In early 2015, Morning Star Development started an Afghan refugee outreach in the U.S., offering services to new arrivals that were not otherwise available. We're also in the process of launching the international phase of our plan with a new program in India, while exploring opportunities in Turkey, Greece and Germany.
Recently, one of the refugees we serve in the U.S. expressed her gratitude for our help when she said, "The other day I was thinking about what my life here would be like without you. I've come so far because of your guidance. There is so much more I want to do and now I have the confidence to move forward because of your help and friendship. I don't want to imagine my life as a refugee without you."
Would you consider joining us as we reach out to displaced Afghans like the woman in the story above who desperately need the assistance that organizations like ours provide? Click here to read more.
July 1, 2015 was a pivotal mile marker in Morning Star’s thirteen year history. That was the day our organization celebrated the passing of the leadership baton. After months of prayerful deliberation and a careful interview process, Daniel Batchelder and the Board of Directors asked Lars Peterson, the Executive Director to step into the CEO-President post.
Lars gladly accepted the position and is now wholly engaged in the responsibility and the privilege of serving the Afghan people by building on the firm foundation established by Morning Star's founder, Daniel Batchelder through 18 years of hard work and selfless sacrifice. Daniel will remain engaged as President Emeritus. His invaluable insights and wisdom will most certainly help Morning Star’s leadership team better navigate the new opportunities that lie ahead.
The director of our Birth and Life Saving Skills (BLiSS) program shared the following story of a villager who took the knowledge he learned at a BLiSS class to save the life of a relative's newborn child.
"It was time for one of my relatives to give birth. The women gathered in the room, ready to assist in the delivery process. Although, as a man, I was not allowed in the room, I had my ear to the door to make sure nothing went wrong. After the baby was born the room grew silent. The baby wasn't crying. I shouted and asked if everything was okay. One of the women came to the door and told me that the baby didn't make it. I had learned from the training I received earlier that if a newborn is not breathing when he is born, then someone should clear the mouth, flick the baby's feet and rub its back. So I rushed into the room to see if I could help. At that point, the women reminded me again that the baby had died and even chided me for thinking otherwise. I ignored them. I picked up the newborn and did the things I had learned from my BLiSS training. The baby gasped its first breath – and then began to cry. At that moment, the room erupted in celebration. I, too, was full of joy over this infant, who was thought to be dead, but was now alive and well.”
Mother and child are doing well, all because of our medical education program offered to villagers who know nothing about the simple life saving techniques that can determine whether a child born at home lives or dies. Our BLiSS program most assuredly does save lives.
Four graduates from our family medicine residency program have launched Afghanistan Mercy Hospital where patients in Kabul are being served. Not only did they establish this new medical facility, but along with fellow graduates, they started the nation’s first civil society healthcare organization called Afghanistan Family Medicine Association (AFMA).
Recently, they met with the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) to recommend a change in the way the MOPH organizes the nation’s healthcare system. A request was made to make room for family medicine in their overall plan, where prevention could deliver a greater impact.
It is such a joy to work with these Afghan doctors who not only excel at their vocations, but have also become visionaries, committed to bringing real solutions to the nation’s healthcare needs. Watching young men and women step into leadership roles because of their heart to help their nation is inspiring. We hope others follow their example and make a positive impact for the future of Afghanistan.
The Doctoral Thesis presentation given to a group of local partners in Colorado Springs had the audience captivated for over an hour. Although the value of the direct services at our Community Centers had always been understood – it was the indirect social and economic impact being presented that was enlightening.
In May through June of 2013, Kevin spent six weeks at one of our Community Centers conducting focus group sessions and interviews with the medical staff, patients, villagers and tribal elders. His doctoral thesis focused on targeting the Base of the Pyramid (the largest and poorest socio-economic group) using business strategies that help alleviate poverty. Once back in the States, he analyzed the data and recorded his initial findings. What he discovered was quite unexpected. Morning Star's rural outreach was literally changing the cultural landscape of the villages they serve.
From the warming of relations between families and elders, to the economic uptick that runs into the tens of thousands of dollars – our Community Center's work was bringing a tangible reason for hope. Families were better connecting across tribes; and leadership factions, normally at odds, were teaming up for a common purpose. Death rates were lowered and the quality of life was improved. These indirect influences were leading to real transformation that is desperately needed in these rural areas.
Afghanistan has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. Over 12% of Afghan babies will die before they reach their first birthday. Morning Star Development is directly responding to this unfortunate statistic by offering a community-based health education program called BLiSS (Birth Life Saving Skills) to men and women who live in rural villages across the country.
Program Director, Lucy Monk, sends her national health education team from village to village to teach on basic hygiene and the life saving skills needed when a medical emergency arises during the birthing process. A series of 17 individual courses are taught along with hands-on health education training using life-sized dolls.
On one such occasion, after training a group of men about what to do if a baby is not breathing at birth, one of the fathers in the class began to cry asking, "Why didn't you come here five years ago? Many of our women and children would still be alive. I have buried three of my own children because they were not breathing at birth."
His experience, multiplied thousands of times over, is the reason why Morning Star is committed to seeing the expansion of the BLiSS program throughout rural Afghanistan. This gives parents the opportunity to embrace simple life saving skills that can make the difference between life and death for a mother or her infant child who is in crisis.
Our 2013 Institute for Leadership Development (ILD) program in Herat begins on March 15 and will run through November 15, 2013. In addition to our standard training tracks, we have scheduled nine seminars for government employees and one TOEFL training event for ILD graduates.
At our 2012 graduation ceremonies held on November 22, a number of local dignitaries attended and shared their appreciation for the positive impact our ILD program has had on Afghanistan's up and coming leaders. In particular, the deputy governor, who is also the head of the Capacity Building Department for Herat Province shared his genuine thankfulness for Morning Star's commitment to assist in the training of Afghanistan's government employees.
Our leadership development efforts are having a measurable impact on the students who attend and we have every reason to believe that this year's ILD efforts will continue to produce outstanding results in the lives of Afghanistan's next crop of business, community and government leaders.
One of our students described it best when he said, "When I attended the first week of the ILD course, I got the feeling that I found what I was looking for. Although the materials and environment were good, what amazed me were the feelings I could hear from within the instructors. It was these feelings that gave me special strength and motivation to focus on developing integrity, change and legacy as the most important aspects of my personal life."
Each year we graduate approximately one hundred ILD students from our Institutes in three Afghan cities. It is our goal to open an ILD in every city that has a university, bringing the total to 14. We believe the ILD program is one of the most effective ways to prepare Afghanistan's new leaders to lead in a way that will bring lasting stability and peace to the nation.