw over 200 patients a day when if first opened. We were able to vaccinate about 98% of the village children. The nurse midwife and her husband moved to the village from Kabul to work at the clinic. The night guard at the clinic had a moped and would go get her if she was needed during the off hours. We have also collected and sent over gently used eye glasses for the physician to help students find glasses if needed. Over the years we have also had a dentist (volunteer from Durango, Colorado) visit many times. He was amazed at the dental needs of the village. He enjoyed learning the culture, eating the food, and playing chess with the orphans in the evenings. Sadly Dr. Tom was killed during a medical trip to another region of Afghanistan. His dedication and enthusiasm will never be forgotten.
During a visit in 2002 it became evident that the next big need was for an orphanage. We had 35 boys living in their classroom. They would roll up their mats in the morning before school started, then attend classes during the morning. They would tend the gardens in the afternoon and then after the afternoon classes finished they would unroll their mats to sleep at night. They had one day off when they washed their clothes and bedding.. In 2002 they came up with a plan - they would help dig the basement and collect the stones for building if we raised funds to finish the top level. The agreement was made and the fundraising began. The boys helped the adults dig a lower level in the side of the hill next to the clinic. They designed that the lower level would be the kitchen and showers so that when water was heated, or food cooked, the heat would rise to the upper level and heat the floor of their sleeping area. Teachers and staff take turns staying at the orphanage with the boys. Currently we have 50 boys who live at the orphanage. Our next orphanage will be for the girls. The elders have asked us to build an orphanage for the 30 girls who currently live in the girls' high school.
We began thinking we would build a one room school house. That thought grew into a 6 room school. We projected that 140 students would attend school. We had an agreement with the village elders that both boys and girls would attend school. Respecting cultural norms, we had boys attend school in the morning and girls in the afternoon. When we held pre-registration 350 children registered. On the first day of school 465 students showed up - 20 of whom were girls!! Our first school year began when the Taliban was running the governement,. During that year 9/11 happened and the Taliban were overthrown. Villagers were afraid that we would leave. We did not. The beginning of our second school year saw 160 girls attend school and over 640 students total. We needed more room! Many families asked that we build another school so that boys and girls could attend school at the same time. This would allow some moms to attend with their daughters. We built a second school for girls. Then a high school for girls and a high school for boys. Currently we have 4 schools operating with 1200 girls and 1200 boys attending school. We still have over 2500 children on the waitlist. Our next school will be a community college/trade school for students after graduation. Our schools are open from March - Dec. It is too cold to hold school during the winter months, and many of our students walk as far as 4 hours to get to school so the snowy months are too difficult for them.
On the adjoining land we are currently building a hospital. When it is complete it will have room for patients to stay the night, operating rooms, and more options for complete care than our current medical clinic.