The Dunkin' Donuts of Afghanistan

Too often all we hear of Afghanistan, if we hear of it at all amidst the conflict in Iraq, is more violence, more soldiers and civilians losing their lives. There is more to the story there, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) offers us a glimpse into the many efforts their workers are relentlessly pursuing to improve the lives of those who live amidst the turmoil.

In one such project, CRS organizes groups of women to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, encouraging them to pool their resources and develop plans for businesses such as sewing curtains or raising chickens. The women also receive an education learning how to read, write and do basic math - all the skills necessary for them to be self-sustaining. One group of women began their own bakery as there was not one in town. They've since received a contract from the local police to provide them baked goods.

(photo by Laura Sheahan/CRS)

Now, it's nothing industrial and no images of Betty Crocker should pop up. As CRS describes,

As Woo enjoyed the freshly-basked cookies, she asked the women about challenges they faced. One hurdle is getting enough fuel for the bakery oven: wood is expensive, so often the women have to walk miles in the mountains to gather small bushes and load the bundles onto donkeys. The bushes are then dried and burned in the oven.

I don't think any of us can imagine putting that much effort into a batch of cookies. Yet, it is precisely this effort that allows them to earn enough money to feed and clothe themselves and their families.

To learn more about the efforts of Catholic Relief Services and how you can help, visit or subscribe to their blog. They have great ways for you as young people to get involved on the local level and learn more about the conditions throughout the world that need your energy and voice to be brought to light.