Unicycle for Kids

Following on a previous post:


Dear Friends,

In light of the tragedies in New Orleans and South East Asia, like many, I have been struggling to keep hope. When the earthquake hit Pakistan and India, I was speaking on the phone to a friend in Kabul. At first he was surprised, then he began cursing in anger. Later, we learned that two Afghan children died near Jalalabad. Just across the border, more than 80,000 men, women and children died in Pakistan and northern India. As you know, millions in Kashmir remain homeless. In the face of such tragedy, I encounter the dangerous temptation to feign helplessness or to feign obliviousness. It’s easier if I simply despair in how little I can do to help, or if I pretend these events never happened at all. I get beyond these temptations by hope.

In this spirit, I am sharing with you some reasons to be hopeful.

Since the “100 Miles for Kids” campaign began in March, 2005, we have raised $9,850 in funds and circus supplies for the Afghan Mobile Mini Circus for Children (MMCC) – only $150 short of the $10,000 goal, and the 100-mile ride still six months away. This outpouring of support so far is incredible!

The MMCC circus teachers have been following the fundraising effort with great interest. When I arrived in Kabul in July, I gave Hamid a “100 Miles for Kids” t-shirt. He immediately began to wear it around, and didn’t appear to change it for five days. Eventually, he changed his shirt, but only to wash it. After a day he was wearing it again. Chera? Why? I asked him. “Because,” he answered, “this is for my circus.” All the circus teachers who asked about the fundraising — Fahim, Marzia, Davud, Sher Khan, Shahir, Shafi, Weiss, Nadir, Jamil — expressed both pride and gratitude that people so far away would support their arts, their livelihood, and the children of their country. In particular, they are glad for the opportunity to work with children directly, as educators, role models and mentors, opportunities that the economy doesn’t often allow.

Individuals as far as the Netherlands, Australia, and California have donated to the MMCC campaign, contributing anywhere from $5-500. At Harvard Divinity School, professors and friends have donated what they can. A school janitor sent in a check for $20. David Ascroft, who organizes a children’s circus in Canada, donated unicycles, juggling clubs, and a personal letter from his circus kids in Ottowa to the circus kids in Kabul. Steve Ragatz of Cirque du Soleil made and donated circus equipment. DHL donated shipping. A student at Spelman College in Atlanta gave $50, then made a deal with her parents – if she learns to ride a unicycle, then they have to match her donation. Patch Adams, MD (the one who Tim Robbins plays in the movie) wrote me letters of support and encouragement. Unicycle.com donated three kids unicycles to replace the MMCC’s broken metal ones. Dan Higgins of Canada donated 60 pounds of circus equipment. Many thanks go to Rob Chrust of NY, Sem Abrahams of MI, Ken Looi of New Zealand, and Sgt. Chris Batchilder of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

Communities have reached out as well. Last Sunday, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charleston, West Virginia, held a “lemonAID stand,” raising $200. Jimmy Wray, a schoolteacher in Key West, Florida, worked with his students to make 50 lbs of juggling equipment from recycled materials, both for the MMCC and for New Orleans relief organization work. Ila McIvain of Wyoming and her family are coordinating a bulk shipment of supplies to the MMCC and two nearby refugee schools, with support from their church. These contributions are about more than materials and money. They remind me that great compassion can rise to meet great hurt. And there are as many reasons for hope as there are hearts to care. Sounds cheesy, perhaps. But it’s sincere.

For new images from Afghanistan, webmaster Andreas has posted new photos online:




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