Part of Maryam Khan's job in Afghanistan last year was to build barracks for the new Afghan army, including areas for cleansing rites and prayer. After five months under heavy U.S. security, Khan, an American, yearned for more contact with ordinary Afghans. When she returned home to Ellicott City, Md., last October, she found she couldn't leave thoughts of them behind. "I felt like most of the Afghans there were just tired," said Khan, who works as a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"They were tired after years of war, and they just wanted peace." So when Khan, 23, learned of a volunteer project that would connect American Muslims with people in Afghanistan, she jumped at the chance. She joined forces in late January with Lionel Ifill, 22, a U.S. Army civil affairs specialist stationed along the eastern Afghan border, to help bring together neighborhood mosques in the United States with mosques in Afghanistan. It's a way of letting Afghans know that people in the United States care about them, Ifill wrote in an e-mail from Afghanistan.