Local Afghan Community

As the war in Afghanistan continues, the local Afghan community in New York is scrambling to find ways to help people in their homeland, shipping medical supplies and planning their own trips there. WNYC's Leticia Theodore reports on a few of the local activists.

Arian Azziz, was born in Kabul, but she's made her home with her family on Long Island. Her living room is light and airy, with colorful rugs and a traditional Afghan tea set ...She works at home as a mother and the acting vice president of a group called the society for aid to reconstruct afghanistan, or SARA. Right now she's working to rebuild a school...the very same school she attended decades ago.

The school doesn't have any windows no doors water is leaking in the classroom, no chairs, and a lot of works the bathroom needs to be redone and te water fountain are connected there the water is running in the bathroom...to be prepared for the opening.

She's hoping the school will open at the end of the month.

In the meantime, the group -- led by her husband, Ahmad -- is trying to adapt to the needs as they understand them.

So far what' we've done I send a container fo medicine to afghanistan It hasn't reached Afghanistan yet but in 3-4 weeks will reach Afghanistan....the ministry of health Dr. Swazila knows about it , we spoke to her and she will receive medicine and they will give to hospital that need it…

Just 15 minutes away in Queens, 23 year old Masuda Sultan another local activist, is at home with her sister looking at a video tape of her January trip to Kabul. She says it's hard for her to forget the images of refugee camps.

It's a bunch of tents propped up in the middle of nowhere in the desert. Besides camping I never thought about living in a tent. All of a sudden I see it and people really have to live like this and I start to think how do they do this, how do they go to the bathroom. Don't think about it until you see it

While there, Sultan found out she'd lost 19 relatives in the U.S. bombing campaign. She says she feels equal parts Afghan and American which was hard to explain to people she met during her visit.

I would hear whispers among the crowd where did she learn to speak Pashtu I would turn to some of them and say I'm actually from here originally and they would stare at me in disbelief for a few seconds and say you're one of us you've made it and you've come back to tell our story.

David Brennan, director of health at the International Rescue Committee, has just returned from a 3 week visit to Northern Afghanistan. He says even with large amounts of international aid, the role of an expatriate is critical.

there's a strong sense among some of the institutions, if there are going to outside consultants to come in and help rebuild social services. tht they hve to be afg's and pple who understand the culture and understand the country…

But, Brennan says being Afghan isn't the only criteria to effecting change.

There is no need for paternalism on the part of expats we're too often guilty…. I think encouraging and facilitating the Afghans to take the lead in identifying their priorities is crucial and we should be seen as facilitators and promoters rather than sort of taking charge or being managers.

Althoug the task of recontructing a country is complicated, the network of Afghans in the New York area continue to look forward. Masuda Sultan

I really hope this works you know. A lot of pple's hopes are riding on this a lot it ends up resting on the shoulders of chairman Karzai but on all of us you know we're puting in all this energy and we have all this excitement and so much emotion.

Sultan's now busy planning a conference to match skills of people here in New York, with the needs she's been able to identify in Afghanistan.

For WNYC I'm Leticia Theodore