Day 6, Saturday March 19

Day 6, Saturday March 19                                  

Today was huge, we packed in several inspiring activities starting with a visit to a local school. It was a suburban private school which catered for girls in the morning and boys in the afternoon, funded by small monthly payments from parents. The female principal had a message for us regarding Western aid, which often misses the mark in terms of delivery. She said the greatest need is to train professional teachers, not to build new school buildings which often cannot be used because of the shortage of trained teachers. She also expressed her view about the future: “if the foreign troops leave we will have a better chance for peace. We should do it by ourselves. And instead of spending money on war, we should spend it on education.”

We brought with us about 40 trees for planting with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers to commemorate the coming Spring and to symbolise the AYPV’s campaign of nonviolence.

Tree Planting with our friends

We planted the trees together (apple, almond, various fruit trees), Afghan and internationals. The peace volunteers read a poem talking about planting “a different kind of tree.” Then the students came out to play – the cutest little girls, some a bit shy, others curious about us strange-looking foreigners. 

Students at the school

 

Cutie pies!

 

After that we went to a hospital in central Kabul run by ‘Emergency’ an Italian NGO funded by private donors, therefore politically neutral and independent. They have clinics in various parts of Afghanistan, but this hospital caters specifically for victims of war, with a grim list of criteria for admission: gunshot wounds, stab wounds and wounds from shells and mines. It is the only hospital of its type in Kabul, most western aid here, the hospital director observed is according to political need, not the needs of the people. A similiar observation to the teacher’s this morning.    

Doctors said most people just turn up at the front gate with their wounds, either arriving by bus or car, and – in the spirit of neutrality – are accepted with no questions asked. Most public hospitals in Afghanistan won’t accept patients if they come alone because the hospital want a guarantee that family members will come each day to care and feed the patient. I asked what the most common wounds were, and they said gunshots wounds, the theory being that the more foreign soldiers there are patrolling the cities, the more gunfights there are and locals end up in the middle.  It was a sobering tour as we walked through wards, and saw people, including many children in their beds, knowing there was a story behind every person, and every wound. Looking at the children’s faces, I became overwhelmed and had to walk away. Here’s a picture of two boys with hand wounds.

Injured boys at the hospital

Tonight we shared a beautiful ceremony to remember the victims of the various wars waged in Afghanistan over the years. We were reminded that after three decades of war, virtually every family in Afghanistan has lost someone to violence. “Peace can never be found in darkness,” one speaker said. “When Kabul was bombed there was darkness and where there is darkness there is fear. We are lighting the candles while people are being killed by the politics of war. In the name of peace may this end.” We lit our candles and shared 2 minutes silence then the boys read the names of nine Afghan children recently killed by NATO forces in Kunduz. If we read all the names of those killed in war, it would have taken a year. It was a moving time as we responded the only way we could: we are sorry.

Silence for the victims of war

Candle light vigil for the victims of war

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