The Changemakers Among Us...
Several weeks ago, my friends at World Partnerships shared an image with me which haunted me for many days and weeks after.
The image was of a young girl, about eight or nine. I could not help but notice that she was roughly the same age as my son, Finn. In the picture, it appears someone has asked the girl to hold her passport out, and she does, in both hands. The background is eggshell white. The lighting seems slightly dull. She is dressed as you might expect a young girl to dress
But what made the image so memorable – and so troubling, so indelible – was her bright, wide eyes. They were filled with abject, unbridled terror. Though the picture, at first glance, was unremarkable, everything about this young woman screamed for help.
And for good reason. The girl in the photo is from Afghanistan. At the time the picture was taken, she and her family were in hiding. Had the Taliban discovered them, they would have been killed. Her father visited St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay thanks to World Partnerships, where he talked to leaders and journalists, and shared stories of his own country.
For her safety and the safety of her family, I was asked not to share her name. Out of an abundance of caution, I was also asked to destroy the image, and I did.
Commentary by Benjamin J. Kirby, director of communications for the City of St. Petersburg during the administration of former Mayor Rick Kriseman. Kirby has been a frequent discussant with IVLP groups for many years, and stays in touch with them once they return home. He has recently joined the World Partnerships Board of Trustees.
Last month, I learned that this young person and her family, with thanks to the outstanding people at World Partnerships based here in St. Pete, working with local veterans leading this humanitarian evacuation effort, escaped to Pakistan and have since arrived safely in the European Union. With the help of friends and family there, they are settling into a new life.
This is a good news story. Like you, I hope for many more. I am happy for this young girl and her family, sleeping safe tonight. But there are many thousands more in Afghanistan who are not. There are many thousands more children and families around the globe who face dire circumstances – circumstances that may be tough for many of us to conjure. Many of the leaders and journalists who struggle to make their own countries a better, safer place for their children work with leaders and experts right here in St. Pete.
People you know right here in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay have had a remarkable impact on people across the globe. If you’d like to learn more about how you and your community have made an impact around the world, I hope you'll consider supporting my friends at World Partnerships. Sign up for this newsletter and forward it to a few friends.
Thank you for reading. Keep those families and children who still face unfathomable danger in your thoughts. May your new year be safe and healthy.