Noshaq Explores Projects for Afghan Women


In rural Afghanistan, women live in obscurity. Enshrouded by flowing veils and walls of cultural oppression, they live out their lives in anonymity, far away from the public eye. But their elusive existence matters. Behind every formless burqa is a genuine human being: a lonely girl longing for friendship and opportunity; a widow grieving the loss of her husband slaughtered in the war; a pregnant wife worrying about her baby’s future. And to ignore their presence is to shun 50% of Afghanistan’s precious people.

Afghan women are, and always will be, a crucial part of their country’s economy. Behind high walls and closed doors they faithfully raise kids, keep house, till gardens, and watch over livestock day after day after endless day. Their tenacious spirit keeps communities humming and villages running. Yet they do all this with little recognition or appreciation.

At Noshaq, we feel the time has come to say thank you to these invisible heros. This fall, we began to research project options that provide economic opportunity to women. Our goal is to train women in a trade or skill that they can market in their local economy. But it’s not enough to merely learn a trade. To be truly successful, they must also learn how to successfully market their products in Afghanistan’s centers of commerce. This will require financial literacy training that will prepare them to be successful business owners in their communities.



The first project in sight is a training program to teach women the trade of sewing and embroidery. This training will be fused with financial literacy workshops to teach these women how to benefit economically from their newly acquired skills. We’ve already gained the support of local government officials for this exciting project and are collecting the necessary data for funding proposals. As we gather more details on this project, we’ll do our best to keep you informed.

If you would like to contribute financially towards the development of this project, click
HERE.

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New Honey Farm Brings Opportunity

When we first visited Khermanuk Village in 2010, what shocked us the most was their economic situation. Because the village is so remote, they have no internal economy to make money for their families. Instead, they send 1-2 young men from each household as recruits in the Afghan National Army (ANA) to fight on the front lines against Taliban insurgents. These men then send their paychecks back to Khermanuk to feed their families and friends. This is their sole means of livelihood!

We saw something deathly wrong with this picture. Not only is it an injustice for a community’s sole survival to be based on their young men dying on the front lines. It also puts their village on a path towards economic collapse if more diversified income sources aren’t created. Noshaq set about to change that. First, we built a road to connect Khermanuk to economic opportunities outside their community. Then we began exploring industry opportunities that would set their village on a path towards economic sustainability.

That’s when honey came into the picture. Although many livelihoods are simply impossible due to Khermanuk’s mountainous location, honey bees can thrive off of the wildflowers and grasses growing in the area. So we did a little research and found some exciting news. Not only does honey provide a valuable nutrition source for impoverished diets. It also furnishes a valuable export item that can be sold in local markets. One quart of honey can be sold for a substantial $6 - 8 in nearby bazaars--a significant return on investment!

Noshaq’s staff then traveled to other regions of Afghanistan where honey operations are already running successfully. We met with locals who were knowledgeable about operating honey farms within the Afghan context. Then we made 10 beehives out of locally sourced materials, populated them with busy honeybees, and sent them to Khermanuk. We also hired a local expert to train villagers on the proper maintenance of their new hives.


These hives arrived in Khermanuk on July 17, 2011. But getting them there was a project in itself! The road between the hive’s location and Khermanuk is incredibly rough, filled with potholes, steep drop-offs, and a narrow dirt track clinging to the side of the mountain. Furthermore, the weather in July is hot and dusty. Our fear was that, between the rough roads and hot weather, the bees wouldn’t survive the trip.

We took extra precautions to increase their chances of survival. First, we drove very slowly in an attempt to make the trip as smooth as possible. Second, we agreed to travel only at night when the weather was the coolest. With these precautions, a trip that normally would have taken one day took three! We all breathed a sigh of relief, though, when the bees made it safely to their destination.



A close-up view of the hives reveals a group of worker bees ready for action. Notice the “KH” for Khermanuk written on the front.

We have confidence that this initial delivery of 10 beehives will be the beginning of a thriving industry for this community. Now that villagers are trained in the year-round maintenance of their hives, they can begin harvesting honey and selling it in local bazaars. Bee populations will continue to grow, enabling new hives to be created out of the initial bee population. These new hives can either be sold to nearby villages or added to the existing honey farm. And any excess honey will provide a valuable nutrition source to their impoverished diets.

This project is a first for Khermanuk Village and for Raghistan District as a whole. Now that the honey industry has been introduced to this district, we expect industry knowledge to gradually spread in the region, bringing economic opportunity to even more villages that desperately need it.
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Road Project a Success!

On May 27, at the crack of dawn, an isolated corner of the Afghan mountains was buzzing with excitement. 120 villagers from six communities eagerly hiked up steep trails and converged to begin a day’s work. But this was no ordinary work day. This was the beginning of a road -- a pathway to hope for a region long neglected by aid organizations. It was also the fulfillment of a promise. Noshaq’s promise.

Noshaq’s journey to help this far-flung region of Afghanistan began in the summer of 2010. Our objectives were simple: (1) to find an isolated, impoverished community forgotten by other humanitarian organizations, and (2) to give hope to this community through sustainable solutions. The village of Khermanuk was just such a place. After meeting with local village elders and identifying an access road as the top development priority, we promised to return. And that’s just what we did.

Thanks to your generous donations, our team returned to the Afghan mountains in May 2011 to make our promises to Khermanuk come true. We purchased supplies, hired more staff, and then made the long and exciting journey to Khermanuk.


But getting to Khermanuk was no easy task. Here, our staff took turns riding donkeys and horses as the terrain became more rugged.


As we rode on, we met villagers along the way. It was exciting to see familiar faces and to sense their excitement about the road project.



After reaching the upper part of Khermanuk, we met with village chiefs from surrounding communities to negotiate the logistics of the road project. The support of community elders was an important prerequisite. Not only did we need to hear their advice and opinions. We also needed them to bring back news of the project to their villagers, who would provide the necessary manpower needed to construct the road.


We then re-measured the road route using a meter-wheel for extra precision. Pushing the wheel up and down the steep trail was great exercise. Even better, it provided entertainment for curious onlookers who had never seen such a device before!


Finally it was time to begin! Approximately 120 villagers showed up to help.


Villagers worked tirelessly everyday from 6 AM to 6 PM, using picks, shovels, and even oxen to shape the new road. Their enthusiasm and sense of community was infectious.


Slowly, the road began to take shape as the narrow mountain trail was converted into a 5-meter wide road. There was a tremendous amount of dirt to move, but the workers labored tirelessly to finish in record time.



The road was completed on June 21, a mere 25 days after the project began. This is a true testament to the determination and strength of 120 hard-working villagers and their inspirational leaders.


Abdul Hakim (regional leader) and Sayed Akbar (project manager) stand proudly by the project completion sign.

Let these images sear into your mind and stay with you forever. And then, remember that you, as a generous supporter, made this project possible! Because of your support, over 6,000 people now have a road and a new path to opportunity. This project may seem like a simple one, but it is already making a positive impact. Other humanitarian agencies, previously unable to access this region, have now been able to effectively implement other projects in the area thanks to the new road. This is a life-changer for impoverished villagers long neglected by the humanitarian community. In the future, this road will allow villagers to export and trade products more easily with other communities, and Noshaq has already begun researching viable industry opportunities that will inject much-needed income into this region’s starved economy.

In our most recent visit to Khermanuk, one villager told us, “We thought that building this road was impossible. After all, the terrain is so difficult! But your office came and showed us that it could happen after all, and all of us are truly grateful.” That’s what Noshaq is all about: turning the impossible into possibilities of hope. We may not be able to completely eradicate Afghanistan’s poverty or solve the country’s political turmoil. But we’re creating glimmers of hope in places like Khermanuk, and that makes it all worth it. Thank you for joining us on this journey.




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A Night in Afghanistan

Afghanistan might be 6,000 miles away, but on April 3, Noshaq brought it much closer. “A Night in Afghanistan”, a culturally-themed banquet held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, gave 160 attendees a taste of Afghan food and culture. A large, converted warehouse was decorated with vibrant hues reminiscent of Central Asia. Local chefs served up authentic Afghan cuisine while soft Persian music paraded in the background. Stunning photographs on canvas, taken by Noshaq’s photographer Alex Niculaescu, were set out for display. And a bazaar, complete with hand-knotted Afghan tribal rugs, embroidered scarves and blankets, and other authentic souvenirs, gave guests a chance to bring a piece of Afghan culture home with them.

But this event was more than an entertaining dinner or cultural event. It was a valuable opportunity for us to share our vision for Afghanistan’s impoverished villages and to raise the support needed to make this vision a reality. And we weren’t disappointed. Dinner guests caught the vision and gave generously, contributing a total of $17,394 to fund a road project in Khermanuk Village.

Here’s a special thank-you to all of the supporters and table sponsors who made this a successful evening. Thanks to your generosity, over 6,000 impoverished villagers in northeastern Afghanistan now have a road -- a pathway to a healthier economy and a brighter future. Their smiles of gratitude say more than we could ever express.

To read a newspaper article about A Night in Afghanistan, click HERE


Elegant place-settings added to the aesthetics of the evening.



Over 160 guests from the community showed up to express their support for Noshaq.



Authentic Afghan products were auctioned off to raise money for projects.



Photographs from Noshaq’s project area were displayed on canvas throughout the banquet area.

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New Pictures!

Everyone likes great pictures, and so do we. Just moments ago, we uploaded a fresh batch of images from the last few months in Afghanistan.

Click
HERE to see them on our pictures page!

We hope you enjoy seeing more pictures of a place that has riveted our heart and captured our imagination.

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