Trust In Education
VILLAGE BY VILLAGE • VILLAGE TO VILLAGE
Trust in Education (TIE) is a grass roots, secular, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded by neighbors in Lafayette, California in May 2003.TIE first provided funding to build a secular school in the village of Lalander, Afghanistan that opened in March, 2005. There are approximately 150 children attending the school in Lalander. In addition, TIE now employs 29 teachers who collectively teach 849 children (602 girls and 247 boys). TIE’s core mission is to maintain and expand its support of education as much as resources allow, recognizing that each time we support a class or school it must be a multiple year commitment. This year’s fourth grader will be next year’s fifth and so on.
TIE’s educational programs now include the following:
1. Home school classes for girls are taught inside villages. These classes are necessary due to threats made by the Taliban and the imbalance within the country between educating girls and boys.
2. The home school classes are so popular they have capacity problems. At the request of one village, TIE paid the material cost to build a classroom on private property, which was completed in June 2009. The additional classroom has made it possible for TIE to offer computer and adult education classes. We are working with the village to design an educational program for 2010. We are also open to providing the materials needed to build additional classrooms in other villages.
3. TIE learned from two Afghan school headmasters that their students did not receive enough math and science instruction. TIE agreed to pay the cost of providing after school math and science courses at both schools during 2009.
4. TIE has made it possible for the girl’s school in Tangi Saidan to offer classes from grades one through 12, enabling the girls in this village to transition into college.
5. For several years TIE has funded after school art and English classes. These subjects are in high demand and seldom offered in Afghan schools.
6. TIE paid the cost of installing playground equipment and building a soccer field in Lalander. That led to an after school soccer program financed by TIE. We learned that the playground equipment and soccer field made school more fun, thereby increasing enrollment and improving attendance. We have other playground and soccer field requests currently being considered.
7. TIE provides pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, and books in several classes where without its support there would be none.
While education is the solution to almost every problem, it doesn’t solve the immediate needs for food, clothing and shelter. Afghanistan is the 5th poorest country in the world, suffering the effects of 30 years of war. TIE is very involved in addressing these needs. It subscribes wholeheartedly to the philosophy that it is better to “teach a man how to fish”. But, we also provide food and clothing (“fish”), because we can. TIE’s expenses in delivering and distributing these items are minimal. Our goal and theirs is for Afghan families to achieve self sufficiency. Toward that end TIE:
1. Instituted a micro credit loan program that finances entrepreneurs, both men and women. Men will, in all likelihood not be included in this program in the future because the vast majority of loans made to men have not been repaid. This is a phenomenon experienced by microcredit lenders everywhere, unfortunately.
2. Provided 22,481 fruit trees to over 250 farmers.
3. Served as the catalyst and coordinator for the construction of 10 potato cold storage sheds in two villages. Farmers who can keep their potatoes off the market during peak season and sell them when prices are higher (6 months later) will increase their income by an average of 49%.
4. Provided hundreds of farmers with fertilizer, and superior tomato, turnip, radish, and onion seeds, thereby doubling and tripling their yields.
5. Purchased and distributed 300 sheep to 60 farmers
TIE learned early on, that if you want to know what “they” need, ask them.
Our “wish list” process invites villagers to propose projects. The projects are then ranked based upon the nature of the impact, the number of people impacted, the priority the villagers place upon the competing projects, and cost. We fund as many impact projects as our resources allow, always bearing in mind that education is our primary mission.
The “wish list” principles are followed in all of the projects and programs described above. As a consequence, TIE earned the status of partner, which is preferable to being perceived as only a provider. One outcome of the partnership relationship is that wish list proposals no longer include a cost for labor. The villagers provide the labor and TIE purchases the materials.
In addition to what is described elsewhere, the following “wish list” projects are no longer wishes;
1. A $20,000 irrigation project now brings water to 150 acres of land that had been fallow for years.
2. Two irrigation ditches constructed in the spring of 2009 divert water to land that previously could not be farmed. The ditches will also prevent the spring run off in 2010 from flooding farmland owned by over 60 farmers. Their topsoil will no longer be washed away or covered with less fertile soil.
3. Three small bridges were built in Lalander, making it easier and in some cases possible for children to attend school.
4. An 18 meter ((58 foot) bridge, providing a river crossing, is currently under construction. When completed it will make commerce and life easier for over 1,000 villagers living in five villages
Equally important to providing educational opportunities for Afghans, is informing Americans about Afghanistan. TIE serves as a link between our world and theirs. To that end TIE engages in the following activities;
1. TIE serves as an intermediary and catalyst in providing American families with an opportunity to directly sponsor a “street child” in Kabul. $20 a month enables “their child” to attend school. Sixty street children have been sponsored to date. More have been added each month since we began in July, 2009.
2. Over 50 speaking engagements have been held and will continue to be held whenever opportunities arise. These included presentations by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and a Thousand Splendid Suns, Greg Mortensen, co-author of Three Cups of Tea, and Sarah Schayes, a former NPR reporter working in Kandahar.
3. Thousands of school children have participated in “Change for Change” drives. Regular reports are made to these children, explaining how “their” change is changing lives. In several schools, TIE has provided annual progress reports for the past five years. TIE hand delivers art work, letters and photos between Afghan and American children. We’ve become the messenger.
4. TIE has collected, shipped and distributed over 30,000 pounds of clothing, blankets, shoes, and school supplies donated by Americans. Our most recent “packing party for Afghanistan” was attended by over 100 volunteers. The “stuff redistribution program” is so popular it’s impossible to handle everything that people are willing to donate.
5. TIE has been called upon by other organizations including Stop Hunger Now, Medshare, Soles for Souls, and the United Nations refugee program, to assist them in distributing food, medical supplies, shoes, and clothing in Afghanistan. The contribution by Stop Hunger Now of fortified rice packages enables TIE to provide over 200,000 meals to Afghans living in refugee camps this winter (2009). Other humanitarian aid organizations are calling exploring the possibility of partnering with TIE.
The list of projects and programs is not exhaustive. It provides an overview of the ways in which TIE has provided assistance. TIE focuses its aid in an area, rather than do one project in several. Over time we gain trust, build lasting relationships, and prove we share their resolve. Ending cyclical poverty requires a concerted, long term, and systematic commitment.
Village to village and village by village was and continues to be our mantra. It’s six years later and we’re more convinced than ever of the value of going back. It’s the only way to bring about permanent change in the quality of life in Afghanistan and in the perception both worlds have about the other. Education is the key to success, there and here.