Friday, 30 March 2007

27th March
Leave at first light . Drive through beautiful countryside off road and through river beds towards Badakshan and the Hindu Kush. A perfect day with blue skies and vast mountains covered in snow above the rocky gullies .Cherry blossom and fast flowing rivers ,men fishing with nets and long wooden poles ,donkeys carrying women clad in burkhas and young children up the valley , communities of mudbricked houses with adobe walls . So beautiful. We leave Fakhar and head on for Ledgei . I last visited in 2005 and this isolated community had no school. I met 700 children who all put up their hands and asked me to build them a school. Today we are visiting the school which we built and equipped after that visit.
We have a wonderful greeting and the school is fantastic . It lies in an idyllic spot by the river ,beneath snowcapped mountains and with a football pitch which overlooks a vast valley . We hand out presents and cards and football kit and wander round the classrooms visiting the kids. Then on up the valley to S Zuhrudin School .
Met there by the regional education minister . School for 1400 boys and 1200 girls. Walk through the village beside the river to the girls school. Flocked by dozens of children we arrive at a large old house with delapidated classrooms . The school is in a home which is rented and the conditions are poor. We visit all the girls and give out presents and have an amazing meeting with teachers . We have the money to build the school for them and they are so happy. Visit the site where we will build---by the river and a wonderful place for the school. Fresh fish from the river is brought in for our lunch . An incredible place and all very humbling .
Back through Worsaj to Wahdat School . Sadly we are too late to see the children studying outside...class has finished for the day. But we soon find children in the village who go to the school and we discuss the plans for a new school for them . The school will be built in memory of Angus Lawson ,with funds raised by the Angus Lawson Foundation . I show Angus ' photograph to the children and feel very moved as I watch them looking at it. It is such a special way to remember him -to give other children so much opportunity and hope in this beautiful and isolated valley ,which receives so little aid from the outside world. They are so happy that we are building a school for them . It couldnt be a better place for a memorial to a special person . It is the most peaceful place I have been in . The river runs through it and there are clusters of pine trees shading a football pitch . The village is small and is surrounded by mountains and has a single road lined by a bazaar. It is wonderful that we can build schools in such remote areas and bring hope to so many children .

Monday, 26 March 2007

In great hurry as generator is about to shut down and then no internet!

Fantastic morning at a school for mentally handicapped and deaf children in Kunduz. Very emotional. The girls were so grateful for hairbands and balloons and skipping ropes and kept hugging us and thanking us in sign language. They used all the skipping ropes and gave us beautiful hand made jewellery as a present. Boys amazing too and had such fun with balloons. All very humbling and very much hope to twin to school in UK .

Afternoon at Sari Sang School twinned to St Catherines . Children love David and Miles and have great fun playing games and receiving all gifts. More when internet next available...

Toot Mazar School

Visit to Toot Mazar School, twinned with Bradfield School. Early start from Taloqan. Stop at a Kuchi camp on the way. These are the nomadic people of Afghanistan. They move across the country with their camels, horses and goats and live in tents. Drive on through dramatic country side and vast rock formations and off road trough mud walled villages towards the school. Narrow dirt tracks lined with donkeys, carts and children, scenes which seem unchanged since Biblical times. Women sit huddled at the side of the track shrouded in their Burkhas.

We arrive at the school and are so impressed A beautifully kept building with newly planted trees and roses and a football and volleyball pitch. All children studying indoors at desks apart from 3 classes out in tents. Very dedicated headmaster who has been at the school for 30 years. Had wonderful day The kids are amazing and love all the gifts and cards from Bradfield. All letters have been translated into Dari and give a wonderful insight into life for students at Bradfield. One Bradfield student has made a CD of all his favourite music and we play it to kids and caused great hilarity.
Lunch in the headmaster's house in the village where Jane and I meet his wife and dauhters. Give out all football team strips and balls and volley ball kit too. David runs a football match and we watch 44 boys playing football out in the sun . Great gift from Bradfield! Walk around the bazaars at dusk followed by the usual crowds of children.

Sunday, 25 March 2007


We reach Shar-i-khona and visit the girls school there. I last visited in 05 and all the girls studied outside. Now we have built a school with funds from the Marshall Wace Christmas Appeal 06. We are greeted by hundreds of girls who shower us with glitter and give us each a bunch of flowers. A chorus sings for us and happy chaos follows as we hand out all the gifts from their UK twin school, Downe House. The children are thrilled and there is such a joyful scene. There are now 1400 girls attending school in 2 shifts, with only 40 teachers.
We drive on through the afternoon to Taloqan, stopping in Kunduz to buy footballs on the way. Shop in the Taloqan bazaar at dusk followed by crowds of onlookers who stare at the eccentric Brits …a very amusing time. Home to our guest house by horse and cart and preparing for another day.

The journey begins...

6a.m start. Spectacular journey across the Shomali Plain and up into the Hindu Kush. The plain was once known as the Bread Basket of the East. Its fertile soil produced fruit, flowers and vegetables which were sold all over Afghanistan. The Taliban destroyed every house on the plain and sowed the fields with landmines. When I travelled through it in 2002 there was not a home left intact and a massive demining programme was underway.

Now it is cleared of mines and cherry trees are being planted in the fields. Electricity pylons are springing up along the roadside. The worst winter for 70 years has left a beautiful legacy on the Salang road. The snow lies thick all the way up to the 3300 metre Salang tunnel. The views of the Hindu Kush are spectacular and the hillsides are dotted with mud bricked villages. Long queues of lorries wind their way up the hairpins of the road. Avalanche tunnels keep huge mounds of snow from the road and where the avalanches have cascaded down the mountain side the scale of destruction is massive .
The tunnel is dark. You can barely see a metre ahead and the fumes fill the air in dense clouds. It is a joy to reach the exit after 6 km of darkness.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Back in Afghanistan

we are exhausted after 2 days travelling with no sleep but so happy to be here in Kabul.
Travelling with Miles Amoore ,from Newbury Weekly News and David Pemberton . Arrived in Kabul to beautiful blue sky and snow capped mountains and NO LOST LUGGAGE. Walked around Kabul and through the famous Sharinaw Park--once famous for its manicured lawns and roses . Now it is an area of baked mud full of people playing games and relaxing in the sunshine . All kinds of wares for sale ,stalls selling tea and kebabs. We were followed by swarms of children wherever we went .
Leave tomorrow for the North where internet access may prover difficult. Heading off at 6 over Shomali Plains ,up towards the Hindu Kush and through one of the highest tunnels in the world--The Salang Tunnel. There is deep snow up there. Hoping to visit Shar-i-Khona School built with Marshall Wace Christmas Appeal funds and twinned to Downe House .Then on to Taloquan for the night.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Ready to go

At last, all items packed up and ready for the journey . We fly to Dubai tomorrow and then connect to Kabul next morning, from where we will begin our journey to North Afghanistan.
I will write my blog whenever I can get to internet connection.

Countdown begins

Just 24 hours to go before I leave for Afghanistan . Paula and I have been packing up all the wonderful gifts and letters done by our UK twin schools for their friends in Afghanistan. We are amazed by all the hard work which has gone into this and have 39 kg of presents and cards to take with us. A huge thank you to you all .

Friday, 16 March 2007

Friday 16th March

Sitting in my office surrounded by beautiful gifts made by English twin school students for their fellow students in Afghanistan.

2 packages just arrived from Guernsey Grammar for Zewalat School.

I leave for Afghanistan on Thursday and will take all these gifts with me for delivery to the twin schools .

There are security problems in some regions ,but where I cannot visit as a foreigner, the Afghans working for us will visit and take photos for you .

Please keep up to date with my journey via my blog---I will write whenever I have access to internet .