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KBI/Tzu Mission to Afghanistan and Cambodia

With Coordination provided by the AFPC - Asia Pacific Initiative

July 20, 2002
Aibak, Afghanistan

Greetings:

For the past two days, we have been meeting our trucks in Aibak, unloading the supplies to be delivered in Aibak, and distributing the goods.

July 19, 2002

This morning we met with the truckers at a petrol / tea station outside of Aibak. This is the first time we have seen them since loading the trucks on July 10th.

After making plans for the entire distribution, we sent a convoy of 7 of the 9 trucks ahead to Kabul. We decided to keep all of these trucks together as long as possible for security reasons. We led the other two trucks to Aibak to deliver goods for the school and for the hospital.

Our plan is to complete our distribution here in Aibak on Friday and Saturday. We will then leave for Kabul to meet the other seven trucks. We will unload 4 of them there, and then lead the other three to Bamiyan. The trucks we unload today, will head back to Tashkent this evening.

Today, we unloaded everything off of the two Aibak trucks and they returned to Tashkent. We delivered over 200 boxes of medical supplies and an x-ray machine to the hospital, and hundreds of boxes of clothes to the school. These boxes included over 4,500 articles of new clothing. The school also received a computer and 15 boxes of books, and about 200 blankets.

Luckily, Aibak was able to come up with a crane, which we hired to unload the Sun Oven. We worked until after dark to get the Sun Oven uncrated and assembled.

We wanted to be ready for tomorrow to concentrate on distributing the supplies at the girls' school, and running a demonstration class about the sun oven. The day was long and hot but working late proved worth it. We were doing our work in the courtyard of the girls' school on their day off from school (Friday). Tomorrow, there will be over 2500 girls in this courtyard, and we would not want to be disrupting their normal routine unloading a sun oven with a crane, and taking up most of the yard to uncrate and assemble it.

July 20, 2002

We arrived at the girls' school early (6:30) and spent all day there until about 6:00 p.m. Again, a very hot, dry day. We were treated in the middle of the day to quite a dust storm to make it even more interesting.

In the early morning hours, we finished preparing the sun oven and getting ready for demonstrating its use to some handpicked teachers and students. We then met in the headmaster's office with the Governor and much of the school staff to discuss what we hoped to accomplish today. We wanted to distribute the clothing and blankets we brought to the poorer of the students and teachers. We wanted to show the school staff the books we brought and deliver them to their library. And finally, we wanted to run a class on the sun oven, and hopefully do some cooking on it.

Luckily, we were able to accomplish all of these goals.

Today was exam day, so when the exams were done, around 10:00, we started distributing blankets and clothes to the girls chosen by the teachers and the headmaster as being the most in need. Each class came up to our distribution point (in the sun) one at a time, and then the teachers and headmaster decided which students in that class were to get the aid. This worked very smoothly, and we were able to complete this distribution by around 1:00. Shortly after that, school let out and the courtyard was empty, and ready for our work on the sun oven.

The teachers and headmistress had hand picked six girls and 3 teachers to be initially involved in the workings of the sun oven. We explained that the purpose of the oven was three fold. First it is a teaching tool, teaching the students in the benefits and realities of solar cooking so that when they are out on their own, they will feel comfortable using solar ovens in their homes, and help stop the deforestation that has been taking place. Second, they can cook food, without having to pay for fuel, for the students, and third, they can use the oven as the centerpiece of a micro-enterprise - both as a class and as a real business. They will be able to cook baked goods without having to pay for fuel, and they will be able to sell these baked goods, using the income to purchase school supplies that they are so badly in need of.

The demonstration went well. There are only a few moving parts in the solar oven, and some very basic maintenance and setup instructions, and everybody understood well how this worked. We could tell though, that there was some reluctance to attempting to cook in the oven. So, we asked them to bring some things to cook and we would try it. They brought bread dough that we helped to knead and form into thick round loaves. We baked the bread for about an hour and a half, and they came out very tasty. This seemed to change their thinking about the oven. They then brought out tomatoes, onions, rice, oil, and lamb. These ingredients were all prepared and mixed together to make a big pot of polow. We put this in the oven to cook like a crock pot for a couple of hours. The headmistress stayed with us the whole time, and showed a lot of interest in the equipment.

The oven worked fine, even though for most of the afternoon, we were hit with dust storms, and lots of clouds. The oven averaged 325 degrees F. Its directions say it typically runs at 400 to 500 degrees, so the difference was the lack of direct sun.

When we finished the cooking, we demonstrated how to dismantle the oven and move it around the compound. The headmaster wanted to put it under roof over night for protection, and the workers at the school took care of stowing it. It appeared that they would have no problem getting it out, setting up the reflectors, and cooking with it from here on.

Before we left for the day, the headmaster made a point to get us all together to tell us how much he appreciated the supplies we brought to the school - especially the "big donation"- the sun oven.

It all worked out very well, because on our last trip, the school was in shambles and we could not see how they could be in operation any time soon. And here they are with over 2500 students!! The NGO director for the Province - GOAL - working with UN groups, had provided some additional outside temporary classrooms to take the overflow, and additional sanitation facilities. The school still needs running water, electricity, and a replacement building with 6 to 10 classrooms. We will be trying to co-ordinate with Samaritan's Purse to see if they can place any of the wells that they have contracted for under USAID here at the school.

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The past couple of weeks have been difficult: physically, yes, but more importantly, mentally. It is tough when you feel like you have to fight for the right to deliver support into these areas, with little or no help coming from many directions. There have been a few great friends - at the Afghan side of the border crossing, in Kabul, and back in the US - without whom we would not be here, or without whom we would have already turned back, and to these friends we are extremely grateful. We can only hope that the word gets out how extremely difficult it is to do this work, with the hopeful outcome being that more people will assist in these efforts - or at least learn to not say NO, and just stay out of the way. Then, maybe, many more NGO's can feel comfortable in being able to come here to help these individuals that so deperately need it. We will continue to try to do our part to get this message out.

Of course, it helps make it all worth it, when we are finally able to get the aid, eye to eye, hand to hand, heart to heart - directly to those who need it.

Tomorrow, we are travelling to Kabul to unload and distribute goods for three orphanges, and the Friends of Afghan Reconstruction. We are also delivering the second sun oven to Mercy Corps in Kabul.

Photographs included with this update are:

  • 3764: Part of the Convoy of trucks leaving Aibak for Kabul.
  • 3776: Unloading the Sun Oven in Aibak at the Girls' School
  • 3804: Ed and Walt at the Sun Oven
  • 3809: Ed, the Governor, Headmaster, and Headmistress in the temporary Supply Room for the Girls' School.
  • 0577: Walt and Ed distributing clothes and blankets to the girls at the girls' school.
  • 0620: Temporary Unicef Classroom Tents at Aibak Girls' School

Until next time we are,

Walt Ratterman, with Ed Artis and Adrian Belic
Knightsbridge International
Aibak, Afghanistan
July 20, 2002

www.kbi.org

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