KBI/Tzu Mission to Afghanistan and
With Coordination provided by the AFPC - Asia Pacific Initiative
July 29, 2002
Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan
We are now the Panjshir Valley in the home of Qudus Saad, who has been assisting us since we arrived in Kabul over a week ago. Yesterday, was spent mostly in just getting here from Bamiyan.
July 28th, 2002:
Our trip from Bamiyan to Panjshir should go down in some record book as the revenge of the tires. On the 27th, the day before our trip, we had a flat tire on each truck, and had them fixed in the bazaar in Bamiyan, so we would be ready for our trip.
When we arrived at the check point leaving Bamiyan province, we noticed that one of our tires was running severely low. We stopped and changed it. When we arrived at a village about an hour down the road, we stopped and had the tire fixed. (There are no tire machines in this part of the country, so everything was done by hand.)
Without going into a blow by blow account of tires giving way to the road and rocks, the end result is that we had 6 more flat tires between Bamiyan and the main loop road (about 10 hours of driving on dirt / rock roads). We did not pass any village without stopping and having one or more tires repaired. Twice we found ourselves traveling without a spare tire on either vehicle, just praying that we would not have a flat with no spare.
Qudus called ahead to Kabul and had a friend purchase four new tires for the trucks and bring them to us at the main loop road, at Jabalsharad, where we passed the main loop road to take the turn to Panjshir. At that point, we changed four rear tires to new tires and headed on up the Panjshir Valley.
What should have been a 7 hour drive turned into a 12 hour drive- with 5 of the hours spent fixing and changing tires.
The drive up the Panjshir to Qudus' village was breathtaking. Once there, we set up camp and communications (solar powered again - no electricity here) and went down to the river. The river here is a quickly flowing rapids- probably class 4 or 5. We found an eddy on the edge of the river where we bathed after dark, and Qudus got out his fishing net and caught 21 fish for dinner in about an hour.
We checked to see that the aid we brought has been delivered here. We saw the boxes still being unloaded from the truck in the village.
Tomorrow, we will visit a clinic and a school to determine needs and make donations of the materials we brought here.
July 29th 2002:
First thing this morning, we rented a truck and picked up all of the boxes of supplies that we had sent up to the Panjshir yesterday, and had sorted them out between medical supplies, coats, pants, and shoes.
We took samples of these items, including spiral notebooks that had been included in the shipment and went to the girls' school in this village, with an enrollment of about 340. We are in the village of Barzarak Kay Haas, and it is the Barzarak Kay Haas girls' school where we went.
We showed the teachers the samples. Most of the students were not there today because of a holiday. We arranged to provide enough clothes to give each student two pairs of lycra pants and a pair of jeans. We gave all of the spiral notebooks to the school.
While there, we asked the teachers what they needed the most. They said that they have not been paid for six months, and they did not know how long they could keep this up, when needing to tend to the needs of their families as well. We donated funds to the school to pay the salaries of the 17 teachers for one year, starting this past July 1st. This came to about $2000 since the teachers' salaries are $10 / month.
We also set up a construction / maintenance fund, to be administered by Qudus to make repairs to the tent structures, the desk, and chairs. These are items that the teachers have been paying for out of their own salaries. (when they had one). There are many repairs that are needed now.
There are many small clinics in this Panjshir Valley. Qudus, as the Afghanistan representative of Knightsbridge, is going to review the clinics, determine their needs, and take care of distributing the medical supplies we brought through here on an individual clinic-by-clinic basis.
We then drove quite a distance up one of the 21 side valleys that make up the Panjshir Valley, to a town called Parandee Valley, where we went to see a boys' school that had been built 2 years ago. Every structure in this valley had been destroyed by the Russians just before 1990 and then again, recently with the Taliban. This valley was the original home of Commander Massoud, and he was a large target of both factions.
This boys' school teaches 170 children. At this point, it is basically a mud and stone building, with no windows, doors, desks, or chalkboards. The Floors are dirt. We asked the school representatives and teachers what was needed the most. Being way up in the valley, the wind is ferocious. They said that they really needed to install doors and windows in the building. We estimated, from local carpenter pricing, that this would cost about $1,500. We made a site grant of $2,000 to the school, to be administered by Qudus to install the doors and windows. Any left overfunds will be spent on chalkboards.
We went further down the Panjshir Valley to visit the Mother / Daughter clinic in Rocha. Our friend we met last October in Koja-Baldeen - Sir Roddy Jones - had told us about work he and his group were doing at this clinic. He asked us to check in on the clinic to see if the solar equipment he installed recently was still working properly. The clinic uses solar electrical power for a vaccination refrigerator, and solar thermal for making hot water. They have two other solar electric systems running lighting in areas of special need- such as the emergency rooms. (There is no grid power in this area.)
All systems were working fine, and this clinic is one of the most well run and supported facilities we have come across in Afghanistan. We will be able to give a good report back to Roddy Jones.
One our way back to "camp" we stopped to pay our respects at the grave site of Commander Massoud. A structure is in the process of being erected there to honor his contribution to his country. He is from this part of the Panjshir Valley, and it is he who beat back the Russian forces in their nine attempts to take the Panjshir Valley.
The site for his grave is monumental. You can see all through the valley and the mountains on either side from this knoll. Massoud was and is one of the true heroes in Afghanistan, and in the world.
This ends the distribution of the original 3 containers (and then nine trucks) of supplies sent to Afghanistan by Knightsbridge, Tzu Chi, and many other generous donors. It has been an arduous task getting these goods shipped to the many different cities and recipients throughout northern Afghanistan, but after each distribution, we continue to reaffirm to each other that this is the only way to do this properly and with dignity: hand-to-hand,eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart. It takes longer, it is harder, and it is the right thing to do.
From here we will begin our journey back to Tashkent where we will regroup with our communications and determine what is to be done next. We still have no confirmation that our container of medical supplies has arrived in Cambodia, and we are waiting for further input to finalize schedules for the Philippines.
We will check back in from Tashkent.
Photos attached with this update include:
- 4333: Main road leaving Bamiyan
- 4361: Entrance to the Panjshir Valley
- 4382: Massoud's resting place still under construction
- 4394: Ed making presentation at Barzarak Kay Haas Girls' School
- 4400: Ed, Walt and Qudus at Girls School
- 4412: Ed, Walt and Qudus overlooking Panjshir Valley
- 4452: Inside Parandee Valley Boys School
Thanks again for all of your continuing support.
As always, please feel free to view this and past updates from this mission on our web site - www.kbi.org
Walt Ratterman, with Ed Artis and Adrian Belic
Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan
July 29th, 2002