Annapolis shopkeeper works to help women of Afghanistan

November 30, 2003|By Stephanie Tracy | Stephanie Tracy,SUN STAFF

Fahima Vorgetts returned from her most recent trip to Afghanistan with a powerful message -- don't forget.

She traveled to Afghanistan for five weeks during August and September, the latest in a series of trips she's made on behalf of the Afghan Women's Fund since January of last year to bring supplies and financial aid to women and children in the country.

"We cannot forget Afghanistan," Vorgetts said. "We told them we wouldn't forget them again after Sept. 11, and it seems we've forgotten anyway. If we don't remember Afghanistan, we'll never have security here in this country."

Vorgetts, 48, an Annapolis business owner and the fund's director, will share with the public the experiences of her most recent trip with a presentation at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Eastport United Methodist Church.

Vorgetts left Afghanistan in 1979 after a Soviet-backed communist government took over the country. In the mid-1970s, her father, a moderate Muslim leader, was assassinated. She came to the United States in 1983 and became a U.S. citizen in 1997. She has owned and operated Aaryana Imports on Maryland Avenue in Annapolis for 3 1/2 years.

In the nearly two years since her first trip back to Afghanistan, Vorgetts has helped establish vocational programs and literacy classes in the country and in refugee camps in Pakistan with assistance from the Afghan Women's Fund. The fund has also helped pay for construction projects in needy communities.

The Afghan Women's Fund, which operates under the umbrella of Women for Afghan Women, supports numerous grass-roots organizations and volunteer groups in the central Asian country.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, United States and coalition forces toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Under the Taliban regime, women were required to wear head-to-toe burkas and were refused an education. Warlords and fundamentalist groups terrorized citizens.

During the late summer trip, Vorgetts distributed 41 sewing machines to sewing classes, provided 15 chickens apiece to 53 widows in an impoverished province in Northern Afghanistan, and delivered computers for new classes for women and girls.

Many of the vocational and educational programs for women are coordinated and run by humanitarian groups in Afghanistan, with some funding from groups such as the Afghan Women's Fund.

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