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Giving without taking
A young woman who used to live rough in Kabul as an internally displaced person because of the war. Her family have been transported back to their homes.
*The child in the photo is not from a family we helped. To protect their identities*
A friend called from London. What can I do to help the children there she asked. Well, the banks are not working I told her, but I have some cash in dollars and we can give that. My friend is a Muslim, this was her duty she told me. She called her friends and together they raised a significant amount. In the meantime I visited the site of a recent terrorist attack and found some women with children in need. The Afghans who came with me that day weren’t being paid. I’d told them what we wanted to do, they immediately helped. We had to call the Taliban to make sure there would be no issues getting into the site since it had just been attacked. Once they heard what we were doing they said go help the families, we won’t stand in your way. Some friends have asked why I talk to the Taliban, well they’re in charge here, you have to. It is easy to write overly simplistic statements about them or the situation on social media but it’s far more complicated. I always remember what I am doing that day. This day I was trying to organise a clear route for a group of Muslim women in the UK to give money to people who needed it, I wasn’t there to question the Taliban’s governance. Remember your role.
When giving money into a situation like this you have to be careful and not let many know what’s happening because people are desperate and you can’t help them all, so we found a target, gave money and left without much trouble. We made sure all the money was in local currency so the women would not need to go and exchange it or use a man to do it in case any of the money went missing. I’m not saying I don’t trust men, just that again this is a desperate situation, what would you do if someone passed you several hundred dollars? We made it as easy as possible for them to take it and use it, however they wanted to. And then we simply left. I took no money to do it and had added to the donation. The women in the UK transferred the money. And so it was done. There are many aid agencies here and the people who work for them are well paid. Yes it is dangerous in Kabul and no my system probably can’t be used at scale but we managed in a few days to recognise a need, fund it, and make sure all the money went to those who could use it to pay for medicines, food, survival. It wasn’t my idea.
When my friend called it reminded me that we didn’t need to wait for large organisations or governments, that we could help. I won’t embarrass her by mentioning her name just that this was a nice pause in work in Afghanistan, one where we used our time and skills to help. Six families. We paid for all their food and medicines for several months. They’ll have a better winter because of a group of Muslim women in the UK who wanted to help. Thank you.
Note: I cannot help more than every so often and will highlight ways you can, but I’m not a charity, don’t want to accept money on people’s behalf unless we both know each other. While I’ve been in Afghanistan I’ve fed a family every day on my way home, I’ve fed mothers, children and drug addicts. I’m no angel. I can afford it. And it takes little for me to do it. By buying a subscription here you can help me and them too, if you’d like, or look online there are many organisations here, you may feel more comfortable donating to them.
From the last post
It was the backpack. Not many grown men wear them, kids do to school but they’re a favourite for news crews, I had all my accreditations but instead of pushing to get in, I took the opportunity to chat. They were from out of town. Their biggest worry? Security. Did they mind if I took a picture? No. But they said they had to get on with their work. So I took the picture and waited for my friend. This was normal for me now as a visitor, and it was normal for the locals too.
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