On July 1, 2004, Mercy Corps’ Afghanistan field staff hosted an evening event to recognize, affirm and celebrate the contributions of 13 long-term Afghan team members. These staff members are some of the longest-serving staff in the Mercy Corps world, each being valued employees of Mercy Corps for between seven and 17 years. Musicians greeted guests as they arrived in the garden of Mercy Corps’ Kabul office as project slides were shown in the background.
Mercy Corps Afghanistan, fueled by the dedication and commitment of these honored long-term staff members, has maintained quality programs throughout the Soviet Occupation, Mujaheddin Wars, Taliban and the current interim government. In the midst of tumultuous change, each team member found a way to keep Mercy Corps operations going. For example, Mohammad Lal, a 14-year employee, personally protected the agency’s valuable improved seed stock from theft and damage during the Coalition bombing in 2001. This enabled Mercy Corps to be the only organization in southern Afghanistan with stocks of wheat seed in December 2001. Seed distributions were was a critical part of Mercy Corps’ rehabilitation strategy, ensuring an early and healthy harvest in the affected communities.
Each and every one of the 13 staff members honored during the evening has a similar story that reflects his commitment to Mercy Corps: Mullah Obidullah, Head Gardener (17 years); Atiquallah Khan, Deputy Agriculture Programs Manager (10 years); Mohammad Yousef, Agronomist (9 years); Sharafuddin, Guard (7.5 years); Ali Madad Madadi, Emergency Seed Program Manager (10 years); Mohammad Lal, Seed Program Manager (14 years); Abdul Khaliq, Head Driver (13 years): Abdul Khalil, Property Maintenance (10 years); Nasrullah Khan, Agriculturist (9 years); Hafizullah, Driver (9.5 years); Ghulam Haidar, Guard (9.5 years); Mussa Kalim, Guard (10.5 years); and Hamidullah, Agronomist (8.5 years). These valuable staff members were each presented with a plaque acknowledging their dedication and commitment over many very difficult years of service.
Unfortunately, two of the honored guests, Mussa Kalim and Hamidullah, were unable to join the celebration due to fighting in southern Afghanistan which prevented them from traveling to Kabul. The evening ended in a touching farewell speech by Diane Johnson, the outgoing Afghanistan Country Director, and an introductory speech by Mercy Corps’ new Afghanistan Country Director, Michael Bowers.