Our recent UNICEF field trip to Afghanistan.

We’d like to share with you some photographic memories of our recent field visit to Afghanistan.  It was an unforgettable experience – unlike any other visit we have undertaken to review our Basic Education & Equity project – Let Us Learn.

We found the Afghan people extremely warm, sincere, hospitable and highly intelligent. It’s intriguing to learn that education is more highly prized than anything else in Afghan culture. To talk face to face with parents who are so determined to provide their children with an education in spite of war, crippling poverty and the harshest possible living conditions – was truly humbling.

Afghanistan is unique in its geography, its rich cultural history and, importantly, in its potential. With our amazing UNICEF partners, we can help to foster that optimism in the children, by providing them with the opportunity to learn. It’s worth repeating again: education is the most powerful weapon with which to wage peace. Here are some photos which capture the essence of Afghanistan (click on photo to enlarge):

Bamyan City

Upper left: Bamyan’s famous Buddha monument. Upper right: Bamyan landscape. Lower left: UNICEF staff and us walking up to view the monument. Lower right: Lisa Bender of UNICEF looking out of the monument.

Borghasoon Village

Upper left: landscape of Borghasoon Village. Upper right: we felt very privileged to be invited by the local CDC chief to his home, with the village elders and head female educator of Borghasoon school. Lower left: the chief showing us the new computer room at the school. Very impressive. Lower right: Borghasoon school students. Despite the extremely difficult terrain of Borghasoon, students still manage to get to school regularly. It’s an amazing achievement.

Akhai Village

Upper left: Water is precious in this region. Amazingly, the Akhai villagers were able to drill a pipe through the mountain – it took a year – to bring water to the village. Upper right: walking to the other side of the mountain to see where the water is stored before it is distributed to four different locations. Lower left: Susan standing on top of the water storage facility with the local chiefs. Lower right: meeting with villagers near a water faucet. Over 80% of diarrhea has been eradicated in the area as a result of the clean water. One of the UNICEF staff tasted the water and said it tasted great!

Transportation

These photos give you an idea of how we got from village to village. Sometimes there was a road, sometimes there wasn’t. We were in awe of the landscape: it was so staggeringly beautiful. We were conscious that we had the luxury of a four-wheel drive. Donkeys or on foot is how most people get around. It takes some students two or three hours to walk to their school.

Ferooz Bahar 

Upper left: construction site of the new school in Ferooz Bahar village. The new school will accommodate students from Grades 1 thru 8. Upper right: everyone was so excited to see how quickly the construction is going. Lower left: here are some students from Grades 1 thru 4, who have to attend school in the local mosque (lower right photo) because of a lack of space. The mosque currently has three different classes, separated by fabric panels. We were really encouraged to witness how happy and eager the students were to be learning. These same students should be in their new school by the end of the year!

Kabul City

Upper left: Soria Girls School was established 20 years ago and is one of the most successful schools in Kabul. Boys were admitted a couple of years ago. Upper right: some of the students’ artwork. Lower left: an educator with one of the brightest students. Lower right: we should never forget that the city is still a war zone. Here are some school students risking their lives to walk to school in front of a secure compound.

Ultimately the Afghan people are just like us: they have dreams for their children and they want them to be educated in a safe healthy environment. We came away knowing that we had made some good friends and we definitely felt we had mutual understanding and respect. It was an incredible experience. I hope you will be as inspired as we were.

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Susan and Stefan