Greetings from Kabul
Kabul as seen from the air.
Day 1- Friday
Arrived on Friday, the second day of Eid and was greeted at the airport by Nasima, her nephew Sami and a large bouquet of roses! Ever thoughtful Afghans…Hashmat, my part-time employee, as well as Aschiana’s Program Manager, met me at Aschiana and asked if I’d like to go to Eng. Yousef’s home for dinner that evening for Eid. Of course – was there ever a question?? A warm welcome was followed by a delicious dinner. Children were everywhere as were friends and other family members, all greeting me graciously.
Eng. Yousef with 2 of his daughters and Hashmat.
Day 2 – Saturday
Saturday (still Eid) was quiet and a perfect time for catch up and preparation for the remainder of my stay. Hashmat and Nazar, Director at Aschiana were at the main center where I am staying and we were able to catch up and lay the groundwork for our discussions. We ended the day with a delicious late lunch at Restaurant Istanbul where we feasted on kebobs, rice and salad. Of course, on the way home, we stopped for Shiriyakh, the Afghan equivalent of gelato. Trust me — the Italians have serious competition here!
Shiriyakh – made by hand – NO machines!
Day 3 – Sunday
What an extraordinarily productive day today!! First stop was a visit to Nasima where I picked up another order of the beautiful sheepskin vests that sold so well last year. Stay tuned for a variety of new hues including a rich shade of navy. Onward to Rumi School! Rumi is one of the top private schools in Kabul and your purchases are helping to send 12 very poor and bright children there for a chance at a better education. Rumi has offered us space to start a tiny pilot vocational business school for working street children! I’m thrilled and over the top excited about this — My dream project will soon germinate!
(1) Wendy with six of the children we send to Rumi. (2) Wendy with Mirwais (Founder), Parwana (Principal) and three children we send to Rumi.
And then Hashmat and I were off to lunch at American University in Kabul where The ZAANHA Fund secured a scholarship for Mahfouz, the young orphan who graduated from high school last year and supports his 11 brothers and sisters. It’s incredible to see him coming out of his shell and gaining confidence and self esteem – makes me feel like a proud mother!
I also met Hamida Mousavi, the young Afghan girl whose father is a baker and supports his family on $200/month. A donor who had paid her tuition in the past ran out of funds, leaving Hamida on the brink of being expelled from the university for lack of payment. We were able to thus far raise $3,000 out of the $4,500 needed. I was told she was quiet and shy – not so! I was pleasantly surprised at meeting this poised, enthusiastic and smiling young woman. When I asked her if she would help develop the curriculum for the pilot vocational business school at Rumi and teach some of the classes, she immediately said “Of course, Miss Wendy, and I will do this as a volunteer. I don’t expect to have any salary any salary from you.” All I could do was to hug her.
Wendy with Hamida and Mahfouz.
After the university visit, Hashmat and I went to see Kamela Sidiqi, an woman I met through Bpeace on my first trip to Afghanistan in 2006. I always considered Kamela an exceptionally talented businesswoman (BTW, she is the protagonist in The Dressmaker of Khana Khair
) and as if proving my point, she is now the Deputy Head of Admin/Finance for President Ghani and works out of the Presidential Palace! That means that she is 3rd in command in the government – Incredible! Ever gracious, she’s volunteered to help us the with the pilot vocational business school at Rumi as well as being a business advisor for the tailoring and computer centers at Aschiana. Oh paradise!!!
Stay tuned for Live from Kabul – Part II in a few days.