Ed**, Little Jo***, Pa** John from Philippines and Ah*** and Far**** from Pakistan arrived a day late and saw less of the beauty I had the privilege of seeing. I knew the Filipinos because we facilitated the 7th Asian/ Palawan Youth Congress on the beautiful island of Palawan in November, 2009. Ed** is in her thirties, small built and looks younger than her age; she is a beautiful person at heart and a mother of three. Little Jo*** is also in his thirties, tall, huge built and he is a pastor; he reminds us of Little Jones of the Robinhood stories. Pa** John is the youngest among us, robust and he is the president of a youth NGO back in Philippines. Ah*** is my age but with his beard, he looks a little older than his age; he is a proud residence of Chitral. Far**** is in her mid twenties and very active in Drug Prevention programmes and activities back in Pakistan; at the time when we met, she was a new mother.
The Filipinos had doubts as I did when they decided to come to Afghanistan. They had a stamp in their passports which said no visa was to be granted to go into Iraq. The Pakistanis were not so bothered because they share a border with Afghanistan and have interacted with Afghans closely. We were the foreign delegates. It did scare us because we were in a foreign country but each of us came with a purpose to serve young people be it anywhere in the world. We knew no better way to work in drug prevention then train young minds in combating the influence of drug and there was no better place than Afghanistan.
The programme was called the 1st Afghanistan Youth Congress. Over the course of 1 week, we would go over drug demand reduction or drug prevention by equipping young Afghans with life skills education, which would help them refrain and help others refrain from drug use. The group of 91 Afghans would be the first set of youth leaders and pioneers of leading their community towards abstinence from drug. When the demand stops, the supply will also stop and when drug use stops, transmission of diseases like AIDS which is common among drug users will also stop. We didn’t know what would be the result but we were there to try, to help equip a fellow country’s youth with necessary skills, in their fight against drugs.
Sunday was 3rd of April and the first day of the programme. It was an important day because we were going to meet the first group of young Afghans, who were handpicked to be our counterparts/ Afghan youth leaders. I was doubtful of how to present myself. I chose to wear a pair of blue jeans, not very tight; a cream coloured cargo shirt, which reached my mid-thighs; a black and red scarf (a gift from Jawed) if I needed to cover my head –in fact when I came out of my room, I had my head covered but when I reached the training room, it was so comfortable with the young Afghans that I took it off.
The most shocking thing that came my way that morning was two translators (language barrier) and communication skills is a very important life skill; the second thing –my hard disk crashed and I lost my presentation. The first day was exclusively planned for planning and team building between the international youth leader/ facilitators (us) and the local youth leaders. Between the planning and team building, I stole moments to work on a new presentation to the chagrin of Mr Ta* when he caught me on the computer while others were planning. Mr Sa***, a tall and huge man but very friendly and helpful, was one of the facilitators, who trained me in ‘Drug Demand Reduction Course’ in Bangkok in July 2009, came to my rescue by giving me the backgrounds to the presentation, mine being lost in the crash.
The young Afghans were very enthusiastic, open and most of them were able to understand and spoke reasonable English. They were 10 of them and the most active among them were Ha****, a young women in her mid 20s and looking at her, I kind of understood why women were made to stay behind the burkha for she would have put many men to shame by her comfort in adapting to new people, her outspoken nature, her attitude and approach to learn new things. The most amazing thing about that girl was her ability to lead people, the authority in her voice which drew people to listen to her attentively.
Ad**, a young man in his late teens and a son of a government official in a high position seemed to be the one with the most exposure. He seemed to be a little over 5’7”, with hazel eyes had the best spoken English in the group, which also qualified him to be a translator. A political science student, Ad** believes in honest people leading the country, and that with honest politicians, he believes his country will achieve everything it lost in the past. The one quality I liked the most about Ad** was his humbleness. He was the son of a very important government official and he never once mentioned it to us until the last night we were supposed to have dinner with his father in the city. Dutifully, he was waiting with his father in a restaurant. His father wanted him to have as much exposure as possible so that he learned everything he had to and be a good person and help the country.
Ha***, a young man in his mid twenties was one of the most authoritative among the Afghan youth leaders. He had an aggression in his nature but he was heedful of others opinion.
There was another young lady in her late teens, a standard 10 student, was the most cheerful among them. Her smile was the best feature. Her coolness and openness was something to look forward to every session.
All of them deserve to be written about but due to lack of words and my shrunken memory, I can’t remember all of them. However, everyone of them were very active and receptive of the programme.
To be continued…
On the road to Afghanistan 1
On the road to Afghanistan 2
On the roads of Afghanistan 1
On the roads of Afghanistan 2
On the roads of Afghanistan 3