Twelve Afghan children, ranging in age from 6 to 14, arrived at the Charlotte Douglas Airport on June 27 and were greeted by the smiling faces and welcoming hugs of their host families from the nonprofit organization, Solace for the Children.
The children will be staying with the Lake Norman-based families for at least six weeks while receiving medical care.
“We want to help these children physically and mentally,” said Lake Norman area Coordinator Joy Steele. “They are living in a part of the world that is constantly under stress from the war; the little time they are here we feel helps restore their little souls as well as their medical problems.”
This year’s host children have medical issues that include urological needs, burns, dermatological conditions, heart conditions, lost appendages and a degenerative eye condition.
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In addition to receiving medical, dental and vision care at no charge, the children also participate in peace-building events during their six-week visit. The events are held at Williamson’s Chapel in Mooresville, although they are sponsored by local and out-of-state church groups.
“We have one group that comes from Evans, Ga., every year as their mission trip,” said Steele. “They raise money throughout the year to fund their trip, as well as make a large donation to Solace.”
So far, the children have visited a rock quarry, the Lake Norman YMCA and a bowling alley and had a pool party. There will also be a farewell party held for the children Aug. 2.
Marie Sotelo, a first-year host, said she and her husband had been surrounded by friends who were fostering or adopting children, which prompted them to consider it as well.
“Through our church, we saw there was a last-minute need to host Sham and we immediately knew this was what God wanted us to do,” said Sotelo.
Sham, who is 14, has been to the United States previously with Solace for serious birth defects. During this visit, he will have the last of many surgeries to correct his condition and improve his overall quality of life.
“Hosting Sham and interacting with the other Solace kids and families has really impacted my husband’s and my perspective on how rich and blessed our lives are here in the United States,” said Sotelo, 37. “It’s easy to get caught up in our First World problems, but through Solace, we are reminded to be thankful every day for all that we have.”
For Steele, her involvement with Solace means being part of a larger change.
“Every opportunity I have, I encourage these children to be the best they can be and tell them that they are not limited by their age, gender or disability to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their friends, family and nation,” she said.
“If they have faith in themselves and perseverance, they can accomplish great things.”
Jennifer Baxter is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.