Arduous Journey from South Bend to South Asia

“Indiana Jones would be jealous of me,” said CRS board member Carolyn Woo as her truck bumped up and down the mountains of northeast Pakistan. On a visit to see CRS projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Woo–Dean of the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame in Indiana–has already experienced some adventure travel.

Afghan visit

CRS board member Carolyn Woo visits CRS projects in Afghanistan. Woo is Dean of the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame in Indiana. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

Last week, Woo arrived in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. “I went through five airports,” she laughs, describing her journey from South Bend to South Asia. On Monday, Woo traveled to Pakistan’s Kashmir mountains, braving hairpin turns on rugged roads to inaugurate one of many primary schools CRS has built there following a devastating earthquake in 2005.

On Wednesday, she visited Mardan, where thousands of people who fled fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistani army are staying as they wait for the all-clear to go home. CRS has built hundreds of thatched-roof shelters and new latrines for the displaced people, and given them non-food essentials like mats to sleep on.

On Thursday, Woo took a small plane from Kabul to the remote town of Chaghcharan, Afghanistan. She walked through wheat fields and green terraces grown on formerly barren land with the help of CRS irrigation systems. Friday she visits villages which experienced drought and near-starvation for years; many families had to move to camps run by aid agencies when they couldn’t grow enough food to feed their families. This year, CRS has fixed miles of canals to channel melted snow and spring water from the Afghan mountains to farmland farther down. Farmers are paid to fix the canals, and are able to plant and harvest wheat that grows in the irrigated fields.

CRS staff in remote areas are delighted that Dean Woo has made the difficult trek to see their work. “Dean Woo has made a trip that is arduous, to say the least,” says Matt McGarry, Country Representative for CRS Afghanistan. “She is one brave lady.”

– reported by Laura Sheahen, CRS regional information officer for Asia and the Pacific Rim

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