Lifestyle

Kingston couple aiding daughter's humanitarian work in Afghanistan

Zaradhe Yach (left) in the Ghazni clinic. - Courtesy Photo
Zaradhe Yach (left) in the Ghazni clinic.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

KINGSTON — When John Holdeman’s day is winding down in Kingston, his daughter’s is just beginning, in a drab, five-room clinic in Afghanistan.

Holdeman’s daughter, Zaradhe Yach is a U.S. Navy officer and nurse practitioner who oversees a small medical team at a coalition forces base southwest of Kabul. The clinic treats up to 150 Afghan patients a week for free. They arrive by bus, taxi and on foot, sometimes from towns 100 kilometers away.

Holdeman and his wife, Cassandra, keep in touch with Yach through email and international calls, but this spring they’ve found a way to join her in her work.

The Holdemans will be gathering donations of toys, hygiene products and clothing for clinic patients at the ShareNet Foodbank in Kingston, where the Holdemans are longtime volunteers. The couple will pay to ship the items to the clinic through October.

“It’s really going from our hands right to the people who need it,” John Holdeman said.

The people in need are from tribes spread across the barren Ghazni province, where Taliban forces are still control areas. Medical options are scarce.

“Many of these families would not have access to a clinic if they didn’t come to ours,” Yach wrote in an email to the Herald this week . “The visit is free, the medications are free, and they are treated with care and dignity.”

The clinic was closed because of a suicide bomb threat when Yach arrived in Afghanistan early this year, but it reopened in March.

When she’s not supporting military trauma teams and convoy missions, Yach helps coordinate the clinic, which was built five years ago.

She makes sure the staff — an Afghan doctor, a midwife and a midwife’s assistant — are paid, keeps the shelves stocked with medication and coordinates security and other logistics. Security is important. The clinic’s staff receives threats from the Taliban for working with coalition members, Yach said.

The clinic treats patients with a broad range of diseases, skin conditions and infections and assists with family planning. Foot problems are common because some patients don’t have shoes or socks, Yach said. The clinic has even treated rare cases of polio.

Yach said the staff tries to distribute clothes and toys and other items whenever they’re available. It especially needs sports balls, shoes and clothing, school supplies, and hygiene items, including soap, shampoo, toothpaste and sunscreen.

Even little gifts are appreciated, she said.

“I have seen otherwise very serious children and adults show happiness when small items are given,” Yach wrote, “and this brings me happiness too.”

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Donations for the Ghazni clinic can be dropped off at ShareNet Food Bank, 26061 United Rd. NE, off Bond Road, through October.

The clinic is collecting new or lightly used clothing and shoes, toys and sports balls, school supplies and hygiene products.

Items should be able to fit into the postal flat rate boxes —12”x 12”x5” at the largest.

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