November 2008 Report

Off the bat, I apologize for this rather long but very important message; I urge you to please read through it for it may help you help CAI.

I am blessed, yet again, ninth time since 2004, with a visit to Kabul and Herat in Afghanistan this first week of November. Nothing seems to have changed since my last visit in August, except, of course, fear that has manifested itself in every segment of everyday life. I can feel it in the air, can taste it on my tongue as it suddenly dries when our vehicle chances upon a convoy of ISAF (NATO forces), a frequent object of ire and assault by Talebaan, in people’s eyes, in their mannerism, in the hostile, harassed features of security personnel manning flourishing security checkpoints all over the city and certainly in the attitude of heavily armed private security outside my hotel who are only at ease for the fair skinned and subject me and my bags with a through check while waving inside unchecked another fair skinned guest.

Apart from the incredible amount of damage I cause my lungs by being exposed to deadly pollution that makes my eyes water and force me to cover my nose and mouth with my keffiyah throughout my stay, I leave Afghanistan 6 days later in one piece, alhamd’Allah. I am able to inspect our all important, almost all complete water project in Chandawaal, open a mosque each in Kabul and Herat, inspect our completed orphanage in Herat and most important of all, get the ball rolling on the phenomenally critical task of building a school at the Land of 12 Imam in Daste Barchi, Kabul. More on that in a moment.

Please view photos from this trip below; they will tell you a thousand words. I leave you with the following experience I had when I paid a very belated condolence visit to a shaheed widow during one of my earlier trips. Her husband was killed by the powers to be then and his body dumped in a garbage collection point.

I enter a dark mud dwelling and am immediately reminded of such homes in Africa, in Tanzania, where I spent my childhood and adolescence. It takes a few seconds for my eyes to focus somewhat; the hovel is empty save for a bare tattered mattress in one corner, a pile of dirty looking blankets and a few dented pots and a couple of buckets. There is a distinct smell of human feces and urine in the air. I was expecting a woman, a widow and her kids. Then I see them, at a far corner, behind a half mud wall, looking towards me, watching me intently. It is an eerie feeling and I shiver instinctively although it is summer and pretty warm outside.

A boy dressed in shabby Afghan grab gets up slowly and moves towards me, then, ignoring my extended hand, bows deeply with right hand held against his chest; surprised, I reciprocate with a ‘salaam aleykum’. He then leads me to the other four seated behind the wall, all women. Their faces look of people accustomed to pain and maturity way past their ages; all three as the widow is completely covered. We sit cross legged and I study them while the women look down and everywhere else except towards me. A hot cup of green tea and a bowl of hard candy is set before me by the boy after a while and he whispers a soft ‘befarme’. I know the tea / candy has probably cost them at least a day’s food money but take a candy; I do not want to seem impolite.

After a few words of customary greeting by my interpreter and the son, the widow is asked a few questions. She answers with short, sharp responses, sounding annoyed and harassed at times. She states they are well, thanks to Allah, they eat enough, thanks to Allah, she gets a stipend of US$25 a month from charities, thanks to Allah, that her brother helps out, thanks to Allah and that her son sweeps and cleans at a local store, thanks to Allah.

We gently ask her about her husband but she remains quiet. I can feel the air around us tense as the girls retreat into their shawls; the boy grunts and shifts in his place. The widow then sighs, a deep anguished sigh of a tired and defeated person. But she begins telling us of her husband, a strong, proud, religious man. Poor yes, but never failed in bringing dinner home everyday from selling fresh nuts and raisins at the local bazaar. He got a chance to make better money transporting fuel for government troops in Ghazni when he was captured, tortured and then shot dead by the Talibaan. His body was recovered after two days of frantic search in a garbage dump by her brother. At this point she losses her composure and breaks down crying bitterly. Her anguish is smothering the air from my lungs and I hurriedly take leave but I feel utterly dreadful from the accusing looks the girls give me for having renewed their grief.

I hand over charity money I have brought for them to the boy and flee the scene.

The only reason I pen this three year old story is for you to perhaps feel what I felt then. Look, we can sympathize with the likes of Bibi Gulaab Fatema and her family, we can help her with money and food and clothes and housing and that is all fine. What she needs most, however, in my opinion, is quality education for her children. We have over a million displaced refugees in Kabul whose children do not go to school. If not provided an opportunity, these children will grow to be adults in dire poverty and ignorance and will breed another generation to continue the chain of misery and helplessness.

CAI will, insha’Allah, build a school for these refugees and about 4,000 girls and boys will get an opportunity to a better life soon. How can you help? The project cost is about $1,000,000 for a modern, three story school building with 3 fully functioning labs, a full fledged library, gym hall and everything else a modern school needs. Please do not let the sum discourage you; $250,000 has already been committed for this school. I am confident we can do it, for it is only via Allah’s (S) help that this will be a success story. You can do your part, whatever it is; material, propagation, duas and well wishing, all will count.

You can have your community sponsor a classroom or a lab; I am sure we have enough communities around the world that can easily support one and make this school a reality. This is the single most ambitious and expensive investment project CAI will, insha’Allah, undertake and I invite you to be a part of it. I will be visiting Houston and Vancouver later this month where local communities have organized a luncheon and a dinner in support of this project. If your community can arrange something similar, I would be happy to come and make a presentation.

Jazaak’Allah and Allah bless.

Yusuf Yusufali

15,000 liter storage
Cutting through the rocks
Inhospitable terrain
Path of pipes
Water storage tank almost ready
WIP for 25,000 waterless people
Monorail for laying pipes up mountain
New mosque at Land of 12 Imams
New mosque at Land of 12 Imams
Washing the dead room
Land for new school