Charla Huber: We're more likely to listen when something affects someone close to us

There have been many headlines about what’s happening in Afghanistan. Just this week, it was announced by the Taliban that universities would be segregated by gender, with new dress codes for women, who will need to be taught by female teachers or by a male possibly standing behind a curtain.

The announcement came one day after the Taliban’s flag was raised over the presidential palace.

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There are many other changes in Afghanistan, and many people who do not feel safe.

With the change in government, Sooke School Board trustee, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District director and former Langford fire chief Bob Beckett is worried for his Afghan friends and their families. Beckett has sent letters to Immigration Canada, hoping to bring them to Canada, for safety.

He met those friends — including one who was later killed in an insurgent attack — when they came to Canada to learn more about our medical system and fire departments.

Beckett and two other Langford firefighters also visited Kabul to deliver donated equipment and training.

In my conversation with Beckett, he chose his words very carefully and explained he was unable to disclose the whole story, or the names of the individuals and their families, out of fears for their safety.

When these gentlemen came to Canada, Beckett took them to fire departments, municipal councils, fishing in Bamfield, hospitals, restaurants and a Canucks game in Vancouver. They also travelled to many different classrooms in the Sooke School District, and attended local Rotary Club meetings.

“My work with Rotary has helped me recognize that across the globe, we are one community,” said Beckett, who has been involved in Rotary for 30 years. “Religion and politics get in the way. My thoughts are half a world away. It’s terrible and it shouldn’t be happening.”

I have seen news stories and articles on what is happening in Afghanistan over the past few months, but I have not spent enough time to fully understand it. That reluctance to delve into what’s going on is something Beckett is hoping to change.

I have known Beckett for nearly 15 years. I first met him when I was a community newspaper reporter. When I learned that a friend of mine was hurting and scared for his friends, I paid attention.

We are more likely to listen and learn when something affects people close to us, or when it is presented in a way that we can feel connected to.

If Beckett hadn’t reached out to me, I wouldn’t have written this column. I realize that there are many other families who I do not have a connection with who are also in danger and living in fear.

I often receive emails from readers, most of the time thanking me for my thoughts and sharing experiences of their own.

I don’t know how much impact this one column will have, but for a man who is scared for his friends, please take a moment to educate yourself about what is happening in other places. I will be doing the same.

“This past week has been emotionally difficult for me given the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and knowing that I have friends and their families pleading for assistance to relocate to Canada,” said Beckett. “All I can ask is that your readers reflect on how fortunate we are, that families everywhere in the world want the same for their children.”

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