This is a really important posting today. I have some critical information to share with you, especially since I have been unable to update the MEPO / House of Flowers website from here. I have sent an email out regarding this, but the posting is for those not on our email list who might be following the blog. And if you have not yet seen the House of Flowers/MEPO website, please take a look; just remember that the information/address about how to help is not accurate, and is instead updated below. (The budget information is still mostly accurate though, so you can read about the expenses, etc.) The link is: www.mepoonline.org You can read about the history of the House and our Montessori work, as well as see pictures from the past 10 years. There is also information at Jules Laymans’ website www.montessoriaroundtheworld.org
As an update, in April, when the organization PARSA assumed the House from MEPO, we asked our donors who wanted to keep supporting the House to send their donations to Seattle, to PARSA via another organization.
But now that avenue is no longer an option. Donations should no longer go to Seattle.
So please, if you or anyone you know would like to help the House (and I hope you will), donations need to be sent to MEPO’s ‘headquarters’ in Ohio. This is very important. I HOPE we can get the website updated soon with more information, but in the meantime if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or MEPO (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The address to send donations to (and checks should be made out to ‘MEPO’):
MEPO (c/o The Schardts)
8641 Porter Central Rd.
Sunbury, OH 43074
We need everyone’s help in this; I feel it as an obligation for all of us to support the lives of these children and the work of this indomitable staff. They have cut the budget to the barest minimum; I honestly don’t know how they do it. So we are dedicated to fully supporting them. I will be sharing more about this and also through email. But the main point is to send donations directly to MEPO in Ohio. We will then work directly with HEWAD, our Afghan partner organization of many years.
Mostafa and I will send out an email soon with more details and information, but in the meantime, the work continues here in Kabul. Today is Tuesday, and things are going very well. This week we set up a concise program to share the House of Flowers model and the Montessori approach behind it with some of the staff from the city orphanage, called Alluaddin. This is like a dream come true for me, to be able to instill a bit of Montessori into this institution where the children (and adults) need it desperately. Of course it will never be a perfect, ideal Montessori environment with all the materials and fully trained teachers, but the principles of Montessori can make an enormous difference in the lives and development of children, as we have seen at the House of Flowers.
So I have organized one lesson on Montessori’s developmental model, describing the planes of development, and one lesson on the essential principles of the Montessori approach and environment. I have now given this mini-training a couple times here and it has blown people away. I can’t keep up with requests; people are so hungry to do things differently here. They know that the way it’s going is not working.
This week the teachers at the House are doing this sharing of these principles for the Alluaddin staff, and also we are structuring time for those people to spend time observing at the House of Flowers, since observation is such a critical part of Montessori, and you really have to experience it. It’s been fantastic. Our staff is so eager to share what they know, they’re doing a beautiful job of it, and it makes things so much better when it’s not me doing the telling. The ‘trainees’ are amazed at what they see when they observe our children sitting in groups, working on their own in a calm and quiet way, using materials and not just copying from a chalkboard, helping each other. It’s quite revolutionary here. The whole thing will be a long and gentle process, as any process of change is, but it is so energizing and wonderful. The teachers of the House of Flowers are bubbling over with enthusiasm. Fahim, Fatima and Qudsieh, and Dr. Inayatullah, are thoroughly enjoying it, and I’m sure they are also deepening their own understanding as a result. On the first scheduled day of training, they arrived at the House over an hour early! Their dedication inspires me. As we debriefed from the day’s training, Fahim said he really wished he could get full training in Montessori. What an incredible thought, to have the first fully trained and certified Montessori teacher in all of Afghanistan! Maybe a sponsor will emerge who would be willing to offer that opportunity to Fahim, and/or the other teachers.
Today I showed he and the teachers some pictures and videos of primary and elementary Montessori classrooms at The Montessori School in Connecticut where I was for the last 4 years. They were absolutely stunned – and then completely inspired. So tomorrow will be a big day of reorganizing and improving their Montessori practices. We went shopping to get more containers, etc, to organize things in the classroom. That was neat – you’ll never guess what store we went to. It’s called “99 Afghanis”. ‘Afghanis’, or Afs, are the name of the currency here, and it’s about 50 Afs to the US dollar. So the “99 Afs” store is the Afghan version of The Dollar Store! (Across the street was the competition: the 95 Afs store.) They had all the same kind of stuff as The Dollar Store has in the US, and we got sand hourglasses, little buckets, trays, mini-cleaning kits, all kinds of things. The store had a fancy check-out with the scanner and everything. They had a bin where after you buy something you get a ticket to fill out and put in a raffle bin, and they will give away a washing machine. (We’re hoping Fahim wins.) When the cashier looked up and saw me beside Fatima and Fahim, he gave me a warm, broad smile and said, “Good afternoon, welcome!! How are you?” The other good thing about the 99Afs store is that the prices are fixed. Otherwise, as soon as shopkeepers see me, they increase their prices. Kind of annoying, so I usually don’t go shopping with anyone.
When we returned to the House, the older girls were making a paper version of little Ramin. They had traced his body on a large piece of paper (he’s 4) and were cutting it out when we got back. I have no idea what they’ll do with it; I’ll find out tomorrow. Last night the girls made cardboard, painted models of the Eiffel Tower, Kaaba and an African hut as a follow-up to their continent studies. While we were out shopping they made presentations to the audience of younger children. The younger ones went back to playing with their plastic animals, and Sahar said her rhinoceros was clapping.