In times of war and crisis, it’s important to remember that for every story of loss and tragedy, there is a story of courage and generosity—such is the case with Afghanistan’s Youth Scout program.
The country has been embroiled in conflict for more than 40 years, and growing up in that turmoil, Mohammad Hamkar decided to revive Afghanistan’s fledgling scout program in the 2010s from a compound of almond and peach trees on the outskirts of Kabul.
He and his NGO-partner Marnie Gustavson, an American who remembers living in Kabul during earlier peaceful days, have been working to uplift the lives of rural boys and girls through worldwide scouting mandates—especially encouraging a sense of responsibility and service to the community, particularly during the last two months.
As members of the nonprofit PARSA—(Physiotherapy And Rehabilitation Services for Afghanistan) which focuses on rebuilding Afghan communities—Hamkar and Gustavson realized the power of the Merit Badge in giving young people a worthwhile path to follow in life.
Hamkar has trained 600 volunteers to be scoutmasters, and was proud to regain membership in the World Organization of Scout Movements, restoring scouting as a national pursuit that dated back to 1931.
“We have about 10,000 scouts around the country,” PARSA director Marnie Gustavson, who left the country during the Taliban’s recent victory in Kabul, told KUOW.
“What the scouts accomplish across the country—particularly their focus on community service—is just remarkable.”
Assisting refugees – the Scouting way
After the Taliban resumed power, refugees poured into parks around Kabul. It was a situation Hamkar and his scouts were born to solve.
Gathering up tents, sleeping bags, and other emergency supplies, they created a safe, functioning campsite where 45 displaced families could get shelter, and receive food and water.
When the Taliban heard about what was going on, they accused Hamkar of teaching Christianity, an allegation that was easy enough for him to disprove.
Soon after, the Taliban government issued the all-clear for PARSA to continue its work, which included the scouts returning to the streets and outskirts of Kabul to lend a helping hand, and presumably, to continue stacking up their merit badges.
A great way to show support for your fellow scouts is by making a donations to help PARSA continue the program that offers role models for Afghan youth.