Spirit of America's Blog
Winter Gear Improves Security as Evidenced in the Voter Turn Out
As I write this blog the polls are closing in Afghanistan. Today's events mark the first step toward a peaceful transition of presidential power in one of the most incident-free elections in the modern history of Afghanistan. Without the commitment of police and military efforts to establish security throughout the country before and during the elections, the outcome could have been different. The Afghan Local Police (ALP) played a critical role in the remote regions of Afghanistan where they are often the only official representation of rule and law. Spirit of America had the opportunity to support these men as they supported and protected the citizen of Afghanistan's freedom to vote.
Photo courtesy of: BBC
The Afghan Local Police pilot program began in 2009 and has continued to grow in popularity over the last five years. Now, there are nearly 30,000 ALP acting as local defense forces where conventional Afghan military and police do not generally operate. These men are motivated to protect the villages because these are the same villages occupied by their families.
During the course of my last deployment, I had the opportunity to get know some of these men on a personal level. I learned about their families and lives as we trained and worked together. When the Special Operations Forces (SOF), who were working in key provinces, reached out to me to help support their ALP, I was more than eager to contribute to their success. Without the support of our donors, it would not have been possible.
Provincial Augmentation Team, SoA Support Local Radio Station in Qalat
Recently, Spirit of America has been working with US troops and their Afghan counterparts to support a broadening media and communications campaign in Afghanistan. Broadcasts from Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) and the Afghan National Army are playing an increasingly vital role in the final stages of the US mission here, and continue to impact the lives of everyday citizens. Official announcements regarding public services, presidential election campaign updates, voter registration information, as well as real-time updates regarding safety and security are all ways Afghan media outlets can connect Afghanistan's thirty-one million citizens to their national government.
Civil Affairs Team, SoA Support Radio TV Afghanistan in Herat
Radio Television Afghanistan, or RTA has nearly a century of broadcasting experience in Afghanistan. Long range communications, particularly radio media programming, are essential to connecting a land dominated by vast deserts and unassailable mountain. During the reign of the Taliban, broadcast media was almost non-existent, restricted only to pre-recorded recitations of Qur'anic verses throughout much of the country. After the fall of the Taliban, RTA was reinvigorated, and remains one of the most central lines of communication between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Afghan people.
Veterinary Training Seminar in Wardak Province
In a country where the population relies heavily on animal husbandry and other agricultural practices for their livelihood; the model of providing information on better farming practices, instead of expendable goods, is quickly gaining traction. Spirit of America recently had the opportunity to support a two-day veterinary training seminar in Wardak province; hosted by an Army Civil Affairs Team. The event was extremely successful.
One of the military vets provides training to veterinarians in Wardak Province
Books for Isolated Children and Gear for Disabled Refugees
Spirit of America projects are more diverse than any other nonprofit or charity we know. But our projects have one critically important thing in common: they are in direct support of US troops and diplomats operating in the world's most challenging places and the local people and partners they seek to help.
The costs of Spirit of America projects also vary widely. They range from a relatively complex multi-year livestock health project in West Africa to the two recent projects highlighted below, both of which were quite inexpensive yet had a major impact.
Books for isolated schools in the Maldives
Children in remote islands in this Indian Ocean country didn't have access to schoolbooks, a situation which hurt their educational opportunities and diminished the prospect for good jobs in the future, leaving them vulnerable to negative influences. Spirit of America worked with the US Army team and Embassy responsible for that country to fill this critical gap. The US Ambassador, in her remarks at the distribution ceremony, said, "These books, aimed at primary and secondary grades, will help teachers and students develop their English language skills so they can enhance their opportunities for further education and a dynamic future. We are proud to support the success of Maldivian students through the friendship and goodwill of the American people." Read more here.
The US Ambassador to the Maldives oversaw distribution of the SoA-provided books to remote schools
Stability Through Education
The US Army civil affairs team working in the Maldives strives to counter causes of instability in the country. Despite the Maldives' idyllic external image, civil and political unrest, poverty, geographic isolation, and illicit activities such as human trafficking have left the Maldives' population vulnerable to negative influences. These factors pose a significant threat to local and regional stability.
Improving education is a key way to counter these challenges. Doing so provides greater long term opportunities for vulnerable school children – youth that will be the next generation of leaders in the Maldives.
Maldives schoolchildren work hard to learn in spite of shortages in educational supplies
Ryan Joins the Spirit of America Team
Hello Spirit of America Supporters,
I am Ryan Frost and I am the newest member to come on board with the organization. After a few weeks of training here at the home office I will be headed out to Afghanistan where I will meet up with our representative Chris Clary who will walk me through our operations out there. After a couple months working alongside Chris, I will return to the US and take over as the field representative for our Central and South American operations.
Genuinely Caring Leaves Life Long Impressions
Spirit of America has been able to provide humanitarian assistance to people in many countries around the world. Recently, a few people who saw the positive results support provided by Spirit of America was having decided to get involved in a unique way. Their generous donations, that made it across the ocean, were put to good use supporting the efforts of the troops and spreading the good will of the American people in Afghanistan. I want to share that story with you today.
One of many children who showed up to during the Humanitarian Assistance distribution