Baharah,* who works for the Foundation in Afghanistan, describes life in Bamiyan and how the Foundation is helping children and families there.
In eastern Afghanistan, 80 miles from Kabul, there is a green, safe, historical city named Bamiyan. Most people there are farmers, and plantations abound, which is why it’s known as the green city. The major ethnicity is Hazara, and Bamiyan is the cultural capital of Hazarajat. Unlike most provinces in Afghanistan, Bamiyan is considered a safe place with peaceful people. You do not hear about suicide attacks or explosions. There are many tourist attractions, such as Buddha’s statues, Band-e-Amir, Gohargin, Cheldukhtaran, chelborj, Dar-i-Ajdar, Kaferan, Gholghola and Zahak ancient towns.
Bamiyan is known as the land of Buddhas. Ancient caves for praying sit around the statues. Unfortunately, the Taliban government destroyed many Buddha statues in 2001, including two of the largest carvings in the world, which were listed among UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
The Afghan government has not invested in this region and because of that Bamiyan has remained poor and undeveloped. There isn’t even public electricity. But fortunately, the Linda Norgrove Foundation, and other organisations, are funding projects to help Bamiyan people – these include an Afghan circus and projects run by COAM (Conservation Organisation of Afghan Mountains).
The creative team of COAM tries to conserve Afghanistan mountains. It produces clean cook stoves which are integrated of oven and heat to reduce fuel usage and remove indoor smoke. Extremely harsh winters in Bamiyan always make people worried about fuel. And there is increased stress on the Bamiyan environment because people have to cut trees to use them as fuel. Because of reducing fuel usage people try to use the heat from Tandoors (underground bread oven in the kitchen) to make their houses warm, which causes indoor smoke that is harmful for family health.
Afghanistan is a very harsh place for children, because there is no entertainment for them. The Afghan circus brings happiness and entertainment for Bamiyan’s kids. It is a good place to play and learn. Kids love the Afghan circus. They have juggling, sport and radio classes. They are going to have a radio station soon. Although the circus equipment is not enough, and they are really poor, the kids are trying hard to learn.
This peaceful land of Buddha welcomes all people: tourists, inventors and entrepreneurs. Bamiyan is lovely and strange. Try it!
* We’ve changed her name to protect her identity.