Unification News for April 2002
Behind the Clouds: A New Hope for Afghanistan
by Umberto Angelucci
As we flew over the grandiose mountains surrounding Kabul we felt deep joy to be able to enter Afghanistan after five years of waiting. From the sky we could see evidence of the US bombers and especially on the ground we could see the destroyed aircraft thrown on the side of the runway like rubbish. As we entered the airport we could see the reality of the current situation. The electrical system, the luggage conveyance belt, all the modern facilities installed in the past were destroyed. Even the light fixtures and wiring had been stolen. We were grateful that at least the runway was functioning properly.
Regardless of the effects of the war we felt secure coming into the city. In order to connect properly to the local situation we went to visit the United Nations office. We could meet two Afghan senior UN employees, they guided us in a very helpful way. They referred us to a guest house which became our home for the next 16 days.
Because of the limited schedule of the only flight to Kabul, we arrived at the time of Id, the most important Muslim holy day of the year. This caused us to alter our original schedule but allowed us to see the people in the reality of their everyday life. We spent the holy day with one local family and we could experience the deep sadness in the hearts of the people due to more than 20 years of war and misery. At the same time we could see the openness of the hearts of the people, hoping to be able to soon see the changes they longed for.
On the streets there were the rich giving food to the poor, as it is their tradition, but at the same time there were people begging on the street. We even saw one small girl on the street picking through the remains of an animal that had been sacrificed for Id, this was her festival food.
We visited the city, schools, the university, the hotels and could see that the main buildings, factories and institutions have been destroyed. Electricity, telecommunications and potable water are not efficient. There is much to be done in just these aspects of the restoration of Afghanistan. Despite these hardships the people are traveling free on the street, although the women still wear the burqua (veil), even though it is not required. They have hope and are gradually changing to the new environment. All this is happening because of the stability given by the new government and the support of the international community.
The international community is making a big effort to support the reconstruction of Afghanistan, they are working centered on three main organizations: the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the UNDP. Fortunately, because we stayed at this guest house we had the opportunity to discuss with responsible people from these agencies and consequently understood more deeply the way the international community wants to bring changes in Afghanistan. These agencies have sent experts and done research in order to make proper investment but they cannot do the work by themselves. Consequently they will work through the government and also through NGOs that are working on the grass root levels. All this information was helpful for us in making our decisions on our immediate activities and future plans.
We visited many international and local NGOs who have had years of experience in Afghanistan. We visited the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Education, the Planning Ministry, the Ministry of Development, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Aviation. Also we met the director of Kabul University and the Aishi Durani High School which we later decided to support.
This high school was at one time the finest high school in Kabul and it had a very good reputation. We would like to help this school to rediscover this position once again. After visiting the high school and discussing with the director we understood that the international community would help the school with some of the major repair work that was necessary for the school building. Further in the discussion we understood that the school still lacked the basic necessities in order to function. As an example the students do not have copies and pencils, etc.
In light of this we decided to support the 3,000 students giving them a full set of stationery adequate to start the school year. Many Afghan children want to go to school but not so many have the chance to buy even their own stationery. This project was taken care of by the WFWP-Afghanistan.
In the future WFWP would like to support the school in an even more substantial way. We would like to give ongoing financial support to this school for physical improvements and development (repairs, furniture, technical equipment and educational equipment). Also we would like to give the teachers and administration education, both technical and moral to support their work and position as teachers and "parents" of the school. We would like to develop extra-curricular activities for the children to enhance their educational experience. We would also like to develop an active PTA Association to encourage the parents to support the education of their children.
We also visited one worthy local NGO in Ashiana which we felt was a place that we could support and consequently help many children. This project we finalized centered on the IRFF-Afghanistan. Ashiana has four centers for a total of 1,800 street children.
We donated uniforms for 250 children in order to inspire them to study. The problem of street children in Afghanistan is very difficult to eradicate; even though the children want to go to school, most of the parents don't want to send them because the children can make more money by begging than their parents. Even though the UN is supporting all Afghan children to return to school but most of the families are facing the problem of raising money to survive. So the street children's project inspires the children to learn a skill and basic knowledge for their future. The children stay for 1/2 day in the center and the other 1/2 day they can go to the street to beg. Hopefully after some time in the center, the street children should learn enough to find some small jobs and support their families.
We promised to continue our support for the street children and the students of the high school. We felt so moved by their beautiful hearts and the gratitude they expressed to us.
It was not easy to leave Afghanistan again. One of the young Afghans that I had been in touch with moved me to tears when at the moment of departure he expressed that the most important thing in his life was to meet me. Under his jacket he was carrying a hand-stiched wall-hanging made by his mother. He said that in order to manifest his gratitude to me he was giving the wall-hanging to me as a memory. We hugged each other with tears in our eyes and I promised him that I will come back to Afghanistan and wish to work with him to rebuild his country.
Our plan is to return to Afghanistan as soon as we have secured our projects and sponsors. Most likely we will continue to work with these two organizations, the Aishi Durani High School and the Ashiana Street Children's Project. At our next visit we will establish our office in Kabul.
If you are interested to help any of these projects, please contact us and we will be happy to provide you with more information: IRFF Afghanistan, firstname.lastname@example.org, D-12 Kailash Colony, New Delhi-110048, India.
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