A Promise Kept

A Promise Kept

A Promise Kept 150 150 ComfortAid International
Here is a
write-up from Abbas who accompanied me to Afghanistan recently. Please read and
enjoy the accompanying photos here.
I will add
that these girls are from extremely poor families. When they first came to SGH,
it was Herculean challenge for us to rehabilitate them into a ‘normal civilized
family’. The transformation in three years is nothing short of a miracle. These
children are now very well mannered, they are confident, they help each other,
they desire to be educated and make it big in life and speak reasonably good
English. It is an honor and a blessing CAI was able to be a small part of this
transformation.
Ali Yusufali
Just as I am recovering from an exhausting CAI
fundraiser for the Sakina Girls Home (SGH) and School project, I am flying to
Kabul again, eight months after we made a pledge to these girls that CAI will
find a way to raise the funds for a modern orphanage and school. I can’t wait
to deliver the letters of hope to them from our children in the Tri-State area,
who wrote to them as a class project at the fundraising event. The captain
announces Kabul ahead; I recall my visit last year and my emotions flutter at
the thought of giving the good news to the girls. We arrive in Kabul and are
picked up by Abdul Wasi and Bashir, our CAI Afghan team and our hosts for the
next week.
Our UN chartered flight to Nili is delayed next day
so we must skip an audit visit to one of the clinics; we skip Dareyoos and head
to Oozmuk. We also want to see land for a new clinic building there. The
current Oozmuk clinic is old, expensive to heat and cannot handle the 70
patient load a day. CAI plans to build a new facility modeled after the modern,
fuel efficient one in Sachek to facilitate the growth. After the audit and
inspecting land donated by three villagers, we return to Nili for rest.
A benevolent dictator
Ali Yusufali, CAI CEO, is a dictator, albeit a
benevolent one. I suppose one has to be karrak
to survive in such circumstances. He is up and ordering us awake at 2:30AM next
morning; we are in the van and have departed Nili by 3:02, a two-minute delay
that causes the dictator much distress. I can see this zeal in every CAI
projects he touches; a quest for perfection. Right or wrong, works or not, the
drive to exactness stays. The grueling 16-hour drive is through some of the
most remote parts of Afghanistan, and perhaps the toughest terrain known to
mankind. We arrive Khajraan and immediately jump into ceremonies that officially
open the school. Yusufali goes over details on improvements he insists with the
contractor and we then spend the night in a mud-house at a nearby village. We
are requested, the next morning, to visit a poor, impoverished, remote area
where girls study under the sky. Due to a flooded river that make vehicle crossing
impossible, we abandon the van and trek through farmland, including crossing a
rickety wood bridge; I feel I am in an Indiana Jones movie! We approach the
area and my heart sinks. I think I have seen it all, but these poor girls studying
under the sun, trying to read and write is something else; CAI approves construction
of a school on the spot. Yusufali makes a point that CAI’s mission is to reach
out to such needy children and empower them in education. We now begin our
grueling 16-hour ride back to Nili, through very muddy roads due to the heavy
rains; the vehicle slips and slides, sometimes by the edge of a mountain cliff.
There is, at times, pin drop silence in the vehicle on these occasions. We
finally make it to Nili at night, safe but utterly drained.
A van, my feet, few horses and a donkey
Our day begins early next day, as we need to catch
another UN flight to Yawkawlang. My body is still recovering from two of
the most grueling days I can remember, but knowing that we have touched and were
able to make a difference in these children’s lives gives me the pep to press
on. We are greeted on the landing strip by our generous erstwhile host Jumsheed
and the security detail, of course. We head directly to the next site where a
very remote and poor village is tucked in between the mountains, and vehicles
have no access. So how do we get up there, I wonder? On horses or a donkey, so
say the mountains! I feel I have gone back in time. It is a challenge to stay
balanced on the temperamental animal I get. The climb up is hair-raising,
through steep paths of mud; my heart lurches to my mouth at some passes. The
path is a foot wide, with a sheer drop of thousands of feet to one side and
solid mountain on another, but the horses are adept.  As we approach, I see the UNICEF tents and my
heart sinks again. I remember my last trip when we were called to another village
and saw the children in this same situation; CAI immediately approved the
school which is today under construction. The CAI team discusses the
feasibility details with village elders; a final decision is pending. We head
back on horseback for another hour’s ride back to grab a quick bite; it is good
to be on solid ground again. Yusufali remarks his reproductive system is shot,
which initiates raucous mirth from our team but the maulana accompanying us turns scarlet; such talk is unheard of in
this deeply conservative society.
Water, water, water
We have 2 more projects to inspect before we return
to Kabul tomorrow but one must be axed, as the time does not cut us any lax;
Yusufali decides not to go to Sacheck medical clinic. Wise decision, as heavy
rains later in the day closes all roads to and from Sacheck; we would have
missed our return chartered flight to Kabul. We head to the water project underway
instead and work our way up to the mountains. Due to heavy rains, even our 4 x 4
struggle going up. The water project is well under way; the piping from the deep
water-well to the reservoir is complete. This project will supply potable water
to about 2,300 families for the next 25 years minimum, even with an annual
population growth rate of 10%. Completely out of time and energy, we settle
into Jamsheed’s warm, comfortable and hospitable house where we feast and
retire. We get moving early next day to catch our UN flight, which lands at the
strip 10 minutes ahead of time. The takeoff is both menacing and breathtaking
as the last time, with the 6-seat Kodiak single propelled aircraft seemingly
barely clearing the snowy, ragged mountaintop that seem within touching reach;
we land in Kabul 40 minutes later.
I think back at our harsh journey and the lives we
touched, how, in few short days, I will be back in my comfortable home with my
family, who have all the comforts in life; it feels good to be humbled in this
trip. As we approach Kabul airport, I feel a sense of return to civilization.
Kabul is on high alert; soldiers and cops everywhere, especially due to recent
elections, but a much more improved Kabul, with bustling streets and
construction everywhere. We get to Wasi’s house, freshen up and head to CAI
office. As a registered American NGO, CAI is obligated to set up an office for
operations, especially with the kind of infrastructure that CAI has in place in
Afghanistan. 
A promise kept

We meet the orphan girls of SGH the next morning. It
has been my mission, since last August, when I first met the girls and Yusufali
told me the need for a safer and more modern home for them, to raise the funds
to make this project possible. As a father, I want the best for my daughter,
especially her safety and wellbeing; there is no higher priority. Meeting these
wonderful children of God then, I got the same protective feeling. It’s been a
challenge all right, but the wonderful CAI fundraising team in NY did wonders
and made the impossible, possible. I hold back tears of joy watching their presentation
for us, our daughters at SGH. As I listen and watch, I think back at the past
few months; the long drives to various centers in the Tri-State area where we
presented CAI and the fundraising event, our efforts to sell tickets, the sheer
exhaustion and of sleepless nights, not knowing if everything will really come
together. With the grace of almighty Allah and overwhelmingly generous CAI
donors, we exceeded our fundraising goal. I would do it a 1,000 times over,
just to be able to experience this overwhelming feeling of sheer joy; how very
blessed I feel for being part of the CAI team and this project in particular.
We gather the girls and head to the site to lay the founding bricks. As each
CAI team member puts them in place, I thank my creator for His favor on the
promise I keep to our daughters at SGH. 

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