CRS President Ken Hackett is currently traveling in Afghanistan where he’s seen behind the headlines, into the country and its people – a country where something as simple as a book can change lives.
“I have been thoroughly impressed by the vitality of the Afghan people, their ingenuity, their toughness and their desire that there be a better future than what they’ve experienced over the last 30 years.
For example, I met a man who is a leader in his particular village, where he is promoting programs for young girls and women’s education. The man had been a refugee in Iran, and when he came back a few years ago, having spent time during the Soviet occupation in Iran, his village was totally destroyed. He and his neighbors rebuilt the entire village and beautifully crafted homes, walls and compounds. They also beautifully tailored fields of wheat nearby. They worked hard, hoping for a better life for their children, and are doing great things to make that happen. And that was kind of awe-inspiring.
One thing that really impressed me here, in Herat, was the girls’ education program. In some of the communities, no one is able to read, except these young girls. In one of the homes, we set up a small library with about 60 to 120 books on various topics. It’s a marvelously uplifting kind of thing where these teenagers, learning to read for the first time, bring something home to their parents that is going to change their lives. It didn’t cost a lot of money, but it is making a powerful impact.
Another program that really impressed me is a program where we provide cash assistance to people to do civil work in the community. They clean out these long underground tunnels which allow water to go through irrigation streams and into the villages. These are 200 to 300 meter tunnels, 50 meters under the ground that have to be cleaned out. Some were destroyed during the Soviet attacks on the country and others were just left to fill in with gravel. People also put in dam structures along river banks so that the water can be used for irrigation. This kind of work is very labor intensive and hard work but I noticed that the Afghan people are not opposed to hard work.
I haven’t been here for very long but what I’ve noticed about the Afghan people is that they’re people determined to have a better life. I found that they are a sturdy lot and they work very, very hard. You can see it in their villages, in their homes and how they construct them, but like most people, they want peace. They want a life for themselves and their families that is not tormented by turmoil or war. They want a better future for their children. And they just want to be left to themselves so they can prosper on their own. They are not hostile to anyone. They’re just looking for a peaceful, better future. It is really heartwarming to see their expectations and to hear what they have to say about their future. They’re hopeful.”
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