Several Lake Norman area families have opened their homes this summer to children from Afghanistan as hosts for Solace for the Children. The nonprofit organization, which has branches in Lake Norman and Jacksonville, Fla., strives to build peace by providing medical care, education and leadership development for the children of war-torn countries.
Every year, Solace brings a group of Afghan children to the United States to receive medical, dental and vision care that would be otherwise unavailable to them in their home countries. For the six weeks they are here, from June 20 to Aug. 2, they stay in the homes of local hosts, who act as surrogate families for the children, and take them to and from their many appointments and Solace social events.
“This year, our 2017 Summer Medical Program has an amazing group of host families, doctors, volunteers and Solace leadership team members all working together as one to promote health, peace and compassion,” said Ridgely Chapman, national clinical and area director. “Our seven children, Nesar, Ali, Khudija, Shukria, Raheel, Samir and Maryam have all blessed our lives and taught us about trust, bravery and love that exists between people no matter what their religious beliefs or origins.”
The children, ages 9 to 13, are here for conditions including hereditary eye disease, jaw work and heart surgery.
“I was very intrigued when I learned about the mission of Solace,” said Wendy King, who along with husband Brent, is hosting a Solace child for the first time at their home in the Coddle Creek neighborhood of Mooresville. “I was very interested in helping children with medical issues and also, bringing children out of countries with issues that make it hard for kids to enjoy being kids.”
King first heard about the organization through a mother-daughter Bible study at Pine Lake Prep called Magnetic Girls, where another participant was speaking about her positive experience with hosting during the past 10 years.
“I wanted to just show the love of Jesus to them through loving them and helping them here,” she said.
So, the Kings and their teenage daughters, Olivia, 19 and Chloe, 16, opened their home to Shukria, a 13-year-old who will have work done on her jaw, and who has already become like another member of the family.
“She has fit into our life perfectly,” said King, 46. “She loves to learn and sing just like my girls; when she hums through the house, it is music to my ears.”
She was also surprised by how fast her maternal instinct for Shukria kicked in.
“When we picked her up at the airport, it was amazing how quickly I felt the need to provide for her and protect her,” she said. “It was an instant love for her that was from God.”
Although there have been some struggles with communication due to the language barrier, King said that too has been a blessing in disguise.
“It has caused us to find more creative ways to spend our days,” she said. “We have done lots of swimming and painting. She also loves word searches, even though she may not know exactly what the words mean.”
As part of the Solace program, they have also participated in several social events with the other children and their host families.
“It is like a big family reunion at every event,” said King. “We have been bowling, boat riding and swimming.”
Even though Shukria says her experience in America so far has been “very good” and that she’s looking forward to receiving treatment while she is here, King said the blessings have gone both ways.
“We love experiencing everyday activities through her eyes,” she said. “I have been so happy to see my girls open their home and their hearts to someone that they just met.”
And it seems the girls have been changed by the experience too.
Chloe, who gave up her bedroom for the summer, said, “It opened my eyes to how the people in Afghanistan really are and changed any preconceived beliefs I may have had.”
While Olivia, who has spent hours teaching Shukria English and learning Dari from her, said “I have been so impacted by her positivity and her appreciation for even the smallest of things.”
“Any hardships have been easily outweighed by the blessings that she has brought to our home,” said King. “We have spent so much time laughing and smiling.”
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