Park Place A dream turns into reality for a group of Afghanistani people

October 12, 2010

HOT FOOD comes out of an oven at the Bamiyan Family Park in Afghanistan

FATIMA DUMPS the bucket of restaurant kitchen scraps into the compost pit, in the separate garden plots of Bamiyan Family Park in Afghanistan, and turns to scoop out what she can harvest and bring back up to the kitchen.

She gathers rhubarb, fresh cilantro, carrots, green onions and mixed lettuce greens into a clean basket and stops to chat and share a laugh with Khadija and Masooma who are weeding in the strawberry patch.

Pushing open the heavy wooden door that separates the park acres from the horticultural training area, she heads back to the restaurant in the upper park.

The brick pathways lead her past whooping children swinging high on swings and racing up the wooden playground. The beautiful trilling of birds hidden in the poplar trees blends peacefully with the sounds of water rushing through the stone channel that brings fresh river water to irrigate the grass, trees and flower beds of the park.

She smiles and bends to sniff the sweet fragrance of a pot of dazzling pink petunias, lost for a minute as she watches a sleepy bee buzzing for nectar.

Lost in a happier childhood time, before the war years…the years of hunger and fear, of bombs raining down on her village, of herding her small family of boys to find refuge in the camps of Pakistan, and years of sickness and hopelessness there.

Shrieks of laughter coming from the outdoor pizza oven shelter, bring her back to the present, and chuckling to herself, she knows it’s probably Mukhtar getting rowdy again.

Being the youngest cook/waiter in training, who split his days between a morning shift, and afternoon high school, Mukhtar was like a young calf needing to romp and joke.

He never failed to amuse the kitchen staff with a joke or funny story, and they all praised his success when he would put a dramatic flourish of cream cheese icing on a particularly good batch of carrot cupcakes.

Depending on his small salary from the park, was his mom, and seven little sisters; their dad unable to support his family from prison.

At the end of a busy day of serving guests in the park restaurant, the cooks who have babies in the daycare room, gather them up and begin the kilometre walk home to the new settlement of returned refugees.

The setting sun throws long shadows down the steep, rugged, terracotta-coloured valley cliffs. The dust of the road mingles with the pungent smells of sagebrush cooking fires as the village women start the evening meal.

Fatima’s feet ache, but it was a good day, with lots of guests visiting the park. Mukhtar jokes that with so many guests buying entrance tickets to the park, maybe soon their salaries will go up.

Sharing the challenges and difficulties of the day, there is among them a strong sense of camaraderie.

Together they are building a place of beauty, hope and pride in this community.

It’s taken three long years, but during that time, many men in the area found employment in the building of the five-acre park, as stonemasons, carpenters, cement workers and labourers.

Now the park offers permanent jobs to 18 of the most disadvantaged men and women of the area, as guards, gardeners and cook/ waiters.

What was once a dream, has become a place where families can come and picnic, play and renew, hopefully for many years to come.

With an unstable and gloomy outlook for the country of Afghanistan, every happy memory, every hopeful day a family can build, is as precious as the new varieties of flowers blooming, in Bamiyan Family Park.

Nothing of significance is ever achieved alone.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those in the Terrace area who contributed to this dream of a healing place for the war-weary women and families of the central highlands of Afghanistan.

Special thanks to my dad, who moved to heaven on July 3 of this year, and my mom. They only ever embraced and cheered me on in this dream, and even delighted in learning the names and stories of all those that shared the dusty roads in my Afghan journey.

Thank God for all the freedoms we enjoy here in Canada, and my prayer remains that someday, there will come, an “Enduring Freedom” for the people of Afghanistan.

Terrace resident Heather Bellamy spent years helping create the Bamiyan Family Park.

Supported through the auspices of Samaritan’s Purse, Bellamy returned home last year.


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