A garage sale in Fraser Lake is supporting a female artist in Afghanistan whose brother will be immigrating to the United States (U.S.) after serving as a combat interpreter for the special forces.
Fraser Lake resident Jennel Harder can be found at the Community Market selling artwork by 38-year-old Maryam Taheri at her booth, Alone Tree Co.
The art has been making its way to Canada through Taheri’s brother JJ who has been able to mail his oldest sibling’s work to Harder through the U.S. military mail system.
“I want to be able to help her continue to have her voice and telling her stories through her art because she is staying behind right now until her brother can get her,” Harder said.
Taheri had helped their mother raise JJ and his other siblings when the family returned to Afghanistan after being refugees in Iran due to the Soviet Union invading their home country, sparking the Soviet-Afghan War.
They grew up in poverty.
It was through the internet that Harder came in contact with Taheri and agreed to sell her art in Canada from a country where there are no markets for Taheri to sell her own work.
Before moving to Fraser Lake, Harder also sold art by Taheri in Grande Prairie, Alta, where it was even featured at an international art gallery raising funds for human trafficking.
Taheri’s unique pieces depicting war had intrigued many.
“Art supplies aren’t cheap, and women aren’t typically entrepreneurs in that country,” Harder said.
“So it’s a unique situation, but we’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that they are cared for, and they are protected and that she has an opportunity to make money and is able to tell her story.”
The name of Harder’s booth comes from Taheri telling her one day how she felt like a lone wolf crying in the forest, and no one was able to hear her.
Efforts to support Maryam has expanded to Saturday garage sales held at the old A-Frame Church at 130 Tunsa Crescent, where locals have shown their support by donating and or purchasing items.
Harder has also partnered with several other women in the community who see the need for a local kids program, and the old A-Frame Church will serve as the future location for that program.
She has been in daily contact with JJ, who told her he had received an email from the U.S. Government offering to relocate him to the U.S. prior to the completion of his special immigrant visa application.
U.S. military operations in Afghanistan will end Aug. 31 said American President Joe Biden. The withdrawal comes nearly 20 years after the U.S. and its allies took down the Taliban government in Kabul.
Garage sales that will likely continue throughout the summer supporting Taheri have already raised more than $1,800.
Harder hopes to raise around $2,500 and said funds beyond that would support the children’s program in Fraser Lake.
She said she is uncertain how she will continue to get Taheri’s art into Canada after picking up her latest collection from JJ once he arrives on U.S. soil.
“Once Maryam is looked after, and continually will be looked after, there’s going to be children’s programs held at the A-Frame, so it’s kind of going double duty,” Harder said, noting she has been slowly opening up a bit on Facebook about her journey with JJ, who she was able to meet in India.
(With files from The Canadian Press)