Building Peace on a Foundation of Health

Two and a half years ago, nine year old Rahim was on his way to his dadís butcher shop in the small village where he lives, located in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Rahimís brother, just one year older, and his cousin, who was engaged to be married, were both with him. Suddenly, the ground exploded beneath them. Rahimís cousin had unknowingly stepped on a land mine -- a moment that changed Rahimís life forever. Remaining conscious throughout the entire traumatic experience, Rahim remembers watching his cousin die, a large piece of shrapnel protruding from his bleeding neck. Several members of the Taliban, who Rahim believes planted the land mine, were nearby fighting with Afghan police. And the heroes of the day were a group of U.S. soldiers who happened to be patrolling in that area. They rushed to the scene, loaded Rahim onto a U.S. military helicopter, and flew him to the hospital. Rahim remembers seeing his brother running after the helicopter, screaming and crying, as he flew away. Seeing Rahimís scars today, anyone can see that itís a miracle he survived. His body was riddled with shrapnel, he lost the lower portion of his right leg, and over half of his right eardrum was gone. Rahimís left leg was covered with thick gnarly scar tissue, limiting the movement of that leg. His brother, Ghafoor, suffered scrapes, bruises, and some small painful pieces of shrapnel in one of his legs -- fortunately for him, he had not been nearly as close to the landmine explosion.

Solace for the Children is a non-profit organization of volunteers providing medical, dental and optical care to the needy children of Afghanistan. Rahim recently spent three months here in North Idaho, through Solace for the Children. With roughly one physician per 50,000 Afghan citizens, any medical treatment, even the most basic can be out the reach for most Afghan families. Innocent children suffer the most. Some endure war-related injuries, others have been subject to tribal conflicts (like young girls having acid thrown in their faces on their way to school), several have birth defects, and many experience simple childhood illnesses and accidents that result in devastating physical damage. With this reality, Solace for the Children has been addressing these needs since 2007 with two medical hosting programs in the U.S.: Solace Summer Program and Solace Extended Program. Solace also follows up with the children, after they return to their home in Afghanistan, through Solace Learn. Currently, there are three established Solace communities in the U.S. where 5 to 25 children come each year: Lake Norman, NC; Jacksonville, FL; and Los Angeles, CA. Rahim is the FIRST SOLACE CHILD to come to the North Idaho/Spokane community! Over 150 Afghan children have come to the States so far. Each one has had the privilege of seeing and experiencing the unconditional LOVE of Christ in action through their host family, medical community, and other Solace volunteers and donors. Plus, every group of children regularly participates in peace building activities while they are here, becoming friends with one another, regardless of what tribe they are from! And finally, year after year, Afghan children and Americans who might be adversaries in other circumstances begin to build lasting relationships. Fears are relieved and hearts are changed!

As Rahimís host family, we had the privilege of seeing Rahimís heart change, during the three months that he stayed with us. The medical community in North Idaho was an absolutely amazing part of Rahimís experience here, generously offering all their services and expertise pro bono. Rahimís interpreter, Shekeb, was also blessed. Dr. Zach Brumbach provided all of Rahimís and Shekebís dental care. Robert and Linda Miller, of Kootenai Prosthetics & Orthotics, provided Rahim with two brand new prosthetic legs (one he will wear home, and one extra). ďDr. Bob,Ē as Rahim calls him, taught Rahim how to adjust each of his state-of-the-art legs so they will grow with him. Dr. Craddock was Rahimís primary care physician, who gave him a complete physical and coordinated Rahimís surgery. Dr. Patrick Mullen removed shrapnel and dense scar tissue from Rahimís body, plus performed a Z-plasty on Rahimís scar so that he will always have full movement of his leg. A local Ear, Nose, Throat surgeon (who prefers to remain anonymous) reconstructed Rahimís right eardrum. These two surgeries took place at Kootenai Medical Center who also offered their services, along with Anesthesia Associates of Coeur díAlene. PAML donated a full blood work lab for Rahim, and Panhandle Health has provided all of Rahimís vaccinations.

Quoted in a recent Spokesman Review article, Robert Miller of Kootenai Prosthetics & Orthotics said, ďThereís a real strong spirit of wanting to help people here. Weíre just trying to help him get the best care he can Ė to walk and run and be a kid.Ē When Rahim headed back home at the end of August, he went with a new outlook on America, and a new discovery of hope. Love, peace and joy that have been so amazingly modeled to Rahim here will be shared with his father, mother, 4 brothers, 4 sisters, and his community. It is children like Rahim that will be the next leaders and peace makers in Afghanistan, able to make a difference!

Opportunities to get involved with Solace for the Children:

ē Volunteer as a host family for a Solace child or for a Solace interpreter Shaeq had life-saving surgery in July 2009 as part of the Solace Summer Program in NC, when he had a tumor removed that was near his brain stem. Now he needs another surgery, which the medical community of North Idaho/Spokane, WA is ready and willing to provide for him! Fourteen year old Shaeq needs one of his legs amputated that has ďdied,Ē due to an untreated injury from many years ago. We are currently seeking a host family in our area to volunteer with Solace, and welcome Shaeq into their home.

ē For business owners: Set aside a day to donate a % of your profits to Solace for the Children. Advertise ahead of time, and help us get the word out about Solace. This has worked very well in other states at restaurants, auto maintenance shops, and multiple other businesses!

ē For medical professionals, clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies: Let us know if you would like to join the effort by donating your services to a Solace child who comes to our area.

ē For churches: Invite Rahim, or future Solace children, to come tell their story to your congregation. Rahim will be here for two more weekends.

ē For ALL local residents who are filled with the love of Christ: As the North Idaho/Spokane branch grows, and more Solace children come our way, we will be seeking several volunteers for our team: board members, a peace-building activities coordinator, fundraising coordinator, help for mailings and office work, and support volunteers who will come alongside host families to sit with Solace children that are recovering in local hospitals for extended periods.

Because Solace for the Children is a non-profit organization of volunteers, the only funding needed is for the cost of each child and each interpreterís travel expenses, plus any other Solace administrative costs incurred in Afghanistan. Rahimís and Shekebís expenses totalled $7000. If you would like to contribute, helping more children come to our area, please go to