The Voluntary Association for the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan is a humanitarian, non-political, non-governmental organization involved in the process of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. Since its founding in 1990 it has completed over 250 projects funded by UNESCO, the UNHCR Oxfam GB, and individual governments around the world. Its aim is to encourage Afghan refugees to return to their homeland and create the necessary conditions for them to start a new life there. The association has volunteers in the Czech Republic as well and they are now collecting money for new school textbooks and other basic school accessories for Afghan children. David Sifra is a photographer and the Czech Republic's VARA representative. He spent six months in Afghanistan and brought back a collection of heart-rending pictures of suffering and poverty. Some of them are exhibited in a tent in Prague's Wenceslas Square where there's also a money box for public donations. David explains why it is important to remind people that Afghanistan is still a country in dire need.
"People who come in are often amazed by what they see, amazed to be confronted with such problems. The general view here is that the country's problems have been resolved. The war is over - the country is no longer in the centre of media attention - and people assume that things have improved. But I would say that it's the exact opposite. International aid is dwindling and problems are mounting up. This country has been ravaged by war for thirty years and there are not many countries in the world which have suffered so much."
The mini-exhibition on Wenceslas Square - intentionally chosen because so many people pass that way - will remain there until Sunday. At the end of the first full day the organizers had some 10,000 crowns in donations, but they say that every additional crown helps. 130 crowns -or just over four dollars - will get one Afghan child schoolbooks for a year.
"The reason for this collection is that the Taliban used schoolbooks where for instance you have one Kalashnikov - for the number 1, two knives for 2, three pistols for 3 and so on. That is how many children still learn maths in the country. We want to replace those textbooks with new ones which do not portray life as a permanent state of war. There are also a lot of other things that money will buy. At present four to eight children share one notebook and one pen, they sit on the ground on sacks either out in the open or in dilapidated buildings with no electricity and no toilets. 130 crowns will buy a child a set of school accessories for a year -and we are appealing to the public to spare that sum or whatever they can give. Here it is less than the price of a single meal in a restaurant -but there it can make a huge difference."
If you'd like to contribute you can either do so in person in the Camp Afghanistan tent on the upper end of Wenceslas Square or you can send money to the following account number at the CSOB bank : 999 888 999/0300 For more information please go: www.varaafghanistan.org
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