2009 Year-end Letter

Hey Folks,

2009 was a great year for DAI  I  Hope to fit it all in four pages.

The short version

We built 26 classrooms in four villages for 36 thousand dollars. We now have built one library and 11 schools for a total of 66 classrooms in 8 years.  July 2009 was the 12th humanitarian trip in the past ten years.  Peace.

Tea and a biscuit version.

The flights to Kabul were uneventful which is always good. Fly Emirates whenever possible! The new Kabul International terminal was open and the process was smoother then before. It took less then an hour to depart the plane and check into the Mustaffa.

 

Brick by Brick, Pothole by pothole  The ride to the hotel put into detail the process it takes to rebuild even a small part of this dilapidated city not to mention what it will take to repair a country the size of Texas. Building and road construction abounds in Kabul. Slowly this city is starting to take shape but 5 million in a city for 2 will always lead to overcrowding and complaints that not enough is being done at the local level. The new powerline from Uzbekistan should enable the local media to have a wider audience now to lodge complaints like westerners do. Go on T.V. and complain that nothing is getting done.

 

Before heading to visit last summers schools I had made plans to travel to Herat and visit Camp Stone Arrangements had been made to meet with General Zawari (Ali Jan) of the Afghan Army stationed in Herat. Ali Jan is from Garmob where we have a 6 room school. I found out after my visit to Herat that his brother had helped me pass out pens and notebooks to the school children. I also was informed that he had passed away earlier in 2009. Ali Jan and I had hopes of working together to build a school in a remote area of the province. I decided after several meetings that I wasn’t comfortable with its overall success after I left for home. Several key links in the process had not been established. IE a prominent village leader or village that was prepared to build a school. It was my lack of communication that eventually led to deferring all funds back to the Hezerajat region. Needless to say Qasimi was happy when I gave him the news.

 

The trip out of Kabul with Qasimi  took a few days to organize, I spent the time with Haji drinking tea and touching base with friends, contacts, and setting up home base. The night before we left I stayed with Qasimi and his entourage of guards and drivers assembled for an early start the next day.

 

Qasimi doesn’t discuss security with me, I’m ready to go in 3 minutes at all times (90%)  the next morning was no different. We slurped some chai and hopped in the same car together. We rarely travel together due to security. Better to lose one then two I suppose. I don’t ask, just observe.  The drive out of Kabul was tranquil enough as we took every possible bad side road out of town. We eventually hit 1 A and blacktop. After the final security check south of Kabul the road was open free of cars for the 1st 15 miles until we hit a caravan of tractor trailers and military vehicles.

 

Ah so this is what the surge is all about. Literally for miles the road would be clogged with this convoy of huge bucket loaders and conex containers all to support the surge in the South. The road was literally swamped with US, Afghan army and Afghan militia all in support of moving the equipment south. In a situation like this one can look at it two ways. 1st  with all this firepower securing every stretch of the road we should be OK or two. If all these guys are here to secure the convoy who’s to say when the Taliban would strike in hopes of hitting a full tanker of diesel fuel. These stories usually follow the one about nothing getting accomplished. Personally after the past few years of hiding under a scarf pretending to be sleeping being able to observe the lack of action in front of us was  comforting. 2009 was the only time I can remember stopping along the way, and both times it was due to a military convoy slowing down traffic. Not complaining just putting it in some kind of perspective

 

Not to be out done by the display I observed on 1 A, the next morning Qassimi went to great lengths securing the road for us to travel. Dozens of men had been placed along the road and on top of the mountains and its lower hillsides the night before to secure safe passage for Qassimi and I. We were able to drive the stretch of road I had been ambushed on two years earlier and felt safe as the men returned my wave of thanks.

 

ESERAK

After a quick stop at a bazaar for chai and a few nibbles of nan we headed for Doab. Eserak is on the way and our first stop in a 10 village tour. The 3 room school was built with funds raised for Wais Faizi. A year over due but for $3.500 not a bad structure at all. The younger children were attending school, like all the other schools in various stages of final exams before summer break. There was one teacher moving from room to room answering questions and keeping them on task. It was a brief visit, to brief.  I thought I would have a chance to stop again on my way out of town. That didn’t happen we left suddenly without notice one night after sunset.

 

Doab is a ten minute drive from Eserak. We made another quick stop to check in with the district Governor as well as exchange a few guards and vehicles for the next leg of the journey. I thought we would stay the evening there but Qasimi had other ideas as we left Doab for Alton

 

Alton

We made the trip to Alton in about an hour and a half just before the sun was setting. We stopped at the 8 room school again just long enough to inspect the work and take a few photos. The children had already left for the day which was expected. I was pleased with the progress of the school. Windows and doors were still needed as well as a corner of the roof needed to be finished, at dinner I was assured that the village still had enough funds for completing the project.  They tried explaining to me the reason for the school not being completed. I hadn’t asked and waved my hand and said that I was quite happy with the progress especially considering that they had built a much larger and stronger school then I expected. Leaving last summer I was concerned that if the fighting in Behsud had spread the school would not have been started as the men would be called to bear arms in defense of the region.

 

Borjigai

We were up and out before the sun and arrived at the village of Borjigai before school had started. We chuckled as the 1st of the primary aged girls arrived and scurried into a classroom hoping to go unnoticed. Like Alton, windows, doors and part of the roof needed to be completed but again like Alton they had the funds to finish the project. While waiting for the students to arrive Qasimi and I sat with the village men for breakfast of chai, nan fresh doughnuts and warm milk with sugar. We stayed long enough for speeches and photos and hit the road for our 1st school project in Safidab Borjigai

 

Safidab Borjigai

An hour down the road atop a mountain a group of boys and girls were waiting to greet us with speeches and songs. The village men agreed to start work the next day on another 8 room school the 1st of three to be built with funds raised to Honor Tom Stone

 

The school will be located near a new clinic that is being built which will allow for quick access to local medical care when needed.

 

The lamb was in the pot stewing away but that didn’t stop us from moving on to our next stop something different from years past. Mr Qasimi had a small window of time and we still had seven villages to make stops in. Garmob was our next stop, after 3 days on the road a warm bath sounds good.

But as we came around a corner I realized we would have to for go the bath. A delegation of boys and girls were lined up in rows across the road from the tents they called school. By midnight we had contracted another 8 room school for boys and girls in Tobi- Garmob.

 

By seven the next morning we were waiting our turn for a bath at the Hamam in Garmob.  After that we stopped by the Garmob school for my 1st visit in two years. We stayed a couple hours, long enough to make a few speeches, shake some hands and inform Garmob that they had close to $1,500 to spend on school improvements. Girls outhouses, paint, carpet and school supplies were just several of the needs that were scratched off their wish list.

 

From Garmob we started back towards the southern part the lake bed to a village called Bariki  a location I have been hoping to build a school for several years now. If you take a look at the home page of my website you will see two men arms on each others shoulder. These two guys were my driver and security one year and on a slow day drove me down to the other end of the lake bed. Bariki just so happens to be their home village. The photo is also from the southern part of the lakebed near Bariki.

 

When we arrived the village men and school children were waiting with speeches and songs and carpets and pillows from their homes laid out for our comfort. After the speeches Chai and cookies were served, I decided to spend some time at the tents taking pictures. The school children followed me over like a swarm of blackflies on a hot spring day. I spent the time documenting the tents with students looking at this stranger who was smiling and shaking hands and asking questions all the while taking photos

 

Another late night was in store as we waited for village elders to arrive. Dinner was served and an agreement was made for another 4 room school for both boys and girls. The 3rd and final one built for Tom and friends.

 

The next morning after Chai and Nan, Qasimi and I had a brief meeting in Private. I had just over $6000 left in funds. We could spend it now or save it for next year. Qasimi is no fool. If I can get the village to agree would you be willing to pay back the 1,500 we are short for a 6 room school upon your return next summer? I assured Qasimi that the 1`st $1,500 would be for the village of Bid

 

Bid

Bid is 45 minutes North of Doab over the Dachti – Navar lava domes (Google Earth) which we drive over and through to get there. The village was not expecting us. It took a few minutes to find anyone in the village until a young boy came over and pointed up the road. The men were at the Mosque which was where we found them. Qasimi banged out our last agreement while I sat in the next room swatting flies trying to land on my face as I tried to nap as the school boys just stared at the Ferengi. The agreement was made in short time and after a few handshakes and photos we were off for Daob and a day  watching a Loya Jirga take place something I won’t soon forget.

 

 

 

2010

Fundraising has been strong so far. Enough to build 20 more classrooms and we still have 5 months before I head out in late June. I know we will build several schools in the Doab region of Northern Ghazni but also have hopes of working with the Vermont Guard who are stationed in Afghanistan for 10 months starting in March.  I’m hopeful but also realize their change of mission might make it a difficult task to fit in. Either way the money will be well spent this summer

 

Almost Done

2009 marked the 10th year and 12th trip I have made to what is considered a war torn part of the world. I have seen and experienced more then one would imagine or can begin to account. It’s hard sometimes to describe what my trips have been like, especially in a few brief words.

 

What I can tell you is that I have had a blast doing the work and look forward to continuing these trips until the money runs dry. Not sure when but when it happens I will let you know. Until then be assured that this year as well as 2011 you will get an e-mail or a letter in the mail letting you know what we accomplished and what to expect in the future.

 

In the past ten years, twelve trips we have been able to make a significant difference in the lives of the people who we have supported. I still get updates from Arsim in Kosova concerning the progress or lack of within the families day to day lives. Always upbeat, always thankful, always saying hello to everyone.

 

From our start ten years ago with livestock, food and fire wood we have grown with each passing year. We now have eleven schools, one library and 20,000 notebooks we can add to the list of accomplishments. Your support has been the key. I thank you for your trust.

 

I have to acknowledge several people. Mr. Qasimi is a critical part of our success. I would not be able to be as safe or successful without his assistance. I can also tell you he is ready to do it again this year

He was more pumped then I was when we looked back on our 5 day 10 village tour. We should show others how we do it! I agreed with a smile knowing that most are not really interested in how we do it.

 

We can thank Krenar for the fact that I have a website and answers frantic late night calls from Kabul telling me how to connect to the web. Communication is essential and over the years has spent countless hours keeping my equipment and website running

 

You can rest assured that I do not account for the funds DAI receives in the mail. I leave that to Sharon. If I had to do what she does for DAI I wouldn’t bother going. In part because of a wonderful women and her remarkable ability to reach out to friends and family of Tom Stone, Rose Loving and her efforts last year built a total of 20 classrooms and a possible 20 more this year as well. You Keep Going,

I’ll get Sharon a carpet from Haji.

I’m out of space folks. I hope that all is well in your world.

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan