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CULTURAL NEWS
NC Ministry Gives Life to Afghan Children
12 October 2009

The war in Afghanistan has lasted eight years and some of those affected most are the Afghan children.

Many have physical and mental scars, but an organization in Charlotte, N.C., is committed to helping those children heal.

For 9-year-old Khai, Charlotte, N.C., is a long way from his home in war-torn Afghanistan.

He arrived in the United States a few months ago, but is quickly learning the ways of American youth.

Behind Khai's warm smile and his easy laughter lies a sad reality: Khai has a disorder called Beta Thalassemia Major -- a genetic blood disorder that causes the hemoglobin to become unhealthy.

It has required that he get blood transfusions his entire life. The disease has killed three of his siblings back home.

Khai is one of nearly three dozen kids from Afghanistan in desperate need of medical help, who were brought to America for six weeks during the summer through an organization called Solace for the Children.

Dick and Patsy Wilson lead the group.

In 2006, the couple began bringing children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to the U.S. for medical treatment. But as their services were needed less and less, God turned their attention to the children of Afghanistan.

"One of our board members had a dream and the dream was that we needed to, as an organization, to look at working in Afghanistan the summer of 2007," Patsy Wilson said. "We brought the first children out of Afghanistan for medical treatment."

Khai's treatment involves chelation therapy -- something that helps to remove the excess iron that builds up because of his many blood transfusions.

It is a lifesaving treatment he could never get in his homeland.

"Afghanistan has one physician for every 50,000 citizens," Wilson added. "Their average is 17. They just don't have a chance."

Dr. Paulette Butler is Khai's doctor.

"When he first came he was like, ' I don't know if I like you guys,' but he has settled down," Butler said. "Our goal is to get the iron out, if you will, by the end of the year, and to do that he has to put a needle in sub cue underneath his skin every night for 12 hours, so we can get this iron out, so he can do better."

Aaron and Heather Ayris, along with their two sons, host Khai while he is in the States.

"We just felt called," Aaron Ayris said. "This is what we were supposed to do, open our home up to somebody that needed help."

And what about the language barrier?

The Ayris' said Khai is able to understand at least 95 percent of what they say.

Another difference is that the Ayris' are Christians and Khai comes from a Muslim family.

"Solace for the Children is a wonderful organization, but it's not a conversion program," Heather Ayris said. "I pray for him every night like I do for the other boys and the look on his face, he loves it. He has this serenity about him, a smile and he knows I'm praying for him in that moment and it means a lot to him."

Most of the Afghan kids are brought to Presbyterian Hospital where most of their physical injuries are healed, but while in this country, issues of the heart are healed as well.

"They got to know each other, male, female, Shiite, Sunni, different tribes," Dick Wilson said. "And through the whole experience in the summer, one of the children did an open letter that said, 'I've grown to love each of you and in Afghanistan we may grow up and try and kill each other.'"

"All of a sudden where we were not just medical," he added. "We also realized we had done something that we didn't intend to do. (What) God intended to do is bring these children together to learn that we're all the same."

While most of the Afghan children have returned home after basic medical treatment, Khai will remain in the country for at least one year or longer. He will need a bone marrow transplant to help him recover fully.

Meanwhile, the Wilsons hope to expand the program across the country.

"To look into the eyes of one of these Afghan children is opening your world and your families so many times over," Patsy Wilson said. "You can't watch the news in the same way once you've hugged one of these children, once you've tucked them in at night. You look at the world in a different way."


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