Stories of Change

Top and Middle: Winterization tent delivery, Bottom: Aftermath of earthquake in Afghanistan (Photos courtesy of CWSA and ANDMA)

Tragedy and Resilience in Afghanistan

For the past few months, Gull, who is a mother of five, had been working tirelessly to support her family. Her husband had been suffering from debilitating leg pain, making it impossible for him to work. Despite this adversity, Gull, however, persevered. She tended to her family’s 11 sheep, using the wool to make rugs, the dairy for food and at times selling some of the sheep. She also took some laundry jobs in her village to make extra cash. Her sons also helped by selling animal manure at local markets. What the family didn’t know was that their future would hold unimaginable hardship.

On Sunday, October 7th, while in the city seeking medical care for her daughter, Gull overheard news of an earthquake in the Zindajan district where she lived. Anxious and distressed, she hurried back to her village, where she was met with scenes of utter devastation. The once familiar landscape had transformed into a jumble of debris and desperation. With intense fear, Gull rushed to see what was left of their own home. Tragically, the earthquake had claimed the lives of her husband and youngest son, who had both been trapped inside the house during the disaster. Her daughter and pregnant daughter-in-law had been baking in a tent at the time of the earthquake and managed to survive. Her 13-year-old sustained severe injuries to his hand as a result of the disaster.

Amidst the chaos, Gull and her children had no time to grieve. Gull’s oldest son took his younger brother to the city for medical care, which they paid for with money borrowed from their neighbors. Just like she did when her husband was sick and unable to work, Gull became a leader and began caring for her remaining family members.

Unfortunately, Gull’s status as a woman and widow often left her excluded from aid and the ability to voice her concerns within the community. Among these was the fact that the tent the family received from the government was destroyed almost immediately by storms that followed the disaster. This concern became more pressing each day as winter approached, road conditions began to worsen and her daughter in law’s due date got closer.Thankfully, within the chaos came a sign of relief.

Church World Service’s partner, Community World Service Asia, identified Gull as a qualifying program participant and provided her with a winterized tent. A total of 100 of Gull’s neighbors also received a tent. Gull shared, “In a timely intervention, Community World Service Asia came to our aid, providing my family with a new tent, which we promptly set up. Currently, all the affected families in the village are reliant on tents as their living quarters, with everyday necessities destroyed by the disaster. Relief organizations have stepped in to provide cooked meals and clean drinking water as the usual water sources were also rendered unusable.”

Gull and her family’s lives have been forever changed following the earthquake. Gull herself has been grappling with hearing loss, which resulted from the trauma of losing her entire home, belongings and loved ones to the earthquake. The pervasive sense of trauma within the household is palpable, and even the sound of the wind evokes fear among its members.

Even within this catastrophe, however, Gull has not given up hope. She is focused on her living family members and the well-being of her grandchild who will be born in a few months. Community World Service Asia is listening closely to all the concerns Gull shares and is committed to being the support that Gull herself has been for all of her loved ones.

To learn about the work done by our partner, Community World Service Asia, click here.