Archive for December, 2009

Aschiana: Giving back in the midst of conflict

Posted on: December 23rd, 2009 | No Comments
aschiana-header-boys

Assisting children anywhere can be as difficult as it is rewarding. In Afghanistan, this goes to an entirely new level. As a result of more than two decades of violent conflict, there are an estimated 600,000 working street children in Afghanistan.

An Afghan humanitarian, engineer Yousef Mohamed, witnessed the poor conditions and desperation of children he encountered on the streets of Kabul and established Aschiana (meaning “nest” in the local language, Dari) in 1995 to provide a refuge where they could learn educational and vocational skills. Since that time, Aschiana has trained, nourished and mentored more than 50,000 children and young adults. In Kabul, Aschiana currently operates two centers for basic training: one center for older girls who receive vocational training and basic education, and one emergency center for children separated from their families. Aschiana is also responsible for establishing home-based schooling in various parts of Kabul for girls who are unable to seek education in the centers. Aschiana also operates eight outreach centers in other parts of Afghanistan.

Neverest is partnering with Aschiana to work out distribution of Giva-Knit products so that when you buy a knit sweater or scarf or T-shirt, a donation is made to an Afghan child at one of Aschiana’s centers. Please support this important initiative today.

 

Playing soccer with Samir

Posted on: December 22nd, 2009 | No Comments

It is critical that we understand people, like those focused on by the Giva-Knit initiative, in vulnerable situations, as just that: people. Check out Samir and some of the other children recently playing soccer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un4ud1J0xV4

 

The displaced in Kabul

Posted on: December 21st, 2009 | No Comments
Samir, a displaced boy in Kabul.

Samir, a displaced boy in Kabul.

Today, the sky was sunny and crisp but—at 4000 feet (1660 meters)—the nights are bitterly cold. Among other things on our agenda, we visited several sites where people displaced by the years of fighting in the country have found a place to survive.

Between a gap in the walled housing compounds of north Kabul, and amid piles of trash, eight families eke out an existence. They have been displaced by the years of fighting, first to Pakistan and then again back to Kabul, because of urban land disputes.

Where hardship is already endemic in a country like Afghanistan, the face of extreme poverty is brutal. It is hard to observe and understand, let alone describe. The families survive by collecting and selling anything valuable they find in trash and retrieving discarded food from restaurant garbage cans. For these families, there is literally no other way to sustain themselves.

They built hovels made of mud and anything else they can find that resembles a tarp. There is no water and only holes in the ground to use as toilet. The only heating comes from burning what wood and garbage they can find.

As I’m talking to an elderly couple, children gather to listen, and I spot a particularly grubby boy. Samir (not his real name), age 7, lost both his parents and now is cared for by his uncle. He doesn’t go to school and has few possessions besides his soccer ball. Despite this bleak existence, Samir could be a successful and even transformational person one day, so Neverest is committed to showing him as a regular boy who likes to play soccer with his sister, friends and this goofy-sounding foreigner (see video). This is the point of creating a worthwhile product like the Giva-Knit program of knit sweaters, scarves and T-shirts, which includes outdoor wear for travelers and children’s sweaters for struggling children like Samir. Giva-Knit is a buy-one-give-one opportunity for people like you to show you know and car about the life of regular Afghans.

You can see Samir and his friends, as well as get a glimpse of Giva-Knit sweater production in Kabul, in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dy6JfIooIA

 

Preparing for a trip to Kabul

Posted on: December 12th, 2009 | No Comments

Packing for KabulWhen I say I’m going to Afghanistan, among other comments, people ask “How do you pack for that?” True enough, preparing to go to Kabul in December isn’t exactly like packing for a trip to Miami, so taking the right gear is important.

Clothing is usually the first consideration, and the climate you’ll encounter is paramount. Kabul in December can be a cold and snowy place. Heating usually consists of small room heaters such as kerosene or wood stoves. Layers are the best. Thinking in three is usually the way to go: a base layer close to your skin, a thicker insulation layer and a protective outer shell.

Just like getting clothes ready, packing everything else works best when thought of in three layers. This system not only provides basic organization but also helps in the event of emergency. The first layer consists of pocket items such as money, ID/passport, pen and paper, watch, glasses and mobile phone. In more rugged or dangerous areas, other things are helpful, such as knife or multi-tool, a way to start fire and another means to communicate (such as a VHF radio).

The second layer is made up of items that are within arm’s reach, usually in a day pack. For a long time, I would expend a lot of effort considering what additional gear I might need. I often overdid it by taking a first-aid kit, a small bag of repair items and other necessities. To fulfill this need, we created the Essential Journeys Kit. This item has over 200 uses and is perfect for trips in which you face a variety of challenges.

The third layer is the luggage or pack where everything else you have is carried. Most likely, this is mainly your clothes, but also other items such as bedding (a sleeping bag liner is always a good idea) and any equipment you might have. I know someone who didn’t follow this system and put everything (including his passport) in the “third layer” and on the way out of a particularly unstable country, he was the victim of a carjacking. Even in calm places, anything can happen, so it helps to think in layers of three.

One other thing to think about: a lot of people forget about the places they will visit in transit. On a flight to Kabul, I’ll have to go through either Dubai, New Delhi, Tehran or, in the case of this trip, Frankfurt. It’s best to be prepared to spend the night, even if it’s not part of the itinerary, and so I never travel without a swimsuit for places with a beach or a pool. I always pack a book or two, and then I’m on my way.

Computing on the go

Posted on: December 8th, 2009 | No Comments

You just took some great shots on the trail or at the beach and want to share them with friends you met along the way. Or you’re backpacking through Asia but still need to send in those job or school applications. Whatever the case, traveling light is the name of the game, but so is keeping in touch and on top of things. Computer file storage and sharing are as important as anything you else might do on a computer. But because so many interesting places still have poor (or nonexistent) connectivity, carrying your computer files on a USB drive is the best way to go.

Like our other products, Neverest’s USB drive is unique. It fits in your pocket and yet holds 1gb of data. It also features our motto “No borders, no boundaries”a reminder to travel wide and think globally. Check out this essential computer travel accessory today.