From the ruins of the World Trade Center to those of Kabul, Susan Retik and Patti Quigley embark on a journey of personal strength and international reconciliation. Through empowering Afghan widows whose lives have been ravaged by decades of war, poverty and oppression, they believe that peace can be forged one woman at a time.
There are 500,000 widows living in Afghanistan -- a result of 23 years of war. Only eight percent know how to read or write, and their average income is USD$16 per month, compared to USD$46 for male-headed households.
PATTI QUIGLEY [9/11 widow]
Susan came to me with the idea of helping a widow. That was the original idea, helping a widow. If we can connect with two widows, that Susan and I could each help, that was the original idea.
SUSAN RETIK [9/11 widow]
We realized very quickly that the amount of money that we were talking about could clearly help many more than just one woman, because the cost of living over there is so low compared to the United States.
CLEMENTINA CANTONI [CARE Afghanistan]
It's been estimated that in Kabul alone, there are between thirty and fifty thousand widows. These women and their children are trapped in a cycle of poverty, because if children don't go to school, they have no future either. It's a vicious circle that keeps repeating itself.
Clementina was the first person that we met that had actually been working in Afghanistan.
What we propose to do with your grant is there are a number of women who've been participating in our poultry project and have received incubators. This has yielded really good results; the incubators are working, they are able to make healthy chicks that they can then sell or keep to make eggs.
I would love to go to Afghanistan and really get a sense of these people and their culture. Right now, we're learning through reading books or newspaper articles, or speaking to people who have been there, or talking to people from Afghanistan. But until you can see it and feel it and smell it and taste it, I don't feel like we'll truly have a sense of the plight of these women.
It's very difficult to give the flavor or a real picture of what it's like for a woman living in Afghanistan, whereas just one day touring our project would, I think, answer all the questions they could have.
Welcome to Kabul
CARE International in Afghanistan, Poultry Project, District 5
Thank you all for having us here. It's an honor and a privilege to finally meet you. I live in the United States, in Boston, which is near New York.
You are Susan. We know you. You are like us. They describe to me, they're the people that gave us 15 chicks. We already know this. Thank you for coming here.
That gives me chills.
Most of the time, it feels to me like we raise a chunk of money, we give it to different organizations, who then help these women.
How are they doing taking care of the chickens?
But in fact, it is very specific what it is that we are giving to. Four hundred widows, to receive fifteen chicks, a certain amount of chicken feed. And those four hundred women are really four hundred women, which sounds so ridiculous, but part of me feels like it wasn't just "Oh, we're helping women in Afghanistan." We are helping these people in Afghanistan.
Before we met you, we wanted to help you. Now that we've met you, we really want to help you. We will tell your stories when we go home, and we will let people know, and we will continue to help support you. We'll continue to work hard.
It's not just a story; it's not just words. It's these people. Putting a face to the words is what makes it so powerful.
A lot of what we've talked about with the media this week and with the women is about 9/11, and I don't want to be there anymore. I want to talk about the women, and what they need. That also has become clear to me, I can still get that message across, that these women need a lot of help, and it doesn't really matter what happened to me.