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Speaker to bring Afghanistan to Poulsbo

POULSBO — Three area groups have pitched in to bring the topic of Afghanistan to the forefront of North End conversation.

The North Kitsap School District Equity Committee, Kiwanis of Greater Poulsbo, and League of Women Voters of Kitsap are co-sponsoring the visit of speaker Walter Yeager, who will share his years of experience in Afghanistan one week from tonight.

Yeager, a retired teacher, served as a social studies specialist at Kabul University, and developed a social science department for the school’s college of education. He’s worked at the University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies and has traveled in that capacity to South Asia, India and Pakistan. He taught high school social studies for the Edmonds School District, as well as seminars at area community colleges.

He, his wife and their daughter lived in Afganistan for five years, from 1967 to 1972.

The Edmonds resident said in a phone interview this week he still keeps in contact with some of his former students, as well as others who have worked altruistically in the country.

As the United States faces a major vote in November, he said it’s important people understand the nature of Afghanistan in order to make an educated decision on how they want to cast their ballots.

While Iraq holds a handful of major ethnic groups, Yeager said Afghanistan contains nearly 20, making the place a historically complex and diversely populated land.

“It’s diverse both religiously and culturally and also ethnically,” he said. “This is a very resistant, tenacious culture.”

He said while the country has seen a great deal of upheaval and change in the last few decades, much of its culture remains the same, as do the problems it faces.

His hope is that instead of buying into simplistic stereotypes, such as all Afghans are affiliated with terrorism or all are innocuous, he wants to paint a realistic picture using his own experiences there.

“A modest amount of education about the complexities might help people a little bit,” he said.

Helen Hoover, of the League of Women Voters, said she and her husband, Hal, a member of the Kiwanis Club, have known Yeager and his wife for 57 years.

“He’s really concerned about what’s happening in Afghanistan and the fact that the people are in extreme poverty and extreme living conditions,” she said. “What people will go away with is an understanding of the complexities of Afghanistan.”

Yeager has also been involved with Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support for Afghanistan (PARSA). Funds will be collected during the event for the organization. Founded in 1996, PARSA is a nonprofit, non-governmental agency that works directly with disadvantaged Afghanis. The organization is located in Marastoon in the Afghan Red Crescent Society compound in northwest Kabul. It provides integrated educational and economic development programs for widows, orphans and the disabled.

Yeager will speak at 2 p.m. March 8 at the North Kitsap Auditorium. For more information on PARSA, visit www.afghanistan-parsa.org.

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