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Sisters open home to burned Afghan girl [Live video]

March 21, 2013 | 10:58 am

Join Times reporter Kurt Streeter for a live video chat with Staci Freeman, one of two sisters he profiled in a piece about the women's devotion to a 6-year-old Afghan child who was sent to Los Angeles for treatment of burn wounds.

Freeman and her sister Jami Valentine opened their homes to Arefa, who was brought to the United States by the humanitarian group Solace for the Children for medical treatment.

Much of her face and hands had been singed, and a cloth hid a head wound that had not healed since a fire raged through her family's tent.

The girl spent months with Valentine and Freeman. It was a labor of love.

They found communicating with her difficult because of the language barrier. Homemade flashcards helped — photos of a doctor or a little girl brushing her teeth, for instance.

Arefa soon settled into a routine. During the day, she spent hours at playgrounds, climbing ladders and barreling down slides, smiling. But back at the apartment, whenever the television flashed images of helicopters or men with guns, she grew tense.

At bedtime, when the sisters washed her scalp, Arefa wailed so loudly they worried someone in their apartment building might call the police. Almost every night, the little girl wet her bed and woke up screaming from nightmares.

It went on like this for weeks, with the sisters barely getting any sleep, praying they could ease Arefa's fear and earn her trust.

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