We spent Wednesday at a new community called Ben E Warsak. This is made up of former refugees who had returned from the war only to find all of their homes gone. They didn't know each other in the beginning, but they banded together to form this new community. Women of Hope Project had found this group almost three years living in a bombed out building in Kabul and began working with them on our hydroponics project, to teach the ladies to grow their own food. Since the soil is poor in Afghanistan, hydroponic gardening is a perfect solution because it is soil-less and uses recycled water.
About two years ago the Afghan government moved these families out to their own land. It was land. Only land. No tents, no houses, no wells, no bazaars. Nothing. Women of Hope Project helped get donated wells and helped install them. We also helped get tents donated so the people would have a chance to survive the bitter cold Afghan winter. WOHP also got wood donated for the roofs of their houses, and assisted the people in making mud bricks to make these homes. These people had to start over once again.
The community was just outside of Kabul, but it took us lmost 2 hours to get there. The traffic congestion was crazy. Driving in Kabul is undescribable. Cars coming from all directions and converging at one point. Never mind if there's no room! They just go.
We arrived at the camp visited the 3-room school that Women of Hope Project helped build. It had started out in a tent. The tuition for the kids had been set at ten mud bricks which would be used to build the foundation of the school. Now the school is in a small rented house. There are 165 children that attend, including girls. They go in shifts in order to accommodate all the students. The walls are mud bricks and the roof is wooden beams and thatch. The dirt floors have carpets spread over them. The kids sit on the floor while the teachers teach.
We had the opportunity to look at some of their schoolwork and ask them about what they were learning. The girls sang us a song, led by one of the older girls. One of our team members is a dancer and a school teacher, and she taught the girls a couple of American dances.
The opportunity to see these children in their school, and to see how appreciative they are that WOHP has done this for them has made the entire trip worthwhile. Thanks to many of you for your donations, we have been able to provide this service to the kids, which gives them a chance to step above their situation and hopefully have a brighter future.
As we left the school, all of the kids surrounded us to have their pictures taken. We also got to see how the trees were doing that we had been given for our Tree Planting Project. The majority of the fruit trees are thriving. We had fir trees planted in the spring along each of the streets, and most of them look like they are faring well.
After visiting the school we went to the village leader's house for lunch. We sat around the room, which I guess we can call their dining room. There is no furniture, only carpet with toshaks (pillows) around the entire perimeter of the room. Traditional Afghan style. Our team leader was given the seat of honor, at the far end of the room. Before being served, the Village Leader's son and another young boy came around with a beautiful pitcher and bowl to pour water on our hands and wash them. After this, one of the men rolled out a vinyl tablecloth on the carpet and began bringing out large round pieces of nan, which is traditional Afghan bread. A piece was put in front of each of us, almost like a plate. Then the men brought out the feast, and what a feast it was!
Along with the nan, we had plates of rice, lamb, vegetables, french fries, yogurt, coke and watermelon for dessert. The men were on one side, we women were on the other. Although we didn't speak the language, we had brought along two interpreters so that we could discuss what was going on in the community during the meal. Afterwards our team went in the back room to talk to the Leader's wife who had prepared all of the food. The women and her children were not allowed to come in with us. She is a lovely, sweet, gentle woman, and was genuinely happy to see us and pleased that we had enjoyed her food.
While our team leader stayed behind to meet witht he Village Leader, the rest of us were served tea by the Leader's wife. Even the poor families take pride in the serving tea properly, and she had the traditional tea ceremony complete with two dishes of hard candy that you are supposed to put in your mouth to sweeten the tea.
After another bumpy ride back to Kabul, dodging potholes and making our drivers stop for scenic photos (which we'll publish when we get home because the internet is slow here), we ate dinner at a French restaurant. Yes, that's right. It's one of the many restaurants here that the westerners eat at. Security is tight, and we were searched before entering. Armed guards sat outside and blocked any traffic from driving past the front of the building. After having our purses searched, we had to go through two other doors in little dirt-floor rooms. Since the outside didn't look real inviting, we were wondering where we'd been taken. But then we went through the last door and the room opened into a big garden area, complete with swimming pool! It was amazing! The food was wonderful, and we even had two extra dinner guests, as the owners' cats wandered around the dining areas to see what they could beg for dinner.
All in all, we had a full dinner, and a memorable one! Meeting the people we are serving is an experience I can't even describe.
Next day will be meeting the women who make our beautiful embroidery products. More to follow.