Last night, field representative Toby Bonthrone received an award from the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT). Toby has worked with the KPRT on a number of projects in the last eight months, including renovating a shura room to allow Afghans to meet more easily and frequently with KPRT and military personnel, funding a youth conference, and a recently begun major vocational training project.
Toby receiving the Certificate of Appreciation from a member of KPRT
Because he has been out in the field for several months working alongside our partners in the U.S. Army Special Forces community, Toby had not been able to meet with the KPRT for a while. However, he was able to schedule a very brief visit with them to introduce them to his successor, Chrissy Burbach. In doing so Toby found out that the KPRT had been waiting to give Spirit of America this award for several months, and the award ceremony was scheduled at very short notice.
During the awards ceremony, a senior civilian member of the KPRT explained that she had been initially skeptical of Spirit of America, worrying that we were, to quote another KPRT staffer's initial anxieties, just a "feel good organization". Many civilian and military development professionals have become very attuned to the negative effects that a decade of humanitarian assistance has had on the Afghan people, creating welfare cultures and weakening the Afghan government by replicating the functions it is supposed to maintain. In many areas, Afghans have come to expect handouts. This takes away the incentive for these people to provide for all their own basic needs themselves. It also means that they are likely to be angered when aid does not come through, rather than being grateful when it does.
Organizations such as the KPRT have worked hard to undo much of the damage done by badly conceived development and humanitarian aid, and were thus justifiably skeptical when a young organization such as Spirit of America stepped into the ring. We were able to overcome these concerns, and build a strong relationship with the KPRT that should last as long as we have field representatives present in their area. KPRT has been an exceptional partner, and we are very grateful for their support and cooperation.
The award from the KPRT recognizes that Spirit of America can indeed play a role in creating sustainable solutions for the Afghan government and people, which are required if the United States is to successfully disengage from Afghanistan, leaving a country that is able to prosper independently of outside influence.