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Focusing on Afghanistan

Disease was a major issue, according to Hoffman.

"When I was there, there was an outbreak of cholera because of open sewer lines," she said. "There was basically a trough dug into the road. Even Third World nations can deal with simple sanitary issues like cholera.

"I was there for 10 days, and it took me three months to adjust back to the U.S. because of the contrast of the standard of living," Hoffman said.

Houde traveled throughout Afghanistan in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and presented "Afghan Women: Listen to Their Voices." She has exhibited her photos widely and spoken about her experiences with an Afghan eye care organization and about the need for development assistance.

"While in Afghanistan, I quickly fell in love with people I met " the noble faces of the men, the strength of the women and the poignant beauty of the children whose eyes were windows to their souls," Houde said. "I am simply looking at the Afghans through my lens, I am capturing them looking back at us."

Maud Easter, a Delmar resident and an organizer with Women Against War said it was an honor to invite Hoffman and Houde to speak in Albany.

"We are thrilled to have Madelyn and Connie share with us their firsthand knowledge of Afghanistan and their ideas for alternatives to the U.S. military occupation," Easter said. "As Afghan civilians and U.S. soldiers continue to die, we know we need alternatives of diplomacy and development, but we need to hear from Connie and Madelyn how these can be most effective."

Information is power when it comes to initiating change, according to Hoffman.

"The first thing anyone can do is inform themselves," she said

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