Ruin and resiliency

By Dawn Schuett

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Almost three months into a humanitarian aid assignment in central Asia, Frank Anderson Jr. is still overcome at times by the devastation around him.

"The poverty, the despair, the health issues -- it's kind of like a huge wave of human drama," Anderson said in a telephone interview last month from a hotel room in Islamabad.

Anderson, a Zumbro Falls resident who is executive director of Bear Creek Services in Rochester, departed in January for Pakistan. He's on assignment with the American Refugee Committee International, a Minneapolis-based organization that works to help refugees worldwide.


Anderson is in charge of the commitee's efforts to help Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran and displaced populations within Afghanistan.

"It certainly has been challenging," Anderson said.

That's probably an understatement given the enormity of the humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. High Commission on Refugees considers the plight of the Afghan people to be the world's worst refugee emergency. Years of war, drought and oppression have taken a toll on Afghanistan and its people. About 3.6 million Afghans remain refugees in neighboring countries, most in Pakistan and Iran. Another 1 million are considered displaced inside Afghanistan, where transportation, communication and security are unpredictable.

"It's almost an overwhelming feeling to witness," Anderson said of the Afghan cities that lay in ruins and refugees struggling to survive so they can return home to the rubble.

At the same time, he's also witness to something extraordinary, an "amazing example of the resiliency of the human spirit," he said.

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