Witnessing for Peace

Afghanistan, 2004

One day you see a friend. The next day you see a brother.

I will be returning to Afghanistan September 25, 2009 for almost one month. As with my previous three journeys of discovery since my first encounter in Afghanistan in 2003, I will be witnessing and gathering information from the people I meet concerning the current situation in Afghanistan. It has been almost four years since my last visit to Afghanistan and much as happened in that time. What we hear from the local media and government agencies does not address the everyday lives of the Afghan people. We hear much about the effects of the continuing war and little about the programs and projects that strive to support and assist the day-to-day needs of the Afghan people.

The first part of my journey I will be traveling with a small group from Codepink, a women initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect our into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. Codepink rejects foreign policies based on dominance and aggression, and instead calls for policies based on diplomacy, compassion and a commitment to international law with an emphasis on joy and humor. This delegation seeks to enhance understanding of Islam and Afghan culture as well as the role the Afghan people want the U.S. to play building a lasting peace in Afghanistan. Participants will return with a first hand understanding of the political and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and experience the rich cultural heritage kept alive amidst more than thirty years of conflict. I am volunteering my photographic services to this program and will be making a record of our experiences as travel in the country. We will be visiting a women’s hospital and several development projects outside of Kabul. The itinerary has not yet been finalized.

During the second part of this journey I will volunteer my photographic services to National Organization of Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR), and I will be staying with my dear friends Tom and Libby Little who have spent the past 30 years of their lives working with and developing this program. NOOR has been providing eye care to the people of Afghanistan since 1966 and provides the majority of eye care in the country. The program is involved in all levels of eye care and includes a strong training component. NOOR is a model program of teaching, guiding and empowering the Afghans to develop their own eye care programs throughout the country.

As time and safety allow, I hope to visit some of the programs that have been started by and/or assisted by family and friends of victims from September 11, 2001. They include girl’s schools, orphanages and programs for widow women.

Because of my continued interest in clothing and textiles I hope to visit some of the women and men as they carryout their traditional handcrafts of embroidery and carpet weaving. This will be combined with a visit to the Turquoise Mountain Foundation’s Center of Traditional Afghan Arts and Architecture where master craftsmen train the next generation of artisans in woodworking, calligraphy, and ceramics.

Each of these interests fit together as a jigsaw puzzle to inform of the current conditions. My heart will be open to learn from the unexpected.

The cost of this fast approaching journey­— fees, airfare, photo equipment and supplies, housing, food, local transport and translators — is approximately $5,000.

I would be grateful for any sort of contribution, large or small, whether money and / or prayers. I welcome your suggestions about making this journey. You can also help by organizing a showing of a digital multimedia presentation or photographic exhibition after I return this winter or in the spring. Please visit my web site (www.globalvillagephotographer.com) for examples of my photography and writings concerning Afghanistan. As the conditions allow I will be writing a blog while I am traveling (globalvillagephotographer.blogspot.com).

Donations can be sent to Connie Frisbee Houde, 22 Elm Street Albany, New York 12202 and/or look for an announcement concerning a fundraising event in mid September that will include the sale of my note cards and an auction of some of my Afghan photographs.

In gratitude,

Connie Frisbee Houde

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Artist’s Statement

My goal as a photojournalist is to depict the spirit and sacredness of people and their surroundings. The cultural heritage and way of life of many different people are often threatened by global events, war and industrialization. I focus on the nobleness of these people and their lands as they strive to keep their autonomy, culture and community alive. While each group maintains its own cultural identity many attributes, expressions and concerns of living are universal, creating a sense of brotherhood, a global village.