Afghanistan Once Again – Part Two

Afghanistan Once Again – Part Two

Afghanistan Once Again – Part Two 150 150 ComfortAid International
…continued from Afghanistan Once Again – Part One:
Back to Nili airport and off to Yakawlang!
The unholy hour of 3:30 strikes again! Our alarm clock is none
other than Yusufali himself. Somehow he is always first awake and manages to
find a place between snoring heads to place a jaanamaaz! We take turns to do
wudhu and only few can join him in jama’a. While some prepare breakfast, three
of us head up a small hill next to the clinic for sunrise exercise; food tastes
a lot better when the body actually needs it.
Later, it’s another two hours of wadi / rock bashing in Sher
Hussain’s 4×4 van. The route is mostly uninhabited; we pass few children going
to school initially, the rest of the way is boulders and we. Some rocks seem to
tell tales, how eras of frigid and windy weather shaped them. I cannot help but
wonder how this weather affects children here.
We reach Nili town, spend a few blissful minutes at an antiquated Internet
café but are summoned to the airstrip in a huff – our chartered Pactec flight
is running ahead of schedule. Off we go to Yawkawlang, to the third CAI operated
clinic in Sacheck. The flight is an
adrenaline-pumping treat; the pilot dives steep, then flies vertical about four
feet above ground before lifting into a steep climb, turns around and makes a
rather bumpy landing. This dramatic maneuver is to ensure there are no large
rocks or animals on the rarely used landing strip.
Jamshed is there to drive us to the clinic in Sacheck. As we
approach the clinic, we notice some retreating students; Jamshed explains they
were expecting us earlier, some waiting at the clinic few hours to meet
Yusufali but now returning home disappointed; its Zohur when we reach the clinic.
A program ensues soon after salaat with thank you lectures, poems and loads of
requests. Engineer Bashir takes the microphone and stresses the need to
stabilize the situation in Sacheck for continuity of clinic services and other
projects like this.
Dr. Zia Afzal, our resident doctor, says he daily sees around hundred
patients despite the fact another NGO clinic is closer to Yakawlang town, some
two hours away. This is because of superior quality and reliability of a doctor
and medicines at CAI clinic. We learn doctor Zia (like Dr. Sardar of Uzmuk) has
recently married and intends to settle in Australia in the near future; that
means CAI is looking for three doctors – Dr. Asif has a lot of responsibility
on his shoulders.
A staff meeting proceeds where various issues of the clinic are
discussed. A very important point Yusufali emphasizes is funds to run this
clinic are donated from regular hardworking Momineen – so the need to safeguard
every every dime wisely, carefully, judicially. It is well received and I think
the staff are left with renewed zeal.
Yusufali, Wasi and Basheer break away from the group and inspect
construction of a new adjacent clinic building. Yusufali informs me all the
work seen completed (in the photos) was achieved in just a month. The
construction underway is the very first clinic built by CAI; all others operate
in hired mud-houses.
Herat – the pearl of Khurasaan

We spend a most hospitable night at Jamshed’s residence in the village
of Yawkawlang; enjoy the best dinner of the entire trip here. After another
3:30 morning climbing another hill, and bathing in a pubic hammam of Yawkawlang,
we head back for the airstrip. Though it makes no geographic sense, we fly from
Yawkawlang, to Kabul (eastward) and then to Heraat, the very west of
Afghanistan (bordering Iran); it is a cost driven decision. Heraat is known as
the cultural and educational center of the historic Khurasaan, the pearl of Khurasan.
The next morning (here fajr is at 3:00 am, but we are allowed some
rest after salaat) we start with the first orphanage constructed by CAI six
years ago; Imam Baqir (A) Trust of Kuwait manages it. There are some thirty
orphans here; this number will dramatically increase once new admissions starts
later. CAI sponsors English and computer tuition teachers plus daily milk.
Al Zahra Township is a set of hundred houses built by CAI for
sadaat families; all but four are occupied. We grab the chance to enter one home
to photograph the inside. Each house is nearly identical with a room, attached
hammam, kitchen and hall. The toilet is outside in the veranda, following local
custom. There is an empty plot of land next to it that is being considered for
a masjid or an orphanage.
We spend the next hour trying to identify a piece of land nearby
that is for sale. CAI is trying to locate one close to a good school so the
girl orphans can walk to it. Since there are no official deeds to land in this
part of Heraat (the outskirts) it is difficult to identify who owns what land.  Unfortunately, after much
running around, we learn a plot for sale we like is not suitable, and quite a
lot more expensive than initially thought; the idea is abandoned.
We proceed to Imam Baqir ul Uloom School where nine hundred
students study here in two shifts. The school is the second of its kind run by a
local Aalim and is yet to gain complete recognition by the authorities so it
gets no financial support, unlike the first. Yusufali asks the manageress
(Khanum Moosavi) what the school needs most urgently so CAI pledges a high
quality computer for the administration office to manage the records of the
students, print out study material for photocopying etc.
Our next stop is near a busy marketplace – a gigantic building
which seems to be a part of Iran more than Heraat, with yellow brick walls and
blue tiled calligraphy; it is Madrasah Ilmiyah Sadeqiya. Here we discuss more
about the second Baqir ul Uloom school grim situation and Yusufali commits to
paying six months rent. After praying in the largest congregation I see in
Afghanistan, we meet twenty students who have been sponsored by CAI to study in
Sadeqiya. These hail from Talibaan controlled Helmand Province, where minority
religions are not free to practice their faith. CAI aim is to educate these in
religious / secular subjects so they can return to Helmand and be catalysts for
change. A series of question and answers follows between them and Yusufali with
Bashir as the interpreter:
Yusufali: Are you happy here?
Nod of heads.
Yusufali: Do you want anything else here?
Now the heads move the other way – surprisingly they do not want
anything more.
Agha Jibraeeli adds the students get everything that they need
here – stay, food, drink, books and stationery.
Yusufali: Do you
miss your parents?
A child: yes, but we prefer to study here. And we go home sometimes.
A teacher requests more CAI sponsored students. Yusufali suggests
we should discuss after this current batch completes a year of studies. There
are requests for water wells in Nauzad, Helmaand and a few more wells in
another province near Helmaand; Wasi briskly takes notes of the requests. They
ask how long it will take for Yusufali to make a decision; to my astonishment,
Yusufali agrees to four wells immediately, more depending on funds; Wasi is not
surprised.
Before we head to the airport for Kabul next morning, we make a
quick trip to a bakery that is run by a recipient of CAI micro finance loan. It
is doing very well and the loan is paid back on schedule. Yusufali makes a wish
of the young gentleman – I want to see multiple branches of the bakery in
various parts of Heraat, in Kabul and all over Afghanistan. These bakeries
should then financially help CAI projects in Afghanistan.
Once out of Kabul Airport we head straight to the girls orphanage
that is run by CAI in Shujaaee’s Corolla; the dilapidated orphanage hosts sixteen
little angels. They school at Khatim un Nabieen School and will be studying
English at the orphanage by a dedicated teacher soon. It is operated in a
rented building that Yusufali is not happy with at all – the kitchen ceiling
caved in last winter; even then, it is nowhere close to the standards of the
Herat orphanage. Although the ceiling is repaired, there is possibility of
other parts of the building giving way during the rains this year, so it is
agreed another location be pursued and the orphanage relocated into before the
rains. Within three years insha’Allah, funds permitting, a brand-new purpose
orphanage is to be constructed.
While uncle Aliakbar and Yusufali proceed to Wasi’s residence to
call it a day, Basheer, Shujaaee and I proceed to a slum area called Daste
Barchi, just outside the main city. This is where tons of refugees settled
during instability of Talibaan war. CAI has built a huge school here that is
now run by the government. I cannot believe the numbers students it serves from
thirty-six classrooms – nearly five thousand! Before you begin calculating the
number of students per class, consider it runs in three shifts. The average of fifty-five
is still too high; much more than we are accustomed to.
I also visit a CAI sponsored Hussainiya next to the school. It is
an all-inclusive facility with a hall for ladies and gents on two separate
floors, a ghusl-khaana with arrangements for ghusle mayyit, toilets, kitchen
and a guard’s room. Since no function is planned today, I am limited to simply
photographing the facility.
Later at night Yusufali treats us to the best kabab restaurant in
town; (I recall this is our first meal outside as such; how we have been
continuously hosted by one person or the other) all people who have little in
common with us except they respect CAI for what she is doing for Afghans. It is
definitely not an individual effort, rather a community that has come together
under the leadership of Yusufali to help their own people.

By Muslim
Faisal

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