Afghan Women's Fund
Fahima Vorgetts reports on the accomplishments of her most recent trip to Afghanistan
I was in Afghanistan during the month of September 2004. As you all know, the purpose of my trip was to work with women and children who live in almost subhuman conditions. The poverty, oppression, lack of education, and lack of medical care are appalling. It is devastating to witness these conditions in my home country.
Nevertheless, I feel gratified that I have been able to bring some help and relief to the people I visited. I could never have accomplished this without your ongoing help and support. So on my behalf, and on behalf of the special women and children in Afghanistan, thank you so much.
You have all been so generous and gracious that I think you deserve to know how your contributions have been used. Here, then, is a report of my recent trip. Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. There are also pictures and videotapes available for you to view.
- I went to Herat to visit the women’s jail and the burn ward of the women’s hospital. The conditions in the hospital were shocking. The hospital is understaffed, filthy, and lacking the most basic supplies. While I was there, a woman lay dying before my eyes, and there was no one to ease her pain. Her mother was in agony. She kept pacing to and fro, crying, “The whole world isn’t big enough to hold my pain.” This was the fourth woman to die from self-immolation within three weeks. These desperate women see no hope for their future. No laws protect them from their abusive families or abusive husbands, so they try to commit suicide by burning themselves with cooking oil or gasoline.
- I visited a branch of the US army, the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). They agreed to receive medical supplies from us and help the hospital. We are working on sending hospital supplies to them.
- I visited the women’s jail in Herat. There I found women with their children, literally moldering in jail cells and awaiting their fate. What were their “crimes”? Most of them had fled abusive families, abusive husbands, forced marriages. A 17-year-old girl was sentenced to over a year in prison for the “crime” of talking to a man on the street. Her behavior was considered promiscuous, and she was sent for a virginity exam to a local gynecologist. Although she was found to be a virgin, she was nevertheless sentenced to jail. There is a wonderful organization called Voice of Women (VWO), which is working with us to help these unfortunate women, and we have hired a woman attorney to take care of them. She will travel to their villages to collect evidence to help with their cases.
- Last time I was in Afghanistan, I arranged to have a well dug in northern Kabul in Mirbacha Kot. Now they have water, and 60% of their vegetables come from their own gardens. They have also planted flowers, which bring some light and beauty into their lives. For the past three years, residents of this village could not grow vegetables because they had no water. But now their vineyards are green and fruitful.
- We laid concrete in an alley in this village with a drain that will carry wastes to an isolated area (I am trying to make it a model village. We also covered the outdoor toilets (the open holes had become a health hazard), dug holes for septic system and paid for the installation of plumbing from clean well water.
- We paid for a bed of sand to be laid for a road. This involved a tremendous amount of work, but young men volunteered to help and we got the job done.
- We donated 57 goats to this village. Next year, I’ll take the baby goats as repayment and give them to women in other villages. In order to transport the goats, I had to rent three trucks. I hope this will serve as a model for similar projects in other villages.
- I bought covered trashcans for 147 villagers. When I came back to visit, the streets were immaculate. Not a single piece of plastic littered the ground, and the villagers were washing the alley.
- In another village, I sponsored four orphans (two boys and two girls), providing them with funds to take computer and English classes. Once they master these skills, they will teach others in their own village.
- I opened two literacy classes and two sewing classes in the Kunduz district. The last time I was in Afghanistan, many women in this area begged me for classes, and I’m grateful that I was able to grant their wish. I also opened a sewing class in Kabul.
- We paid four months of expenses for a widow with three blind children.
- One woman (who has 12 dependents) attended sewing classes I had set up on a previous trip. She finally mastered the skills, but when it came time to open a store, she had no money. So I paid six-months rent and bought her two sewing machines and two tables. She will eventually repay us.
- I gave $100 to two other widows who were desperate. $50 will cover all the necessary expenses for one family.
- Another woman was suffering from breast cancer. Her breast was swollen and black, but there was no treatment for her. Even worse, she has a handicapped and mentally challenged son. While I was unable to provide her with a cure for her disease, at least I was able to give her money to cover painkillers and other expenses.
- I bought school supplies for over 5000 students enrolled in literacy programs in the Department of Education in Kabul (districts 6 and 7).
- I bought carpets for students enrolled in seven literacy classes so that they would not have to sit on the bare cold floor. (There are no desks and chairs.)
- In all, I opened 17 literacy classes: 5 in Khost, 2 in Kunduz, 2 in Farza, 8 in a rural area of Kabul. I paid the teachers’ salaries for nine months and bought school supplies for all 340-360 students.
Your ongoing support not only revives individual children and women, but empowers all to maintain hope and work together to create a more peaceful community. I can only continue my work towards these goals with the financial assistance of caring friends like you. I want to thank you for graciously accepting my invitation to be a part of this process of rehabilitation. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to share and spread hope in Afghanistan through your generous contributions.
Love, Peace. Fahima.