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Zaanha’s World

Our blog provides insight into the world of ZAANHA through our inspirations, sightings, videos and more.

Sizzlin’ Summer BBQ

Barbecue – Afghan Style

Who doesn’t love a good BBQ in the summer? How about an Afghan style grill? Our menu includes kebabs, roasted corn, naan and a simple salad. And don’t forget the ice cream for dessert!

Super easy! Super tasty!

Lamb Kebabs

One of our faves!

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (optional)
  • Salt and black or red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 pounds boneless lamb, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pieces of naan (available at most supermarkets)

Directions

  1. Mix the lemon juice, crushed garlic, yogurt, salt, pepper and coriander in a bowl. Add the lamb and oil. Mix well and marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat the grill. Thread the meat on to the skewers. Grill, turning frequently, for about 15 to 20 minutes until brown and cooked.
  3. Place the naan on a large dish, remove the kebabs from the skewers and place them on the bread.
  4. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, garnish with the tomato, onion and lemon, and fold the naan over to keep the kebabs warm. Extra naan can be served separately. A fresh green salad is a wonderful accompaniment.

Grilled Corn

Ingredients

  • ears corn, shucked
  • Butter, for serving
  • Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat grill to high and heat for 10 minutes. (Alternatively, preheat grill pan to high.) Add corn and cook, turning often, until charred all over, about 10 minutes.
  2. Spread butter over warm corn and season with salt.

Naan – Find great naan these days at your local grocery store.

Brush on melted butter infused with garlic and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Quickly char on the grill — YUM!

 

 

Middle Eastern Summer Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 cups romaine chopped
  • 1 large tomato chopped
  • 4 white radishes thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 peeled cucumber chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint or 2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic grated/crushed
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place your salad ingredients of choice in a large bowl.
  2. Add fresh herbs.
  3. Squeeze the juice of one lemon around the bowl, carefully holding your opposite hand underneath to catch the seeds.
  4. Grate garlic directly over the salad using a microplane.
  5. Drizzle olive oil around the edge of the salad (this will help ensure the salad is dressed evenly as you toss.)
  6. Using, hands, gently toss the salad together. Sprinkle with zaatar, salt and pepper to taste.

Happy Summertime Eating!

 

Cool It with Easy Mango Kulfi

Oh boy, kulfi! Just the sound of the name makes my mouth water. I had it first many years ago at Tabla in New York and was instantly hooked. The traditional recipe requires lots of simmering, but not this one, courtesy of the NY Times. EASY peasy! Dazzle your friends…and yourself!

• Serves 12 (more with small-size molds)
• Prep Time: 
5 minutes (plus freezing time, 10 hours)

This recipe for instant mango kulfi takes short cuts, using canned sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. It’s a recipe that has no fixed season, that takes no time to mix up. It’s not authentic. It is delicious!

N.B., I use a quirt of 1/2 a lime in addition to the other ingredients.

INGREDIENTS
• 1 pint heavy cream
• 1 30-ounce can Alphonso mango pulp
• 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
• zest of 1 lime
• ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
• 1 pinch salt

PREPARATION
In a large bowl mix all the ingredients until there are no streaks of color, then pour the mixture into a 9- or 10-inch loaf pan lined with plastic wrap (or individual freezer-safe ramekins). Place in the freezer, and allow to set for at least 10 hours, until frozen.

Dip the outside of the pan in warm water, just long enough to release the kulfi. After you’ve used the plastic wrap to help you unmold neatly, throw it away. Slice and serve the kulfi immediately. If you’re using ramekins, allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes, then serve directly in the bowls.

I sprinkle with some chopped toasted pistachios.

Summer Reads 2020 (Part 1)

AHHH…FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS

Who says there are only beach reads? We love reading in a cafe, sitting on park bench, by the pool or in a cool room. Get started with 3 of our favorites — more suggestions to come.

What books have you enjoyed recently? Please let us know by writing to us at zaanha@gmail.com. We’re always on the lookout for a great read!

***

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larsen

One of Chicago Tribune’s Best Books of the Year So Far • “A bravura performance by one of America’s greatest storytellers.”—NPR

“Churchill’s lessons of resilience and his style of steady-handed leadership are essential to the state of mind of American readers.”—Vanity Fair

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally–and willing to fight to the end. -Penguin Random House

A Woven Life by Jenny Housego, Maya Mirchandani

“Jenny’s resilience of spirit and open candour is evident as she peels away layers of trauma and positivity.”
– Bim Bissell

“I felt I was in her shoes through Iran and Afghanistan on her way to India where we finally met.Her splendid weaves bear witness to her talent, courage and love. A truly wonderful book.”
– Brigitte Singh

“Through her memoir, A Woven Life, co-written by journalist Maya Mirchandani, she takes a trip down memory lane, reminiscing the adventurous journey she undertook from war-hit England to the valleys of Kashmir. This, however, was not the life she had planned while growing up during the Cold War. “I had imagined myself sitting astride the Berlin Wall sending entirely wrong information to both the British and German army, while working as a spy!” she laughs.”-Elle

*Available on Kindle

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, Kevin Wiliarty (translator)

“[The Art of Hearing Heartbeats] is a love story set in Burma…imbued with Eastern spirituality and fairy-tale romanticism…Fans of Nicholas Sparks and/or Elizabeth Gilbert should eat this up.” —Kirkus Reviews

“An epic narrative that requires…a large box of tissues.” —Publishers Weekly

“Sweetly tragic.” —Library Journal

The first book in the Art of Hearing Heartbeats series, this is a passionate love story, a haunting fable, and an enchanting mystery set in Burma.

When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains. -Penguin Random House

Classic Take
(if you haven’t read them already):

Rebecca and Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier:

“Du Maurier is in a class by herself.” —THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Excellent . . . Perfect . . . Mastery from surprise to surprise.” —CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

“Addictive and breathtaking. Its blending of melodrama and subtlety is ingenious. The Cornish setting never quite leaves the imagination.” —THE INDEPENDENT

“This chilling, suspenseful tale is as fresh and readable as it was when it was first written.” —THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

Rebecca; 
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

Jamaica Inn:
The coachman tried to warn her away from the ruined, forbidding place on the rainswept Cornish coast. But young Mary Yellan chose instead to honor her mother’s dying request that she join her frightened Aunt Patience and huge, hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn at Jamaica Inn. From her first glimpse on that raw November eve, she could sense the inn’s dark power. But never did Mary dream that she would become hopelessly ensnared in the vile, villainous schemes being hatched within its crumbling walls — or that a handsome, mysterious stranger would so incite her passions … tempting her to love a man whom she dares not trust.

 

The Knitting Begins!

 

What is The Sweater Project?

It’s a program started by Zaanha Fund. The Sweater Project pays Afghan women to knit sweaters for Afghan kids, kids who must work on the streets to earn money for their families. The women purchase yarn for the sweaters at local bazaars, and this provides an income for the store keepers.

***

Why does the Sweater Project matter?

Because children matter.

Thousands of Afghan kids in refugee camps don’t have the luxury of a home with heat or warm clothes. $20 buys a child a new sweater. And a warm sweater will keep these children from freezing when temperatures plunge in the cold winter months.

***

Why now?

Women need to start knitting now so that the sweaters will be ready when it gets cold. There are thousands of children who will cherish a new sweater.

Gift a sweater now!

***

From Roya’s School, With Love

 

Women in Afghanistan face many obstacles. Crushing poverty and a culture that values men’s education over women’s are just two. Girls, especially those living in rural areas outside of major cities, are not allowed to travel alone into the cities for special classes. Thus, there are very few Afghan girls who have English language or computer skills.

 

 

Roya’s School, started by ZAANHA Fund almost 9 years ago, gives high school girls living outside of major urban areas the chance to learn English and use computers – tools that are essential for finding decent employment.

So far, between its locations in Kabul and Mazar-e-sharif, Roya’s School has graduated 93 students. Some of its graduates are now enrolled in medical school; others are currently employed as teachers. Still others are starting university – all made possible because of the skills they learned at Roya’s School.

Many graduates of Roya’s School have elected to enter university under the English-speaking faculty, rather than Afghan. Imagine trying to take your college courses in a second language! Meanwhile, some current students prepare to take TOFEL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) courses, to enter English-speaking universities.

 

 

Stay tuned for some of the girls’ individual stories, which we are excited to share. We believe they will inspire you!

 

 

Artisans at Work: Babu Ram

Zaanha’s story has many parts.

One essential component is the skilled master artisans with whom we proudly work. These hard-working small business owners in Nepal and India employ and support their local communities.

Meet Babu Ram. Babu Ram’s studio is responsible for our best-selling basketweaves, our four-colored rectangles, and more. This is Babu Ram’s story about how be came to start his own business.

ZH: What did you do before starting your own business?

Babu Ram:  Before starting my own business, I worked for almost thirteen years in one of Nepal’s largest pashmina suppliers. I started at the bottom and eventually moved up to being the Sales and Export Manager.

ZH: How did you begin your business? Was it a difficult process?

B: I am originally from Eastern Part of Nepal. I came to Kathmandu to study. When I arrived, I got a job in a local store that sold pashmina products, and there I became fascinated with all aspects of production. I completed my Masters degree in English in 2010. In 2011, I started an EMBA (Executive Master of business Administration in Marketing), where I took business courses.

Before I started my business, I did a lot of research and collected a lot of pictures of cashmere products. I then sent those pictures to many of my international customers, in Belgium, France, Germany, and to Zaanha in the US. I received positive feedback and established my own Pashmina studio in 2011.

With my years of work in the field, I was already well-acquainted with the various processes such as weaving, coloring and dying. During my training for my Masters degree, my professors encouraged me to start my own business.

People think it is so easy to start a business, but it’s actually very difficult. Starting a business takes an investment of time as well as as money, and great courage to go off on one’s own. Before I started my business, I wrote 50 correspondents to different international customers who I knew, and received barely 15 positive responses. I am truly thankful to them who helped me in each and every step to establish and expand.

ZH: What’s an average day like for you at work?

BC: When I first started, I had to work almost 12 hours a day. Nowadays I continue to work 10 hours a day. Since I control all product production from my company, I need to check the quality and finishing for each.

ZH: You make basketweave scarves that Zaanha sells. Can you tell me a little about the process of creating them?

BC: For the basketweaves, we set up the loom using silk for the warp, then use the finest 100% cashmere for the weft. A basketweave stole is featherlight, weighing in at about 5.5 ounces. When the weaving process is completed, the scarves move on to the dying process

ZH: Where do you get the materials for the scarves? 

BC: We use cashmere from inner Mongolia.

ZH: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your business?

BC: Though cashmere is not my family business, my work experience in this industry has helped me to establish my own company. When I set up my company, the initial  investment was one million Nepalese Rupees (about $9,000), with two hand looms. Now I have around ten million NP in investment and five looms.

One piece of advice I can offer to anyone trying to start their own business is remember to that your most important commodity is the service you offer your customers. Always focus on customer service.

The Sweater Project – A Gift of Warmth

Life is harsh for Afghan working street children especially during sub-zero winters and many children are without proper footwear as well as having only think cotton clothing. They face incredible hardships during the frigid winter months.

One young girl who couldn’t work outside for two days because of the cold was forced to go without food at for those two days. Going to school in unheated classrooms is impossible. Despite these conditions, the children are still expected to work outside during the winter to provide for themselves and their families.

What could we do to help as many Afghans as possible? The Sweater Project was born. Here’s how it works:

Little Girl Selling Tea

The feet of some children living in a refugee camp

Girl in Refugee Camp

One young girl who couldn’t work outside for two days because of the cold was forced to go without food at for those two days. Going to school in unheated classrooms is impossible. Despite these conditions, the children are still expected to work outside during the winter to provide for themselves and their families.

What could we do to help as many Afghans as possible? The Sweater Project was born. Here’s how it works:

  • ZAANHA purchases yarn at the local bazaar in Kabul thus giving business to the shopkeeper, which allows him to pay his rent and support his family. $7.50 buys yarn for one sweater.
  • The yarn is taken back to a center for working  street children where there are women and girls  who are without jobs and know how to knit. The center provides a warm and safe environment where the women can knit sweaters for which they are paid $10 a sweater.
  • The center is paid $2.50

Buying the Yarn

What a Great Selection!

And it is not only the yarn sellers, the women and girls who knit and the working street children who benefit– The $20 donation for one sweater affects the family members of all of these people — approximately 30 people’s lives are impacted by the purchase of one sweater.

An Update From Roya in Time for Thanksgiving

An Update From Roya in Time for Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you will be enjoying this bountiful holiday in the company of family and good friends.

I wanted to share some special thanks to you all from the girls at Roya’s School in Kabul and Mazar e Sharif. ZAANHA Fund started Roya’s School almost 4 years ago with 6 girls. To date, 31 girls have either graduated or are current students. The girls, unable to travel alone to central Kabul and Mazar to attend classes, learn English and computer skills in Roya’s home. Two of the original 6 girls were admitted to Kabul University last year because they had these skills!

I received a letter from last week from Roya and wanted to share it with you. Roya just got married and lives in Mazar e Sharif where she’s starting the second branch of Roya’s School. The original class outside of Kabul is being taught by one of the original students in her home.

A special thank you to you all from your friends at ZAANHA.

Warm regards,
Wendy


Salaam Alikm Dear Miss Wendy!
I hope you and your great family is doing well, I and my great in-laws all are fine here and everyone say salaam to you.

Five days ago since 31 October we started our new collection of girls in Mazar e sharif, totally they are ten girls, all of them are students from 7th to 12th class. I am going to attach their list and purchased bills of class materials. I will send you their attendance sheet monthly.

I wish to thank you for the support and help you provided, for your dedication, attention and open-minded thinking and for your readiness to help with very prompt response. When I told my suggestion to Nasima jan that I want to open another branch of this school in Mazar e Sharif, she smiled and took my hand with her warm hands, she volunteered to help me, and when I turned to you for assistance, you immediately agreed and did your utmost to provide it as quickly as possible. All this was done in order to make things easier for me, Thank you for opening this door of opportunity, which is a huge step for Afghan girls. Thank you so much Miss Nasima jan, and once again thank you dear and sweet Miss Wendy for giving me strength and succeed. With warm hug and kisses to both of you.
Roya Ahmadi

Kabul, Part II

Dear Friends,

My new motto – it’s a sign I saw on the wall of a classroom in Kabul:

DSC00805

I have the privilege and pleasure of working with many, many very poor Afghan children and the sign you see above epitomizes their attitude. Talk about inspiring!

Local Afghans wishing only for peaceful and secure lives like you and I take for granted have had uphill battles for the past 40 years – most of the population doesn’t even know remember when their country was not at war. And today, that uphill battle is steeper. The economy is severely depressed, jobs are scarce, the insurgency is making inroads and the majority of people are uneducated.

Over the week I spent in Kabul at the beginning of October, I saw and spoke with the many of the over 50 children whom ZAANHA is now sending to school and I wanted to highlight 2 of them as well as give you an update on Roya’s School.

Their “before” stories are representative of the hundreds of thousands of children who work on the streets to help support their families. The remarkable progress they’ve made in the short time they’ve been in school is inspires awe. I hope you too will be moved by their stories.

DSC00812

Front row from left to right: Sadaf, Shugufa, Benezir
Back row: Wendy

Shugufa

Shugufa used to get up at 5am to get ready for public school which she attended from 6am–9:30am. Afghan public schools are so crowded that they are divided into 3-1/2 hour sections and there are sometimes as many as 50 children to a class. After school she went home to change and then went out to collect cardboard and papers and the wooden sticks people use to make fires for their ovens. In the afternoon she went to Aschiana for an English class and then home to do her homework, help her mother with dinner, eat and go to bed. Her parents are illiterate and she has 1 sister and 3 brothers. The family lives in one room that they rent. Her father repairs shoes and her mother takes care of the children.

Shugufa started at in ZAANHA Fund’s private school program almost 2 years ago. She had been in the 5th grade in public school, but was so far behind her Rumi School classmates that she had to go back to the 1st grade. She was in an accelerated program, learned quickly and is now in the 3rd grade. You can’t imagine my gratification when I discovered that she is now completely literate in Dari, her native language,and is learning to read and write English. She was even able to speak a little. Her mother told me Shugufa now studies all the time when she is at home. When relatives visit, they are impressed and even a little envious at how literate she is and at how educated she is becoming. Doesn’t begin to describe the pride her parents feel!

 

DSC00816

Yasin and Wendy

Yasin

I remember meeting Yasin 3 years ago. At that time, he was shy and reserved.The Director of Aschiana, Nazar, told me Yasin was a gifted child and would be a great candidate for ZAANHA’s private school program. He started at Rumi and then dropped out because the commute was long and he didn’t have friends there. For a while he didn’t go to school because his family left Afghanistan. They returned over a year ago and Nazar asked me if we could send Yasin to a private school in his area.

Flash forward to my Kabul visit earlier this month. Yasin confidently strode into the conference room. He shook my hand and asked in excellent English how I was and if I was enjoying my stay in Afghanistan! I was stunned! He then proceeded to tell me “If a person doesn’t know about knowledge, he is nothing”. Incredible for a boy who is now 11 years old and illiterate only a few short years ago. He is now 11, in the 6th grade and ranks 1st in his class. He wants to learn to use a computer and take lessons – ZF will buy a computer for him and provide the funds to take special classes. Stay tuned for more about Yasin!

Hadiesa

Roya’s School – Some of the students
(Faces are blocked out in consideration of the girls and their families)

Roya’s School was started in a small village about an hour outside of Kabul over 3 years ago with 6 girls who wanted to learn English and computers, but were not allowed to go by themselves to central Kabul where there were classes. Roya, who lived in the village and graduated from Kabul University with a degree in computer science, became the teacher and we were off to the races!

13 girls have now graduated from Roya’s School and 2 of them were admitted to Kabul University because they had computer skills and English training. Roya got married in early September and moved to Mazar e Sharif in northern Afghanistan. She is starting the Mazar branch with 10 students. Hadiesa, one of the original students and now attending a special school with advanced English courses, will take over Roya’s position in Kabul with 10 new girls. The girls who have graduated are recruiting 2 new girls each who want to learn computer basics and are teaching them. Is there any better way to reinforce what they’ve learned as well as to hone leadership skills?

I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the sunshine coming out of Afghanistan. And thank you again for your enthusiastic and kind comments. Know that I love hearing from you! Stay tuned for more…

ZAANHA — LIVE FROM KABUL – PART 1

wendyhamida

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.
yousef_daughters
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!

nomachines
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!
duowendykids
(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.
wendyhamidaWendy 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.

Warm regards,
Wendy