Sister act

Internally displaced Afghan children shield themselves from dust picked up by wind at a refugee camp in Kabul June 20. World Refugee Day is observed annually June 20. (CNS photo/Omar Sobhani, Reuters) (June 20, 2012)   See REFUGEE DAY June 21, 2012.
Internally displaced Afghan children shield themselves from dust picked up by wind at a refugee camp in Kabul June 20. World Refugee Day is observed annually June 20. (CNS photo/Omar Sobhani, Reuters) (June 20, 2012) See REFUGEE DAY June 21, 2012.

Nativity family raise funds to bring Afghan girl to America


by Laurie Ghigliotti

LEAWOOD — When Katie Kranz returned to her Leawood home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, she had 1,001 stories to tell, said her sister Eileen.

But to only one did she keep coming back:

The story of a 14-year-old girl whom the 32-year-old Katie met in a children’s shelter in Kabul.

The story of a girl who had been forced into prostitution by her mother and her brother for three years from the age of seven.

The story of a girl who desired an education, a home, a voice in a country ravaged by poverty, war, and injustice.

The story of Laila.

Laila had been living in a shelter operated by Women for Afghan Women since being rescued from her abusive home by police four years ago.

Katie met her while working with the NATO Rule of Law Field Force in 2011.

Most of the children in the shelter live and attend school there until reunited with their families, according to Katie. But because of the abusive home situation, Laila cannot return to her family. She also, however, cannot stay at the shelter indefinitely.

When Katie returned home from Afghanistan, she told her sisters Eileen, Meghan and Lisa the story of Laila.

“The more I thought about it and the more Katie talked about it, the more I found my empathy building,” said Eileen. “What if that was me? What if that was my sister?  My daughter?”

The sisters, all of whom grew up in Church of the Nativity in Leawood, have not only found the answers to these questions; they have a plan as well.

“Laila needs a sister,” Eileen declared. “So we’re giving her four.”

Katie and her three sisters began a cooperative effort to get Laila out of Afghanistan and into a boarding school in New England where there is Women for Afghan Women support and another young refugee girl in attendance. They hope to bring Laila to the United States this summer so she will be settled before the 2013-2014 school year begins.

All four sisters are passionate about providing Laila with the opportunity to succeed in a safe and healthy environment.

“There really is no avenue for women in Afghanistan without an education and, because of her family situation, she needs to be gotten out of Afghanistan,” said Katie. “This little girl has no future in Afghanistan.”

Sadly, there are thousands of young girls in situations similar to Laila’s in that country. Access to education is difficult for women, even though Afghan girls are required by law to go to school. Especially in rural areas, girls who go to school often face the threat of violence.

Women for Afghan Women tries to combat this problem, along with other social injustices, by providing relief services to women in eight provinces in the country and educating children in centers and shelters. The organization also provides support to female immigrants in the United States.

Though Women for Afghan Women draws support from a broad spectrum of people, said Katie, everyone can come together with this goal in mind — to improve the lives of women in an area of the world where women traditionally have little voice.

“Our conflicting views on other issues should not get in the way of us standing together to advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves,” said Katie.

“I believe in Laila’s right to an education, for her to have the same opportunities that I and my sisters and cousins have had,” she added. “That is why I have taken up this cause and why I support the noble work of Women for Afghan Women.”

Although the sisters live in different states now, and Katie is currently stationed in Europe, the sisters each took on a role in the effort to help Laila.

“I began to feel as though this girl was no different from me, and that just because I was born to relative privilege doesn’t give me any more right to live than her,” Eileen said.

“Why should we as women sit back and allow ourselves to be powerless?” she continued. “As we get older as a family and are positioned to start making a difference, I wonder what can I do, how can I help everyone get an education and have opportunities?”

“In the words of Mother Teresa, if you can’t feed 100 people, feed one,” said Eileen.  “We are starting by saving this one girl.
“If we can save one —  give her an education, give her empowerment, give her a life — just think of the ripple effect that has the potential to have.”

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