Jalalabad Rotary School
By Stephen R. Brown
Travel Schedule ~ Background for Trip
~ Progress in Afghanistan ~ Observations
In November 2002, Flouran Wali, Fary Moini and I traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Our travel schedule was as follows:
Nov. 3 leave San Diego for Peshawar, Pakistan--via London and Dubai
Nov. 5 arrive Peshawar, Pakistan
Nov. 6 travel by car to Jalalabad, Afghanistan accompanied by Zamarud Shah, Usman Kahn, and Muhammad Ashraf Baig
Nov. 7 travel by car to Kabul, Afghanistan accompanied by Shah; Kahn and Baig return to Peshawar
Nov. 8 Kabul
Nov. 9 Kabul--Shah returns to Peshawar
Nov. 10 travel by car to Jalalabad
Nov. 11 Jalalabad
Nov. 12 travel by car to Peshawar
Nov. 13 Peshawar
Nov. 14 leave Peshawar for San Diego
Nov. 15 arrive San Diego
Background for Trip
Shortly after September 11, 2001, La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotarian, Fary Moini, expressed an interest in working with Afghan refugees. Fary was born in Iran and trained there as a nurse. She speaks Farsi which is very similar to Dari, spoken by many Afghans. We were able to arrange for Fary to receive a Grant for Rotary Volunteers from the Rotary Foundation. She was hosted by Rotarians in the Peshawar Unitown-Rotary Club and stayed with Rotarian Zamarud Shah from late January until late March, 2002. She worked with Afghan refugees in two camps outside of Peshawar. She learned of the desire for Afghan children to receive an education. Most were attending school in the camps but there were few facilities to hold class in Afghanistan and the refugees would soon be returning to Afghanistan. Through contacts Fary made and with the assistance of the Unitown Rotarians Zamarud Shah and Usman Kahn, we were encouraged to consider developing a school facility in the area of Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotarian, Rick Clark, prepared plans for the facility and Fary and I
raised funds for the project. The most significant contribution came as a result of a request for
$50,000 from the Donner Foundation. Approximately $100,000 has been raised. It was decided
the facility would have 20 classrooms--14 for girls and 6 for boys, a medical clinic with two
examination rooms and an adult vocational training center. We were advised that the Governor of
Ningarhar Province (where Jalalabad is located) would arrange for the dedication of land for this
facility. The land is presently owned by the government.
With the assistance of Flouran Wali, (a U.S, citizen of Afghan heritage and an official
representative of the Afghan government for Southern California), we organized a group referred
to as Southern California Friends of Afghanistan. This group is made up of Afghans living in
Southern California and others who have a particular interest in Afghanistan. We shared our
plans with this group and subsequently its members have been acting in an advisory capacity for
the project. Fary, Zamarud, and I concluded that it would be helpful for the success of this
project to have Flouran Wali join us in traveling to Afghanistan to work out the details for the
Thus, with land being contributed, architectural plans drawn, and funds raised, plans were made for the trip.
Progress in Afghanistan
Meetings/Events Attended; Sites Visited
Peshawar Unitown Rotary Club (twice)
Adult education center for Afghans
United Arab Emirates
Dubai Rotarian gathering (not an official meeting)
Governor of Ningarhar Province
Abdul Haq Foundation (twice)
United States Embassy—USAID representative
U.S. Army--Civil Affairs Division-Kabul
Ministry of Education (twice)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Public Health
Help the Afghan Children Foundation
Minister of Education (Ningarhar Province)
U.S. Army--Civil Affairs Division-Jalalabad
Groundbreaking—Rotary School Jalalabad
Ningarhar University--Academic staff (twice)
Canal dredging project
The evening of our arrival in Pakistan we attended the Unitown Peshawar Rotary meeting. There
were several special guests including many Past District Governors. We were advised that
Zamarud Shah and Usman Kahn had previously traveled to Jalalabad and set up a meeting with
the Governor of the Ningarhar Province for the next day.
The following morning we drove to Jalalabad and the Rotary District Governor joined us. It was
necessary to have an armed escort from the local militia as we traveled through a part of Pakistan
that the Pakistan government doesn’t control.
Upon arriving in Jalalabad, we met with the Governor who advised that he was fully supportive of the project and has arranged for the dedication of the land site where the school will be built. Fary was interviewed in the Governor’s office for the local TV that evening. After dinner we met with representatives of the Abdul Haq Foundation which was recommended by the Governor. Our primary contact with this foundation is Mohammad Ishaq. He is a civil engineer and studied two years at a university in Kansas. Their organization will be able to oversee the construction of the project for a 10% fee. We all agreed we would like to use their organization.
The next day we visited the school site. Presently there are two large UNICEF tents with 200
boys and 200 girls in classes under each. Many of the students have recently returned from
refugee camps in Pakistan. More refugee families will soon be coming because Pakistan is
closing the camps. The government has set aside this area for refugee families to settle.
After visiting the school site we traveled to Kabul by car. The road is in horrible condition. It
took five harrowing hours to go 100 miles. The next day we went sightseeing since it was a
holiday. We visited Kabul University, the bombed out Presidential Palace, another large
monument, and drove through many areas that had been ravaged by wars.
We started the next day at the US Embassy and were referred to the Army Civil Affairs office
nearby. There we met with Colonel Dolder who arranged for the Civil Affairs personnel in
Jalalabad to meet with us to assist with our project.
We tried to go to the Ministry of Education but were initially advised that the top people in the
Ministry would not be available to meet with us. Instead we met with Suraya Sadeed who is the
Founder and Executive Director of Help the Afghan Children. This NGO has been working in
Afghanistan for many years and Suraya is in the process of developing several schools at this
time. We spent an hour with her getting valuable information regarding how we should proceed.
We concluded that the vocational training center should be in a stand alone building.
We then met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (a former Rotary Scholar) who was very encouraging regarding our project. He personally arranged for us to meet with the Deputy Minister of Education. We learned that the Education Ministry provides teachers and administrators for new schools. They also provide personnel for medical clinics in a school. This Deputy Minister also was very supportive of the project and set up a meeting with the person in charge of planning within the Ministry. The Planning Department head indicated he was fully supportive of the project. He indicated that he would like to see that area designated as the vocational training center instead be a multi-purpose room under control of the school administration, and we agreed. He advised that his engineering department would need to formally approve the plans. We came back the next day but the person who needed to sign off on the plans was not available so we left the plans with the Planning Department head for approval.
From there we met with a UNICEF individual who is involved with school programs in
Afghanistan. She advised that through a cooperative program with the Department of Education,
schools are supplied with textbooks, student kits, teacher kits and classroom supplies.
Our final meeting that day was with the Deputy Minister of Public health and his technical
consultant. They advised that their Ministry would not be overseeing the medical clinic. They
re-confirmed the medical clinic would be under Ministry of Education. We also discussed other
things that could be undertaken to assist with health and medical care in Afghanistan.
In all of these meetings in Kabul we were warmly received. We discussed Rotary with the
individuals we met with and the advantages that can come to Afghanistan by being part of the
Rotary World. I believe several of them will help us recruit members for a club in Kabul.
We returned to Jalalabad the next day and met with the Provincial Minister of Education. He
was fully supportive of the project and advised that his approval was all that was necessary to
The next morning, we met with the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs Division working in the Jalalabad. They advised that they would be happy to help us with the project. Their purpose is to help rebuild infrastructure in Afghanistan. They already have a working relationship with the Abdul Haq Foundation.
Later that day we went to the Ningarhar University and met with the Vice Rector and many of the department heads. (The next morning we met the head Rector.) They have 3,000 students and 250 faculty. They have no access to the internet and no e-mail. The department heads we talked to have no relationships with any other universities. They have few useable textbooks. They are interested in short-term teacher exchanges, lab equipment and textbooks. I think we should explore finding a way to assist in helping fulfill their needs and also to see if there is a way (financially) to provide internet access to the university.
The next day we returned to Peshawar and reported on our trip at the Unitown Peshawar Rotary meeting.
We were exceptionally well received and well treated by everyone we came in contact with. In Afghanistan the people are asking, “where are the relief dollars going?” We did not see many signs of re-construction, but we did see very substantial devastation. Our project will be one of the first of significance to go forward. Rotary will be appropriately acknowledged for taking action. I intend to keep all persons we met with informed of our progress.
We have raised enough funds to commence the project. If the Colorado group is able to raise $15,000 to $20,000 for construction of the medical clinic, we should be able to complete the large classroom wing, the multi-purpose room and the medical clinic. We may need to raise about $25,000 more to accomplish a complete build out. We also will want to raise additional funds for the stand alone vocational training center and a small duplex guesthouse for volunteers working at the facility.
I believe we should be able to start a Rotary Club in Jalalabad. Mohammad Ishaq of the Abdul Haq Foundation is willing to take the lead on this and be the Charter President. He believes he can sign up over 20 individuals to be charter members. We also should be able to facilitate efforts underway to recruit members for a club in Kabul.
A Pakistani Rotarian who works for an architectural and construction firm is reviewing the plans for the project. He will provide the detailed specifications for the project and Zamarud Shah will then take that information to the Abdul Haq Foundation. Then construction will be put out to bid and Zamarud Shah and Usman Kahn will assist in the project supervision. Some items will be purchased in Pakistan and trucked to the site. I hope that construction can get under way a few weeks after the end of Ramadan—at least by mid to late December. We are advised that construction will probably take nine to twelve months.
Related Links on This Site:
Architectural Plans and Contact Information
Daily Trip Journal
Images from Afghanistan
Steve's Home Page