Fahima Vorgetts’s Report on her September 2003 trip to Afghanistan

Dear Friends:

Most of you know that I am a board member of Women for Afghan Women, an organization dedicated to helping Afghan women in Afghanistan and in the United States. In Sept. 2003, I traveled to Afghanistan as part of a delegation from Women for Afghan Women to participate in our third annual conference in Kandahar. The conference, which emphasized the new Afghan constitution, was an enormous success. We worked very hard to bring many women from all over Afghanistan to participate in the future of their country. We focused on policies and law and struggled over how to bring changes that were consistent with the lives of Afghan women. The conference was inspiring. We all left feeling that we had participated in a process of change that will ultimately have a positive effect on all women in Afghanistan.

My trip to went beyond attending the conference. My life's work has involved empowering women in Afghanistan by helping to build their educational and financial resources. My focus has always been on giving women the tools they need to be self-sufficient. The key to self-sufficiency is education, ranging from basic literacy to advanced education and vocational skills.

I focused on the following projects during my visit:

1. We visited some of our classes and income-generating programs for women. For example, together with two WAW sisters, I attended sewing classes and one embroidery class. The students in these classes graduated the next day and graduates now have the skills to earn a living. All our vocational training students must also take literacy classes.

2. We distributed 41 sewing machines to various sewing classes, some sponsored by HOOWA (Humanitarian Organization for Orphans and Widows of Afghanistan) and others by another organization.

3. We opened two more sewing classes and one additional embroidery class.

4. We opened six more literacy classes, which accommodate a total of 135 women.

5. We gave 53 widows in a very poor and devastated area of Parwan province north of Kabul 15 chickens each. They can use these to sell eggs and breed more chickens, thereby generating income to support their families.

6. We distributed winter clothes to over 100 people in this village. Winters are brutally cold and many villagers have no warm blankets, clothes or homes.
7. We helped refurbish a well for a village by providing the water pump and other necessary equipment. Prior to our arrival, the women of this village had to travel more than a kilometer to bring water to their homes for their daily needs.

8. We met with family of a little girl who is suffering from scleroderma and provided funds so they can arrange a passport to come to the U.S. where the child can be treated by specialists. At present there is no treatment for this condition in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Even the child's laboratory tests could not be read in Afghanistan and had to be shipped to Germany because there are no properly equipped medical laboratories in the country. We are now arranging a medical visa for her and are in contact with doctors who are willing to treat her.

9. We provided funds to two organizations {HOOWA and Bakhtar} to assist with their embroidery and sewing businesses. In two weeks Bakhtar earned back half of the money was invested in the projects. Each organization has employed approximately 25 women. All the profits go to the individuals who make the products.

10. We opened a school in Zari Dasht Kandahar for internally displaced people. The school accommodates about 1500 girls and boys. We also aided in the expansion of two more schools from 410 students to 870 and 365 to 650. We paid the teachers' salaries, provided blackboards and gave school supplies to over 5000 students. The schools are not yet registered with the department of education, but I formed a committee of three women who will arrange the registration process so that the teachers can be paid on an ongoing basis. We have received e-mails from them indicating that all the necessary steps are being taken to make these arrangements, but it takes a while, perhaps few months, to be fully registered. Until then I need to raise the money to pay the salaries of the teachers (around $1500 /month, total).

11. We provided a generator and other equipment for a shower for women and children in one of the refugee camps.

12. We provided several AOHREP offices (Afghanistan Organization for
Human Rights and Environmental Protection) with stationary and furniture.

13. We provided financial assistance to two destitute families in Khairkhana, who are helping us with our literacy classes.

14. We formed a committee to assist several widows to buy cows. The women plan to sell the milk and use the money to support their families. Altogether, there are fifteen widows in this village of 100 families who need help. I promised to help them with their needs. Altogether, we must raise $6000 to take care of fifteen families, consisting of about 6-8 members/family.

15. We brought computers from the U.S to HOOWA to open computer classes for girls and women. These classes will be free of charge.

16. We helped 50 returning refugee families in Shamali, north of Kabul, to take care of their immediate needs. I need to raise $7500 to meet the additional needs of refugees.

17. When I lived in Afghanistan in my early adulthood, I taught in many schools. One of them, which is still operating today, contacted me and requested help. They cannot obtain drinking water without a well, which will cost around $2200. This covers the cost of digging the well, purchasing and installing a generator, and laying the pipes.

18. Last year I opened a school in the refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan.
With the help of HAWCA (Humanitarian Assistance for Widows and Children of Afghanistan), the school is doing well and is expanding. I provided $3000 for this school.

Every one of you were with me at every step of the way. Your love was in the smiles of the widow who can support her family, the child who received warm gloves, and the children who received pens and notebooks. I could not have done any of these things without your financial and emotional support. Once again, I am turning to you for help. These projects cost $17800. While I appreciate your help and am grateful for the outpouring of love and financial assistance you have already given me, I am again asking for assistance. Can anyone assume responsibility for one of these projects? Can you help with a portion? Can you contribute money?

For more information, visit WAW’s website: womenforafghanwomen.org.

God bless you all,

Fahima Vorgetts

Click
here to see Fahima's past report