It is often good to do something different, and I have recently achieved that by deploying with the Army to Kabul. My job was to support personnel from all three Services based in and around Kabul. So often the media is filled with bad news from Afghanistan, but I was privileg ed to see some of the good things being achieved there.
The Army unit I worked with conducted regular foot patrols to meet the locals and identify areas where we could help them and so I found myself pounding the streets of Kabul. Although we train for this, it’s not something many of us do in the RAF and I have to confess to being a bit nervous the first few times I went out. However, bolstered by the excellent pre-deployment training given by the RAF Regiment and the sheer professionalism of the Army I quickly grew in confidence in this role.
We were often swamped with children asking for pens or chocolate and an abiding memory of these patrols is the poverty I saw. I struggle to reconcile this with some of the excesses of our own society and I found a visit to Meadowhall in Sheffield after my return particularly difficult. Meeting the maleks (local leaders) was the most interesting part of these patrols and they told us much about the history of Kabul and were always grateful for the work we did. One spoke to me about the new stability and freedom they saw in Afghanistan which meant their children could now be educated. We conducted humanitarian aid drops and the maleks would take us to the houses of the poorer members of the community.
We also went into several schools where we had refurbished classrooms. The teachers often worked double shifts as children attended in either the morning or afternoon so twice as many could be taught. There was an enthusiasm for learning not always found in this country. In Afghanistan a good education is often the only route out of abject poverty. The head of one of these schools said they had been blessed by Allah through our work, and may Allah bless us. Allah is Arabic for God and this comment reminded me that one way we serve God in this life is by helping others. Recognising one another’s needs and offering help is something we can all do, wherever we find ourselves.
By Padre Steve Radley