Aspen women taking on suppression, abuse and natural disaster worlds away |

Aspen women taking on suppression, abuse and natural disaster worlds away

Two area nonprofits from Aspen helping those in Afghanistan and Haiti

Two local women who run nonprofits that assist women and children in war-torn Afghanistan where the Taliban has gained power and in gang-infested Haiti where two natural disasters in the past week have taken thousands of lives and left even more homeless are asking for the Aspen community’s help.

Susie Krabacher, who in 1994 established the nonprofit organization HaitiChildren, will go to Haiti on Monday to help provide aid to those in Petit-Trou-de-Nippes in the Nippes department, where a 7.2 earthquake hit on Aug. 14.

Located about 80 miles west of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, the hard-to-reach region also has suffered hundreds of mudslides and landslides because of Tropical Depression Grace.

On top of that, the country is being run under an interim government since Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated July 7 and gangs have largely taken over neighborhoods across the country.

“The gangs and government have come to an agreement and they will allow aid and medical to pass for a certain amount of time,” Krabacher said last week.

Employees of HaitiChildren are mobilizing on the ground in Port-au-Prince and buying supplies to distribute to victims in Petit-Trou-de-Nippes.

HaitiChildren is coordinating with mayors, who are in touch with their residents to know who has lost their homes and who needs aid.

Susie Krabacher explaining to the orphans they are now safe and moving to a new home after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Courtesy photo

People will get a voucher and when HaitiChildren employees reach them, they will in exchange receive a 75-pound box with emergency aid that will last up to two weeks.

They will get help carrying the boxes to their neighborhoods, which are not all accessible because of impassable roads.

Krabacher is currently raising money for the effort; $27,000 had been donated as of Thursday and the goal is $100,000.

“This community has been incredibly kind,” she said, adding that she and her husband, Joe, have been fielding calls from community members asking how they can help. “One hundred percent of the money is going to victims, not a penny is wasted because our people know how to do it and they are tough as nails.”

The HaitiChildren orphanage fell in the 2010 earthquake and the nonprofit rebuilt a 70,000-square-foot village, which comprises three schools, three residential care buildings, two onsite medical clinics and one mobile clinic.

School children from the village are arranging the emergency relief boxes with food, toiletries and hand-written notes that will let victims know they suffered the same plight and are sending their love.

“We are fairly experienced with this sort of thing with disasters,” Krabacher said. “Our people are in place, we are mobilized and are sending advance teams.”

Another Aspen woman, Paula Nirschel, founder of Action for Afghan Women, has been staying in touch with her contacts on the ground in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “Women are very fearful, their families are fearful … people are staying in their homes because of safety and just by stepping out they may lose their lives.

“Horrendous stuff is what I am hearing,” she continued. “We are on a one-day-at-a-time, what’s-going-to happen-tomorrow basis … but let’s not stop what we are doing.”

Nirschel’s nonprofit, and another one she started 12 years prior, The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, have empowered dozens of females in that country by providing them the opportunity for four-year college degrees and creating the largest education program in Afghanistan.

Nirschel got involved in Afghanistan and its people prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when she learned of the oppression of women, who don’t receive adequate, or any, medical care, and are denied education and participation in sports and the arts.

“They were denied everything people deserve,” she said. “I was losing sleep so I decided to be part of change, like Gandhi says.”

Currently, Action for Afghan Women is providing education for an Afghan woman to become a doctor, who can in turn train women to be midwives and give medical attention to their peers that they deserve, Nirschel said.

She fundraises organically, by meeting people and telling them about the organization and letting them decide whether to donate.

Nirschel said she wants the Aspen community to keep Afghanistan in their prayers.

“I see myself as the pied piper of sorts, and I just want to keep the hope alive for Afghanistan and its people,” she said. “On a basic level, keep your thoughts with the people of Afghanistan and about ways to help.”

Nirschel said she can facilitate and asks people to email her at

An Afghan dinner as part of a fundraiser for Action for Afghan Women in Aspen.
Courtesy photo

Nirschel is hosting a Socrates cafe weekend at Here House on Aug. 28 that is focused on Afghanistan. A panel discussion will include Nirschel, two Afghan women and a possible additional guest.

Nirschel founded Action for Afghan Women in 2013 to help lessen abuse of women in extremist areas in southern Afghanistan.

In 2001, the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women was established with the mission to educate future female leaders for Afghanistan in the areas of business and politics.

“I am doing what I can to keep the mission thriving of educating people about the country and its people,” Nirschel said. “I can see the trickle effect that when you educate one, you educate many.

“The way we look at the last 20 years in Afghanistan, many are educated and you can’t take that away from them.”

Nirschel said she hasn’t been to Afghanistan for several years because of the danger there, but will go when it’s safe.

Krabacher, CEO and founder of HaitiChildren, said she will fly directly into the area where she will help load a 40-foot shipping container because it’s safer and she will get there more quickly.

She recounted a story in which 32 of her employees were recently held at gunpoint in a bus traveling near the coast. They were able to escape but the people in the following bus who were unaffiliated with the organization were shot, according to Krabacher.

She will be in Haiti for two of four planned missions in the coming months.

Later efforts will focus on providing shelter, mattresses and coffins.

“I’ve seen so many miracles but this is not looking good,” Krabacher said. “It’s amazing the resilience of these people.”

Nirschel said she appreciates what Krabacher’s organization is doing for the Haitian people, and Krabacher in turn said she will pray for the Afghans.

“I think it’s great that the two of us are doing things from our community,” Nirschel said.


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