November 21, 2001 - Chicago Daily Herald: Peace Corps volunteer shares Afghan experience

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2001: 11 November 2001 Peace Corps Headlines: November 21, 2001 - Chicago Daily Herald: Peace Corps volunteer shares Afghan experience

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 10:07 am: Edit Post

Read the story from the Chicago Daily Herald about RPCV Pamela Hunte and her service in Afghanistan in the early 1970's at:

Peace Corps volunteer shares Afghan experience

Peace Corps volunteer shares Afghan experience

Nov 21, 2001 - Chicago Daily Herald Author(s): Victoria Pierce Daily Herald Staff Writer

Pamela Hunte first lived in Afghanistan in the early 1970s as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English.

She's been back several times since, but 20 years of war have changed the country dramatically, she told students at Hubble Middle School in Wheaton Monday.

Hunte, who grew up in Joliet and went on to earn a doctorate in anthropology, was a high school classmate of Hubble social studies teacher Victoria Hollister. It was Hollister who contacted Hunte with an invitation to speak at the school.

The Afghan people were always somewhat isolated by "bad luck geography," Hunte said. The mountainous country is not considered part of India or Russia.

"It's always been kind of a no-man's land," she said.

That isolation has only increased since 1979 when the Soviet Army invaded. The Soviet occupation lasted 10 years only to be followed by many years of civil war. During that time millions of refugees fled Afghanistan. As a result, the country has become destitute.

"They're really poor. Very poor. You look at the statistics and Afghanistan is always at the bottom," Hunte said, noting that infant mortality is also high with 50 percent of all children dying before their fifth birthday. "The country is in dire need of help ... But first there has to be peace because right now it's pretty much a free- for-all."

Hunte returned to the region in the 1980s to work with Afghan refugees in Pakistan. She later lived in Afghanistan in the 1990s while working with the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations. She was supposed to return to the area this month with Save the Children, but the current situation has delayed that project.

Hubble students have been studying the region and discussing current events since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., and subsequent U.S. bombings in Afghanistan.

They questioned Hunte about the culture and food and were surprised to find out that only about 5 percent of the country's boys are currently attending school.

It was the condition of Afghanistan's schools that tugged at Hunte's heart while she was in the Peace Corps. After teaching classes of 50 and 60 students she decided to dedicate her life to making a difference.

"I was really shocked by the fact that these kids didn't have any desks and books and blackboards," she said. "They were trying to learn but they didn't have anything to help them."

Despite the tough times, Hunte said many Afghan people still have hope that the current war and the strict Taliban regime will end and be replaced by a peaceful coalition government.

"People are very cautious, but they're hoping," she said. "But they've hoped so many times before."

By Lynn Noell on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 3:20 am: Edit Post

Dear Pam,

I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia and found your story very interesting. I will be returning to the States in July and am very interested in working with a peace organization in the Chicago area. (I'm from Skokie). I'm also reading the book about Afgan Women that recently came out. Do you know how I can contact the group Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)? I wonder if they have a group in Chicago. Thank you and good luck in your efforts with Save the Children. Lynn Noell, A-9, Goris, Armenia

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