Thursday, July 18, 2002

Tajikistan - Relief Trip Experience

Learning more about what CADA does

Today was the day for the relief trip for Kelley, Angela and Ping. We were picked up early in two vehicles - Eric rode with Ping and Habib and Latif, Tajiks who work for CADA, and Angela and Kelley rode in a pickup with a driver and Sobir, another Tajik employed by CADA. Sobir explained some of CADA's work to us on the way up. He said that before Ping came, CADA focused mostly on providing relief freely to anyone they could. Unfortunately, this led to people abusing the system, or becoming dependant on the aid for survival. Ping started Food for Work and Clothes for Work programs, and he's really emphasized helping needy people find ways to support themselves. Sobir described the difference animatedly and was clearly excited about the improved approach.

Our first stop was at a huge area where there were many warehouses owned by the Ministry of Health and Medicine. CADA at one time rented four warehouses here, but because of lack of donations now only rents two. There is little food stored here now - it's primarily clothing and other supplies. There were some things stored there that CADA isn't sure what to do with - oodles of beef jerky, for instance. The people who've received it don't like it and don't know how to eat it - and it's very tough for them to chew. Ping talked about how much better it generally is to receive cash donations because the cash circulates in the local economy, and CADA is able to purchase items that local people can use best.

Sewing School

Once the truck was loaded we headed off. Our first stop was to a CADA pilot project - a sewing school. CADA is helping 10 or so young women learn to sew. They find or borrow their own sewing machines and bring them to a trailer-sized room where a sewing mistress (hired by CADA) teaches them how to sew. This is giving life skills and a source of income to women who would probably otherwise be destitute. The sewing machines we saw all seemed to be hand run - either by a wheel spun on the machine itself or by pedals underneath.

We next visited a school near the sewing training room. 700 students are taught in this building. The school had put in a request to Ping for refurbishing one of the classrooms for $100. Ping was open to the idea, but wanted an itemized list of what would be purchased with that money before he committed CADA funds. On our way out we realized that the women in the training school had set up a table and food for us near the door of the school. They were carrying bits of school furniture out to burn so they could make us French Fries. Although we were on a schedule, in Tajik culture it is very rude not to sit down, eat, and talk when you are offered food. So we had a lovely mid-morning feast with the Tajik schoolmaster (who left soon after he got there to get the list for Ping). The food was very good, although we avoided the vegetables. They were presented beautifully, but fresh vegetables are a prime way for delicate American stomachs to get sick in this country!

After lingering over tea and conversation (the Tajik way - although they probably thought it was hurried!) we moved on to a second pilot project. CADA hires another instructor to teach young men to be mechanics. So far this project also is going very well. No one has told them that their coveralls have girls names on them, and that's probably a good thing! While we were there Ping checked to make sure that the mechanics master was there and that all of the boys were present to learn.

The Relief Project... a little disappointing

We then moved on to the relief project. We stopped a community center where the distribution was to take place. There were no people there, though. Kelley and Angela went to have their first encounter with a squatty-potty, while Ping made inquiries. This was a clothes-for-work distribution, where people had worked for a specified time and were now due to receive clothing in payment. (Clothes are like cash here, so this is a great opportunity for them). Only the supervisor was here, and he told Ping that he could leave all of the clothing and that he would distribute it. Ping refused, because it is important to make sure that the individuals who earn it actually earn the clothing. He was very disappointed, because he had wanted to show us a distribution, but that simply wasn't possible with the situation as it was. He said that unfortunately, this kind of behavior is quite common in this work. We were disappointed somewhat, too, but realized that this was a chance for us to see how relief really works, rather than an idealized picture.

At this point the two vehicles parted ways. Habib went with the pickup back to the CADA warehouses to put the clothes back, while Ping, Eric, Sobir, Angela and Kelley returned to Dushanbe. We found a quiet restaurant where we could drink cold juice and water and rest from the heat and light for a while.


We then went to a mall that carries many souvenirs and items of Tajik culture. It was fun to ramble about and learn about the various items. It was great to have Sabir along, as he could tell us which things were truly Tajik, and which were more Russian, Iranian, or even Chinese. After purchasing a few things, we headed for home.

The Team Regroups!

Friday night, we were reunited with both the Hissor and Takob teams!! It was WONDERFUL! Everyone came to the team house (where Kelley, Angela, Misty and Kjirsten stay) for osh and other good food. A CADA cook came over with wood and made the food for us in the garage! Our main concern was that the Afghanistan border had been closed and the team that had been there for the past week would not be able to return that evening. We hoped that the border would re-open on Saturday (which it did) and that the team would be able to return safely to us (they were). It was fun to hear everyone's story. People had been healthy for the most part, although Jeremy was VERY sick for a full day on Thursday. He was feeling better on Friday and he came to the team house with the rest of the group.

As stories and pictures pile in, we will be adding them to the web site. Check back soon for more updates on the past week!

Inside one of the CADA warehouses. The bags to the left are all clothing. The computers on the right are awaiting distribution.

Outside of the same warehouse

Outside of the CADA warehouse. Those are bullet marks in the wall. During the civil war, Russian soldiers would execute Tajiks here.

The blue things on the left are diapers that were donated. Tajiks don't know how to use them, so CADA is trying to use them in maternity house.

Here's stuff that IS useful - medical equipment! Old dentist chairs, exam room tables, and crutches are all extremely valuable to this work.

Sabir, one of the Tajiks who works for CADA. He speaks English very well, so he was able to answer many of Kelley's and Angela's questions.

Young women sewing as part of the pilot project. Darkening the eyebrows is a trend from Uzbekistan that Tajik women have picked up.

More women sewing. Above them hang examples of their work. Many times they make children's clothing for practice so they don't waste material.

Outside view of the room where the women are learning to sew 
Inside a Tajik school near where the women were sewing. They are trying to replace the furniture with better quality stuff.

Silk worm cocoons. The fiber they pull from these pods is the silk. The season is done for now, but they gave us these to take with us.

Inside a classroom. They've asked Ping if he will give $100 to buy new furniture for this classroom.

Strawberry soda, nan, and Iranian candy sounds like a mid-morning snack to me! Later they brought out fresh vegetables, tea, more nan, and hot fries!

The young men's mechanics training pilot. The uniforms are donated from the States, so here Ping is arranging "Amy's" uniform while "Sarah" looks on.

Budding mechanics, now all set for the picture

Angela's shadow taking a picture of a squatty potty! Why don't we have more of these in the US?

Habib (another Tajik who works for CADA) gave Angela and Kelley each a flower. This garden is outside of the Community Center.

A Dushanbe mall

In the mall - Kelley trying on a hat that would be worn by brides.

Ping and Sabir shopping for the best teacup and saucer

Osh! (yes, that's grease!) Tajike food is very good, but VERY greasy.

Building in Dushanbe. Windows need metal grates on them for security, but notice how artistic and beautiful they make them.

In the "Millenium" market. Yes, you CAN get Pepsi in Tajikistan!

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