My friends have learned to never ask, "What's going on in Afghanistan?". All but the most devoted lack the attention span to listen to the complete answer. I've highlighted a few of the most recent activities in this newsletter, recognizing that these may stretch your limit as well. Consider this newsletter a dose of good news, which as you know is in short supply. Pass these on to your friends, so that they may begin to appreciate how resolved Afghans are to bring about positive change.
THE PUMP HAS LANDED
Masood Sattari, a volunteer, traveled to Kabul in June, to deliver a hydraulic ram pump built for Lalander, by Solano Community College students. What's a hydraulic ram pump? It's a water pump recommended by one of you, after learning of the severe water delivery problems faced by Afghan farmers. Add a few valves, some PVC pipe, gravity, glue, and "knowhow" and voila!, you have a water pump developed by the French over 150 years ago, that pumps water 24 hours a day, without requiring gas or electricity. The villagers were impressed and several learned how to build them.
Masood also visited Polytechnic University in Kabul. He may have succeeded in enlisting an engineering professor and engineering students to join the ram pump project. Once the students know how to build the pumps, they will teach others. It never ceases to amaze us how simple ideas, even those that are 150 years old, can have major impact. Thank you Solano Community College and Masood!!!
SEEDS WERE PLANTED ( LITERALLY)
Raymond Nemati and I carried tomato and onion seeds in our luggage last year. Out went the Snickers bars. The seeds were donated by Nabi Tawakali, a local TIE supporter, and seed purveyor, for more than 16 years. Farmers were selected to test the seeds against the seeds they have been using. The qualitative and quantitative difference between the two is staggering. Note the difference between the onions held by the happy farm hand in the photograph, below. Smiles are hard to come by when photographing Afghan men.
Can we celebrate? Not yet. They can grow bigger, better, and more produce with "better" seeds. But, the "better" seeds are more expensive. Are there enough consumers willing and able to pay more for produce? Can a market be developed using more expensive seeds? Afghanistan is, after all, the fifth poorest country in the world, with a per capita income of less than $300 a year. In time we and they will know the answers to these questions. The crops will be harvested and marketed soon. In the interim, hope burns eternal, and by all accounts, is on the rise.
YOUR OLD COMPUTER CAN BE THEIR NEW BEGINNING
For the past year teachers and students have been urging us to provide computers. There were issues to solve i.e. electricity, finding a teacher, locating educational software programs etc. There are now computers in two of the three schools we're assisting.
We recognize how powerful computers can be as a educational tool. In Afghanistan they are even more critical. There is a severe shortage of qualified teachers and books. Use of the words severe shortage is an understatement. I spoke with one University student a year ago who told me they didn't have any books in several of the classes he was taking. TIE, a year ago, hired a teacher who had only a third grade education, until we could find a replacement. Computers with educational software allow teachers and students to learn at their own pace. What they will be able to learn will be measured in gigabytes. Finally, computers add an element of fun to the learning process, often absent in classes taught by rote.
Naturally, the entire Char Asiab valley has learned of the computers in Lalander. The requests for more computers, far exceeds supply. So, as you trade up, consider donating your "old" computer to Afghan schools. Call or write and we'll work out the logistics. This is one area where the trickle down theory works, all the way down to the bottom rung of the ladder.
Flat screen monitors only please. The schools rely on generators for electricity and the "old" monitors are gas guzzlers. In fact they shut the system down.
EDUCATING GIRLS - THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
Several of you sent me the June 12th story concerning a shooting in Logar, that left two Afghan school girls dead, and four wounded. The killers attacked the children as they were returning home from school. During the previous 13 months "226 schools, were burned down, a total of 110 teachers and students were killed, and 381 schools were shut down by the Taleban". Within a week of that incident, I received a request by email for funds to support three more classes for girls. Over 75 girls are now attending literacy classes who weren't previously. Notwithstanding the reality that educating girls has become a life and death issue, Afghan teachers, students, and families just keep coming. Pictured here are girls on their way to winter classes held in Lalander this year. TIE stands ready to support as many of these requests as it can afford. How can we not, given that the cost is $50-$60 a month for a teacher and $30 a month for supplies.
ART - THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
We've been carrying mail between Afghan and American children for three years. Most communicate through art. TIE was contacted by Louise Valeur, a volunteer with Paintbrush Diplomacy. Paintbrush Diplomacy has been exchanging art worldwide for more than 32 years. Louise provided us with children's paintings from around the world, paint brushes and paint. She later wrote to say that Paintbrush Diploma cy would like to support an art class in Afghanistan.
The art and supplies were delivered by Masood. The after school art class is extremely popular. Masood noted how important after school programs are to the children. It's one more fun activity that expands their world.
Pictured here are children from Nancy Parker's first grade class at Beach Elementary in Piedmont, California and the art class in Afghanistan (above). It's difficult to read but one sign held by an Afghan girl reads "We hope - Help us Always". That is a message I've encountered on more than one occasion.
Please feel free to contact us at anytime with your ideas and comments. Our doors are always open.