To begin this report, we want to share an important update from Badakhshan, where the women's centre is situated and our local non-profit partner SALEHO is located. As many of you know, earlier this week the Badakhshan province was hit with a magnitude 6.5 earthquake. On March 23, BBS received word from the Executive Director of SALEHO that all their colleagues, and families, are safe. Receiving this news has been the highlight of our week!
For this women's centre and lending library update, we want to confirm that the provincial administrative building, where our project is situated, received no damage from the earthquake and remains open.
The lending library continues to be a busy hub and accessible to all interested book readers. In addition to the "central" library, a small branch was opened in the remote village of Dasht Khan to create a greater ease of access for the readers. A total of 319 readers, 211 females and 108 males, were registered in the registration records for the reporting period that ran from December 15, 2022, to March 20, 2023. However, SALEHO believes that the library usage is slightly higher than is recorded. Why? When taking into consideration the distance some individuals travelled to borrow books and the extreme cold, some books were probably read by additional readers under the original registration name. The library continues to receive book donations and the total number catalogued as of March 20 is 517, which is up from December when there were 497 titles catalogued.
For the winter courses, SALEHO supported a group of university graduate girls to register for a course with the Ministry of Education and the approval was granted but then revoked because of the ban on girls’ education for those over grade six. Currently, 109 young students are enrolled in a languages and math program, which includes 48 girls and 61 boys. What's next in-terms of learning courses? We'll continue with the young students programming and discussions are underway for a new household health and lifestyle program, similar to the 2022 smoke inhalation program which over 200 women participated in.
As a follow-up to the household smoke inhalation programming, BBS conducted a special fundraising appeal for 20 smokeless bread making ovens for 20 households as a pilot project. The funding from our community was raised in only a few days and we're pleased to share that the ovens have now arrived in Zebak and will be distributed as soon as possible. The original plan was to distribute this week but due to the earthquake, this has been pushed back. As part of the pilot project, SALEHO will closely monitor functionality of the stoves, impact on household smoke, and gather additional feedback from those baking with the ovens. Following the pilot project period, a decision will be made in-terms of next steps.
To wrap up this update from Badakhshan, we want to say thank you again to all our supporters for your continued support. There’s been some incredible milestones met with the library usage and setbacks for the university girls, but we remain hopeful.
For now, Ramadan Mubarak.
Our Centre is open and for the past two and a half months classes have been running for the women and children living in the Zebak district of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province.
Since the program’s official kick-off on August 20th, weekly household smoke reduction workshops have been delivered along with follow-up visits to participating households to further support the implementation of what was learned in the classroom. Through the participant's new knowledge, the greater goal is a 5-7% reduction in the usage of firewood for environmental reasons and for a more healthly home enviornment.
In addition to the smoke reduction sessions, the training program for the District Women's Working Group started and includes a series of workshops that focus on leadership skills, priority setting and community planning. Who is this group? The Women's Working Group is comprised of 15 volunteers that act as motivators for the community’s women as well as their local level advocates. The Women’s Group also works to strengthen the culture of volunteerism by supporting and encouraging the younger generation to get more actively involved and contribute to their community.
The final learning component of our program focuses on younger students, and we're pleased to share that these learning sessions have also started with attendance comprised of 148 girls and 105 boys who are now enrolled into six classes of English language and four classes of mathematics.
The Centre also is home to a small borrowing library and the Department of Culture of Information of Badakhshan has donated 120 books including 100 for children. All the books have been catalogued and are now regularly used by the beneficiaries.
To build upon what’s been accomplished in this program to date, our local NGO partner has recommended the purchase of 50 new style breadmaking stoves which create minimal smoke and use considerably less wood than the traditional stoves. These new breadmaking stoves are made in the local city of Faizabad and to date the communities in the project have not used them because of the per unit cost which is US$20.
We've been overwhelmed by the feedback, and demand, for this program and have made the decision to continue to fundraise for two new objectives. First, to extend the smoke reduction workshops through February 2023 to accommodate more households and secondly, to purchase and install 50 new breadmaking stoves.
On behalf of BBS, our Badakhshan partner SALEHO, and everyone participating in this program, we cannot begin to express our thanks for your support and donation. We're hopeful that this is the first step in many that we'll be able to make together for the families in this region of Afghanistan.
The ongoing pandemic and current world events have made fundraising a challenge for many non-profit organisations globally.
However, we've reached the funding goal for the first women's centre which will be in the Zebak region of Afghanistan's Badakhshan province. The community feedback for this centre will determine the next steps for the second centre which is scheduled for Ishkashim, a town located in the northeastern part of the Badakhshan province as well.
In this report we want to address our next step as well as answer a few of the most common questions we've received.
First, where is Zebak? It is located at the foot of the Daliz Pass on one of the natural routes that connects it with Tajikistan to the north, and with Pakistan to the south. It is known for its distinctive landscape, scenic pastures, and natural springs. The individuals that live in this area are Ismaili and they have a unique language, Sanglechi-Ishkashmi, as well as culture.
The centre will be located within the district office which will minimize project build-out costs and the library will have a capacity of 150 printed books and some audio resources to facilitate female university graduates access to continuous learning.
Secondly, we have been asked about the literacy rates in Zebak and while exact data per age demographic is difficult to ascertain, the library usage numbers that our local partners have provided is based on the following:
Third question is regarding roles of the partners in Afghanistan. SALEHO, who we introduced in an earlier report, will be responsible for all the deliverables and workshop facilitations for this centre. Business for Better Society has worked with SALEHO previously when they delivered our adult literacy program in six villages in the Badakhshan province between 2018 and 2019. In addition, the UN Mission in Badakhshan will act in a oversight capacity plus be our key liaison with the local officials when, and if, required.
Probably the most commonly asked question we've received is why start with workshops related to wood usage for cooking in kitchens and heating homes.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) data states that “4.2 million people die from exposure to outdoor air pollution, in addition to the 3.8 million whose deaths are linked to household smoke produced by dirty stoves and fuels. The main problem posed by heating and cooking is the smoke, which kills 54,000 Afghans a year. Most of those killed are children under five." The WHO also ranked the problem as one of the worst health risks facing the poor. "More than 95% of Afghanistan’s 30 million people burn solid fuels, such as wood and coal, in their homes, said the World Health Organisation, making it one of the top 10 countries worst-affected by indoor pollution.” On July 26, 2022 the WHO released new data in a briefing entitled "Household Air Pollution and Health" which can be reviewed by clicking here.
Therefore the UN, SALEHO and BBS believe that a strong health education program around practical approaches on smoke detection and how to reduce the consumption of firewood for 200 (female beneficiaries) households can reduce by 5% wood consumption and in conjunction the serious health related problems connected with this issue.
Next step, the roll out begins later this month!
In closing, on behalf of the women and children that will benefit from this centre, BBS and SALEHO a huge thank you for your support and we’re looking forward to sharing the photos as the centre takes shape!
When BBS started the project on GlobalGiving called Small Acts of Kindness, it was to highlight some of the projects we support and equally the incredible local non-profit partners that we work with globally.
In this update, we’d like to introduce you further to our Afghan partner SALEHO.
Shortly work on the first women's centre will begin as we are close to reaching the necessary funding target and we're delighted to continue working with our dear friends at SALEHO.
SALEHO (Strengthen Agriculture, Livelihood, Environment and Hygiene Organisation) operates primarily in the Zebak, Ishkashim and Wakhan districts of Badakhshan. They are a local NGO and registered with the Ministry of Economy since 2015. Their goal and objective are to "empower women and girls in rural Afghanistan and strengthen women's roles in social and economic lives by facilitating livelihood opportunities."
BBS first started working with SALEHO in late 2018 when they delivered our adult literacy program in six villages in the Wakhan Corridor. Their role included conducting the Master Training sessions for the chosen local facilitators, serving as coaches to the trainers through in-class observation sessions, and measuring program effectiveness.
SALEHO's professionalism and expertise to deliver high quality training programs coupled with their systems to measure impact will ensure we're again able to achieve all deliverables on time and budget.
While SALEHO will take the lead regarding program delivery, the UN Mission in Badakhshan will continue to act as the interface with the local authorities who have signed off on all plans and project deliverables.
The first centre will be opened in the Zebak district and will feature a library with capacity of 150 printed books and some audio resources that will provide female university graduates access to learning materials. The learning center will also serve as the "host" for workshops and information sessions under the life skills category and all of these will be delivered by SALEHO. When this library opens, it will be the seventh SALEHO has completed for our donors.
With so much happening in the world today, we want to thank everyone for their kind donations to this project and the hope it will bring girls and women in Afghanistan. We're excited and confident that with the efforts of our partners, the UN Mission and SALEHO, that we will create a centre the brings tremendous value to all those that it will serve.
Thank you again and best wishes.
For the last few months the focus of the Small Acts of Kindness Fund has been the Sserinya Primary School and their incredible teachers.
While the school is currently closed due to COVID restrictions, the Ugandan government has stated that schools will reopen in January 2022 to in-class teaching. Teachers, and the schools, are currently facing two challenges. The first is a significant gap in funding for salaries due to government cutbacks and secondly is what to do until January to have some income coming in.
Through the generous support of our donors, we have been able to raise (to date) the funds to support the salaries of two teachers for the entire upcoming scholastic year. This campaign and your commitment to the concept of the Small Acts of Kindness Fund, impacts on the ability to keep teachers in the classroom and in-turn on educating the children of the community.
For this update, we wish to introduce you to Mr. Kabanda Joseph Mukasa, one of the teachers that you are supporting.
Mr. Mukasa was a born in Villa Maria, located in the Kalungu district of Uganda. He studied at Byana primary school; King David high school; St Joseph S S Villa Maria; Mummy’s Institute of Beauty, Design and Commercial Studies and Kabukunge Primary Teachers College.
He teaches several subjects including social studies and the humanities (origin of man, his social, political and economic life and the interdependence between man and the environment) to the upper primary classes of P4 to P7 with students aged 10 – 15.
When BBS asked Mr. Francis Kiweewa, the headmaster, why Mr. Mukasa is a teacher, he shared "he loves teaching the youngsters because of the passion he has of sharing knowledge, the zeal of wanting to know more because the children also share knowledge. He wants to pass on life skills and knowledge to the young generation to help mould their future. He wants to be part of a child’s future, part of their transformation process as he transforms the community."
What has Mr. Mukasa been doing during the school closure due to COVID 19? During this time, he has concentrated on his craft work skills and especially making shoes. Despite this, he is ready to get back into the classroom and when he does to pass on the skills of shoe making to his learners and spark the desire to become an entrepreneur.
While we have shifted our focus of the Small Acts of Kindness Fund to a new UN project that has local government approval in the Badakshan province of Afghanistan, individuals can still give to the teachers of Sserinya Primary School through the fund by selecting the "make a donation of your choice" option as opposed to one of the pre-set donation levels.
We're delighted to have had the opportunity to introduce you to Mr. Mukasa and our most sincere thank you for ensuring that these passionate and dedicated teachers will be in the classroom in January!
On behalf of Business for Better Society and the Sserinya Primary School, our best wishes to you for a happy, healthy, and joy-filled new year.
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