MIDDLEBURY - A conversation at Middlebury Community Television six years ago led to a movie seen by viewers coast to coast today and over $10,000 raised for Afghan charities. Jody Bergedick, then community coordinator at MCTV, heard that Jill Vickers, a volunteer there, would be seeing old friends Vickers had served with in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan. Back in 2004, Bergedick realized that many Americans knew only of terrorist camps in Afghanistan, a picture of Afghanistan that did not jive with Vickers' memories of the place in the late 1960s. She sent Vickers off to the reunion with the assignment to start taping the returned Peace Corps volunteers.
Thus a documentary of this all-female group's experiences as smallpox vaccinators in remote areas of Afghanistan was born.
Katherine Wheatley of Middlebury Video Productions served as the movie's videographer traveling with Vickers and Bergedick to interview the 16 women about their experiences.
The vaccinators spoke with candor and humor, sharing stories largely heretofore untold and provided photographs they had taken in Afghanistan.
Middlebury residents Foster McEdward and Rodney Morris donated film footage and photographs of Afghanistan from the time the women were there.
Since its premiere in 2008 at Castleton State College, "Once in Afghanistan" has been shown wherever the former Peace Corps vaccinators reside. It was recently shown at the Ilsely Library. The Friends of the Ilsely sponsored the viewing, and both Bergedick and Vickers, a member of the vaccinator group, along with the Peace Corps training director, were present. Afghan student Shabana Rabij-Rashik was also on hand to answer questions about her native country.