Jul 1, 2010
First pull out the anti-mines safety lock, open heavy doors of DINGO, jump out of meter and twenty to a dusty ground. That is how usually patrols to Afghan countryside start. Today we are in Kolangar. A village where Czech PRT came to monitor one of its projects – the fruit and vegetable cold storage cellars, which are being used by the local farmers.
We move only a little towards the village accompanied by soldiers protecting our security before a herd of children surrounds us: “Pen, pen, pen,” as usually they are shouting and screaming, asking for pens or at least sweets or water.
We are looking for someone we could talk to about the situation in the village, ask about the functioning of the project and get the keys from the underground cellar. Farmers store fruit and vegetables they grow in it, so they could sell it couple months later with a greater profit.
First adult man we meet says he wasn’t using the cellar. “I am a teacher in local school; I don’t have orchards nor grow fruits,” he explains and points to a young boy standing nearby. “Ask him, he will get you the keys.”
Small boy not even a ten years old, sneaks under arm of the soldier and stands next to us. Who is in charge of this cellar? Who takes care of it? Who has the key? How many farmers can store their crops here? Boy named Chalid Mohammad kindly answers and he offers he’d run for the keys.
In three minutes he is back and by himself opens the cellar. It is a rare situation for us because whenever we negotiate with Afghans or control our projects our partner is usually an older bearded man. And all of the sudden this boy stands in front of us.
“Shouldn’t you be in school?” we ask because it’s only morning. “Do you even go to school?” And he explains that he does go to school, but only one or two days in a week. “Apart from that I have no time; I have to take care of the family.” Even our interpreter, who comes from Afghanistan, seems to be surprised. The small boy taking care of the whole family? How old is he? Nine, maybe ten?
“Why your dad or granddad isn’t taking care of you?” his situation steers us from the questions about the project. And Chalid Mohammad explains that his father is already too old and weak and there is no one left, who could take care of his mother and siblings. The rest of the villagers are trying to help as well, but they have tough lives themselves and cannot take care of the family.
Suddenly we see this young boy differently. He might not have even learned how to read or write, but the hard reality of Afghan life made him grow mature already. He is the head of the family, he takes care of couple of trees they have and together with other farmers he shares this cellar, which Czech PRT built for them.
Kristyna Greplova - Civilian part of the PRT
Millie Paygham Radio cooperates with PRT since 2008. more ►