On Sunday, April 14th, our Afghan partner and I traveled to the western city where our projects are located. It was nice to have a companion for the journey. Going to this city is like entering another world in Afghanistan. It is much different than Kabul. Thankfully, it has not been damaged as much over the decades of war so there are avenues lined with huge pine trees. The entire city has mature trees (something you don’t see in Kabul) and parks with loads of trees and flowers. It seems to be a more “normal” city rather than a war zone…people going about their daily lives…shopping, taking children to school, visiting neighbors. All in all I prefer it to Kabul except for the fact that as a woman I am less free. I never saw a single woman who didn’t have a burqa or chador. I’m able to wear a long coat and head scarf but we had to be cautious not to attract unwarranted attention.
Our first project visit on Monday was to an area just outside the city to visit the tailoring course. My partner brought his family with us to help with the “attention” factor. This is the second course we have done for women in this area and will begin a third at the beginning of next month. Even though our partner had taken some wonderful photos and videos before it was such a pleasure to visit the young women for myself. There are 10 in each class ranging in age from 18 to 30…most of them being around the age of 20. Because this is such a poor area none of them have ever had the opportunity to go to school so having the opportunity to learn this skill is a huge benefit to they and their families. We passed out graduation certificates to everyone and our partner will present them with the supplies they need to start their business when they finish at the end of the month. These supplies are purchased for only $120. Anyone interested can give this amount for one of these young women on our website in Life Changing Gifts.
I was also able to meet one of the young women (17 years old) from our first class who now has a business in her home and the 26 year old woman from our remote village whose story was in my last blog. I had several questions for them which is such a new experience because never in their lives has someone asked them their opinion about anything. They would not take their chadors off or even let me fully see their faces.
We talked to the young woman about her business and what might help her be more successful. We concluded that we could help the women get more customers in their neighborhood if they had pieces of fabric that their customers could choose from rather than having to travel into the city to buy it. Our partner is going to try and find a wholesaler that would give us a good price for bulk purchases of fabric. The women are given their sewing machine and set-up supplies when they finish the course, but they would have to repay the loan for the fabric as they are able to make it into clothing for their customers.
After visiting the tailoring course I had the pleasure of taking my partner and his family to lunch at an Afghan restaurant which is something that they as a family had never done before. It was a treat for all of us to be able to spend time together. Our partner’s three sons are ages 12, 7 and 4. (photo below) His oldest son is a very intelligent boy and LOVES to go to school. Unfortunately, because they had to move several times he is only in the 3rd class instead of the 6th as he should be. The government school that he goes to will not let him take exams to advance to the grade that he should be in for his age. I discovered that the solution to this was that he attend a private school. I didn’t have the expense of educating children of my own so this was an easy decision for me. I gave the funds to our partner when I left yesterday so that he can attend the private school. I can tell that this young man will do well with every opportunity he is given.
After lunch we visited the jewelry project that we have been supporting since a good friend of mine began the project when she lived in this city for a year and a half. She taught the women to make the beautiful jewelry that we now sell on our website and the young Afghan woman you see in the photo below has carried on the project to employ the women. I collected some of the Pearls of Perseverance bracelets that were finished and we worked on some new designs as well.
The remainder of our time was spend sourcing raw materials…a very fine cashmere comes from this part of Afghanistan. I’m hoping we can employ some women make some beautiful infinity scarves and gloves that you will love.