Ulla Nölle, Marga Flader and Leo Heyelmann on their visit in spring 2014
First of all, some words from our honorary principal Ulla Nölle:
Three years have passed since I visited Afghanistan for the last time and it has been my sincere wish to travel once again to see our projects, the people and the country. I knew that at the age of 89, it would not be an easy trip for me, but I wanted to take the challenge and gratefully accepted Marga’s suggestion to go with her and Leo this spring.
It was wonderful to be back in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and especially Andkhoi, to meet many old friends and to feel welcome whereever we went.
We were extremely busy during the whole trip, as you see below. I was very happy to be able to be right in the middle of it. At the end, we can say: It was a good trip for all three of us, however, we were saddened by the floods in Andkhoi and other provinces in the north which affected one of our schools, the deadly attack on the three doctors in Kabul and the massive landslide in Badakhshan which devastated a whole village with all inhabitants. Afghanistan remains a country with lots of challenges. Please continue your support for our work.
Kabul – Mazar – Andkhoi and back again: The order of the places we visit during our three-week long trip was as always and we could see most of our projects as planned. However, there were special impressions, especially of cultural life, which were not directly related to our projects.
We had thought a lot about the timing of our visit. We left for Kabul 10 days after the day of election for a new president. The voters turned out in great numbers in many parts of the country, however, in the south many polling stations remained shut. The people are now asked to vote for a second time because none of the candidates won the majority. Therefore, the people will vote once more in June to decide who should become the new president of Afghanistan. In the present situation, it remains open whether security will improve or deteriorate after the withdrawal of the foreign troops. The media informs quite well about developments in the country, however, people are doubtful about some of the politicians who have been involved in atrocities during the past.
During our stay in Kabul, we had many interesting discussions not only with our colleagues but also with representatives of other NGOs. We met many people who have worked in Afghanistan for many years. They talked about their experiences as well as hopes and plans for their future work. Even in the light of the current problems, they were of the same opinion: We will continue. The outlook to a hopefully better future also became clear during a meeting with young journalists. By doing their own research and making their own experiences, they want to bring changes to the negative reporting in the German media. They meet with young people who are actively involved in bringing positive changes in their country – because nothing happens if you don’t do it. This positive outlook to the future is also how we would like to work. It was good to see this confirmed during our trip.
We visited the National Museum in Kabul and were happy to see the progress over the last years. In new well-presented exhibition rooms we could follow the developments in this region from the past to the present. During our visit to the Center for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan, which was founded in 2004, we met some young women who have the possibity to work and present how they see their role in society. In Andkhoi we discussed with the Governor of Andkhoi how it may be possible to preserve the historic buildings in Andkhoi from Timuridian times. These positive examples show the readiness of the Afghan people to deal with the past beyond the effects of war and rebuilding infrastructure.
And now about our own projects: In Mazar-e-Sharif we took part in the inauguration of the new building for Tajrobawee Girls’ Lycee with 2200 students. We remembered seeing the girls in October 2012 in tents and a derelict building, which was in danger of collapsing. During the last year, we followed the construction work und now we were happy to see the beautiful new building. The Consul of the German Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif who took part emphasized in his speech the need for good education in just the way we always do. We were also very pleased to notice that our new construction engineer is doing very well. Under his watchful eyes, the work is going on for the Ahmed Shah Masood School in the Salt Desert and a new kindergarten in Mazar-e-Sharif as well as a new water reservoir and additional classrooms in Andkhoi.
We visited only some of the schools, which we built in the past, but almost all of our courses in the Education Centre, in schools and in private homes. We were happy to see the children in the Kindergarten in Mazar, which was inaugurated last year. All four rooms were nicely furnished and the many girls and boys were happy about the toys we brought from Germany. Unfortunately, the situation was a bit different in the kindergarten in Andkhoi. It has still not been registered and, therefore, cannot function properly. This problem as well as the problem of missing textbooks for which the state is responsible, we discussed with representatives of the education offices. Hopefully, there will be positive changes in this respect soon.
There was a warm welcome for us in our Education Centre in Andkhoi. Many students and members of staff were waiting and were especially happy to greet Ulla Nölle finally after three years. We enjoyed visiting the classrooms and also the role-plays which the girls performed for us.
Our women’s centre which was opened in August of last year has developed in a good way. The women of the area are coming regularly to have new dresses made or buy other things. It is good that soon we will start building an extension: a new showroom, a kitchen and toilets.
We had many useful discussions in the library of our education centre or in the late afternoon on the terrace of the guesthouse.
Some smaller points could be solved immediately. For example, the decisions were taken on which proposals for „Small Projects“ from the state schools can be accepted. We talked about the next teacher training seminars etc. As always, we conducted a workshop with our partners from Andkhoi, Mazar and Kabul to talk about our achievements and plans for the future. Of course, the discussions will go on by email or via Skype also when we are back in Germany. We feel that a new building for the Teacher Training Institute in Andkhoi is very important. We have received many more requests for additional classrooms for the growing schools. However, we need to find the funds for such plans first. We hope that you will be able to continue your financial help so that our work can go on.