In recent months our best intentions to keep you fully informed of Project Life happenings were eclipsed by our need to respond to one new challenge after another. It has strained our all-volunteer staff to its limits!
When the Afghan children finally arrived following the huge delay in processing their visas, they joined the Caucasus orphans and youth volunteers here in Waterport. They learned English, visited local recreational sites, and traveled to the Washington D.C. area over Labor Day weekend.
Just prior to leaving for D.C. our 15-passenger Dodge Ram van had to be taken off the road. Though our faithful vehicle was still mechanically sound, structural issues with the undercarriage had appeared, making it dangerous to drive. This was a complete shock as it had passed state inspection just two months before! We had no choice but to, very regretfully, send our van off to the scrap yard.
The orphans and volunteers made the trip in a rented 12-passenger vehicle, which we continued to drive until the Caucasus group departed mid-September. After that, we downsized to a 7-passenger SUV to handle the daily driving for the three Afghan boys, their host brothers, and volunteers.
Long-term van rentals are very expensive. We had to spend thousands of dollars on this unanticipated budget item. We began to make plans to launch a campaign to collect funds for a new program van.
In the midst of making those plans, Afghan orphan Mohammad collapsed at the home of his American host family. He was soon admitted to Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Buffalo. Specialists diagnosed him with thalassemia major, a disease of the red blood cells. Thalassemia major is the most severe form of inherited anemia that a child can have.
Medical care in war-damaged Afghanistan is almost non-existent for poor families living in small villages such as the one Mohammad is from. The advanced medical care he needs is simply not available. Several members of his family have already died of this inherited disease.
The other two boys returned to their homes in Afghanistan in mid-October, but Mohammad had to stay behind.
In early November, his health took a turn for the worse. He was hospitalized on an emergency basis and had to have major surgery to remove his badly enlarged spleen on November 12.
Here in western New York Mohammad can receive the regular blood transfusions he needs to nourish his body. He has also begun taking a medication that helps remove potentially fatal excess iron from his system.
Bone deformity and delayed growth are additional side effects of thalassemia. Mohammad is tiny for his age. There is no cure for this condition. Eventually bone marrow transplant might be an option, but there is no certainty that it would work.
Our program usually only sponsors children for 10 to 12 weeks, and does not have the means to provide full comprehensive health insurance for them. Mohammad must take medications that cost about $60/day for 6 weeks during his recuperation period. As well, we face the challenge of supporting his daily needs for an extended period. His specialists say that to preserve his fragile health, he may need to spend years here in western New York.
Project Life is committed to supporting Mohammad’s needs and keeping him as healthy as he can possibly be. Watch this site for news about our YouTube, Twitter, and Razoo campaigns focused on Mohammad’s health. We are preparing a launch before the end of November.
We also hope to sponsor a new group of international war orphans to our summer program in 2015. We can only be successful if we have reliable transportation. It’s an essential part of the daily schedule of education, recreation, and health care that we provide for international orphans each summer. We therefore badly need funds to either purchase or lease a 12 to 15-passenger van for the 2015 season.
Project Life depends entirely on private donations. It has thrived for 18 years on the generosity of individuals, businesses, congregations, and service clubs. We hope that we will be able, through your support, to continue providing relief and rehabilitation to Mohammad and other international orphans of war.
We appreciate you taking time to read our blog and your continued support. You can make a tax-deductable donation online Today!
Deborah Wilson, Deputy Director
Project Life War Orphans