Monday, October 11, 2010

A very brave hero

Linda Norgrove's life testifies to her courage and compassion and to the civilisation that nurtured her

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Linda Norgrove, the British hostage killed in Afghanistan, had devoted her life to improving the lives of people in poor countries. David Harrison writes in the Telegraph -

Linda grew up on a traditional croft in the Outer Hebrides, where her loving parents kept cattle and a pony for their daughter. She died nearly 4,000 miles away after being kidnapped in one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan.

She knew the dangers of working in Afghanistan but people who met her said she was relaxed and comfortable as she went about her work with the local Afghan population.
In February she became regional director of the American-based Development Alternatives Inc (DAI). Based in Jalalabad, she was in charge of a five-year, £94m (US$150m) aid project in unstable areas of eastern Afghanistan.

The only long-term expatriate on the team, she worked with more than 200 Afghan professionals building roads, bridges and markets, installing small-scale hydroelectric systems, improving agriculture and encouraging local businesses to produce textiles, honey, talc and marble.

Training local people was one of the key aims and she was said to have played a vital role in ensuring women and disabled people were included.

She taught herself to speak Dari, an Afghan version of Persian, to help her to talk to the locals.
Her commitment to Afghanistan remained firm even after the death of Shaun Sexton, 29, one of her security guards, in Kunduz in July, and the murder of Dr Karen Woo, another aid worker, who was shot dead with nine colleagues in August.

Trudy Rubin, a journalist with the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, who spent time with Miss Norgrove while reporting on DIA’s work in Afghanistan in May, said Miss Norgrove “knew all the staff on the ground, and could talk to all the farmers.

“She seemed to be totally comfortable with everyone, with the elders, with women, with everyone, and she really listened to Afghans. . .

It is not yet certain whether she died at the hands of her captors, or accidentally, from the friendly fire of her rescuers. Once she was kidnapped, her life was in mortal danger. Indeed, her life was always in mortal danger in Afghanistan for this is a country where men throw acid into the faces of young girls trying to attend school.

Linda was 36 years old when she died. We salute her courage, integrity, ability, dedication and compassion.

Ave atque Vale.

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