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06/24/2010

“Theme song”

20100624_smaller_dscf4574 Living in Haiti, I hear many different sounds on a regular day: babies crying, water splashing as people do their laundry, trucks passing by… In the midst of all these, the sound that stands out the most is the “theme song” of the water trucks in the early morning.

In Haiti, it is common that people who don’t have access to tap water buy water from the water-vending trucks. These trucks are common, and they usually come around with a familiar music that they play. Simply imagine the water truck equivalent of the ice cream truck music. Playing music to attract customers is nothing new, but what particularly caught my attention was their selection in music. In general, these trucks play either one of the two songs: the theme song of an academy award winning movie, “My Heart Will Go On,” or the year-round “Jingle Bell.” My guess is that these songs are meant to send us messages that “water supply will go on forever,” or “we wish you a merry day just like Christmas!”

While Haitian people may take these familiar sounds for granted, for me, coming from another continent across the Pacific, they are an intriguing piece of the Haitian life that captured my attention.

June 24, 2010 in Haiti |

Baccalaureate

Thanks to the cooperation of all our supporters and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, four school buildings are being newly reconstructed in our school reconstruction and hygiene promotion projects. Three out of four schools are already in progress, but the remaining one is yet to be touched. Why would that be?

The annual baccalaureate exam for Iraqi students is held in June. Sixth graders take this exam to graduate, seniors in intermediate schools (for 3 years from age 12) and secondary schools (3 years from age 15) to graduate and enter higher level schools. Exams are taken one subject at a time every two days, and in total it takes two weeks to complete. The examination fee is free. The cut-off line is 50% correct answers to pass this exam. If students fail to pass, they need to retake the exam next year. Apparently, retaking the exam places you in further disadvantage since each retake deduces one point from your total score. Students who are retaking the exam for the first time are allowed to repeat their senior year to prepare for it, but they must prepare for the second retake and then on by themselves.

Grade dictates students’ options for high school. Without good grades, it becomes difficult for seniors in intermediate school to go on to secondary schools. In this case, they could go into industrial, commercial, or technical high schools. If you are a senior in secondary school, grades will affect your chances to become accepted to prestigeous national universities with excellent professors and free tuition.

Since the one remaining school was being used as a baccalaureate exam site, we were not able to commence our project there.

June 24, 2010 in Iraq |

The Afghanistan Citizens in Islamabad

In mid-May last year, I was transferred to Islamabad in the neighboring country Pakistan to remotely monitor JEN’s projects in Afghanistan as program officer. Since then, it has been a year. During this past year, security in Afghanistan has shown a glimmer of improvement, but has also become worse since last August’s presidential election. For this reason, we international staff reduced our business travels, and remotely monitored 100% of our project site in Pakistan this year.100624_islamabad_f10_022

Since we do not have direct access to our project sites in Afghanistan, it felt pretty distant, but I realize it’s not actually so. At the Islamabad office, you hear the Pakistani staff members talking to the Kabul staff members on the phone in Pashtun, which is their common language. Once you step outside, you will see that the greengrocers in the market or the bakers from whom we occasionally buy lunch are Afghans. Many Afghans even run grocery stores we go to everyday. Despite being new to this place, you encounter many Afghans here and there. How many Afghans in Islamabad do you think await their return to their home country?

June 24, 2010 in Afghanistan |

06/17/2010

Challenges in School Construction

100617_children_studying_under_a__4 Studying in a Sudanese school is often not easy. There are no quiet libraries. Instead, 50 students share a noisy mud hut. Other less fortunate pupils have trees as their roof. On rainy days, school is cancelled; otherwise, children and their textbooks will get soaked!

100617_children_studying_under_a__5 That is why schools that JEN is constructing will be so helpful. Each class can have its own room, and students can finish their homework at more peaceful and dry places.

100617_goat_escaping_from_crime_s_3  However, while Sudan is not an easy place to be a student, it is also not an easy place to carry out construction. Problems like violence during election times, tribal conflicts, and flash flooding are obviously serious issues. But sometimes challenges are less formidable. This week, we had to make sure someone was guarding our construction sites even during the night – not because of the threat of thieves, but to protect against roaming goats that like to walk on freshly paved cement, leaving their footprints on it and spoiling our progress!

100617_goat_footprints_3  Not only is it difficult to go to school in Sudan, it is also difficult to construct one.

June 17, 2010 in South Sudan |

Unexpected Intruder

It is not easy to learn in school quietly in Sudan.

Needless to say, there is no quiet library, and the noisy huts with mud wall are packed by 50 students. Unfortunate students have to study under the tree. It is the open air school. When it is rain, the school will be closed otherwise the students and the text books will get soaked!!

In this situation, the schools currently being constructed must be very useful. All classes are able to have own classrooms, and the students will be able to some homework in the rooms without getting soaked.

The school construction is prevented by not only some big issues such as the troubles caused by the election, the conflict between the nationality and the flood. We had to watch the schools all day this week. It was not for guarding from burglars. It was for protecting the schools from the goats which had spoiled our work by walking on the unfixed cement and making their foot prints on it!!

In Sudan, it is difficult to go to schools, but it is difficult to construct schools itself, too.

June 17, 2010 in South Sudan |

06/10/2010

Life of Afghan Refugees in Peshawar

100610_qaiser_khan My name is Qaiser Khan, and I joined JEN on May 30th, 2010 as an administrative and finance officer at the Islamabad office. I am originally from Nowshera, Pakistan, but since 2004, I have been living in Peshawar, Pakistan with my family. Because Peshawar is only 65km away from Turkhum (the boarder of Pakistan and Afghanistan), many Afghan refugees came to Peshawar during the civil war between 1980 and 2001. Since then their life as refugees in Peshawar has begun.

People who have been educated started their career as a teacher or an agent that sends people abroad legally or illegally, and those who have not been educated supported their families by working as drivers or selling fruits. While relatively rich Afghan refugees live in cities like Hayatabad, Peshawar, and other comfortable places, poor refugees were leading a miserable life in refugee camps or small villages.

Recently, however, refugees came to appreciate education. This is because they believe their country’s political situation has improved and came to believe that they will have a better future if they receive quality education. According to an official source, the number of registered schools has now reached 313 in Peshawar and student enrollment is approximately 117,375. 4,695 teachers educate the young generation who is responsible for the future of Afghanistan. However, among the 313 schools, unfortunately, none is established by the Afghan government. All schools are private, costing from Rs.200 to Rs.600 per month.

During my visit to these schools, I observed that the school infrastructure is poor, and the majority of the toilets (95%) are in such a bad condition that no one could use it.  During personal interviews, moreover, most students expressed dissatisfaction with their teachers’ incapability, and many believed that the school was opened not to provide quality education but solely for lucrative purposes.

In the whole of Peshawar, there is no orphanage for young Afghan refugees, nor is there a hospital in which refugees can get free medical care. We must not forget about their living conditions in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan.

June 10, 2010 in Afghanistan |

Port Meat Available

100603_img_1325  As I have already introduced a lot about ‘Garment’, today I’m going to introduce about ‘food’.

  Here in Amman, the majority of citizens are Muslims. As it’s said that Muslims don’t take pork meat, what we see at a meat section of supermarkets are only chicken, beef and lamb meat. We never see pork in supermarkets. You may have a question whether expatriates are unable to have pork until their home-leave, doubt so. There’s a way for non Muslims. In Amman, there is specialized ‘pork meat shops’ (not just ‘meat shop’) ran by Non Muslims.

  The shop I have visited sells processed and frozen pork meat. Even frozen whole pork carcasses is available!  200g of frozen pork shoulder cost me 2 Jordanian dinars (= USD 2.82, currency pegged since 1995), far more expensive than other kind of meat I usually take. Although, my first bite of pork meat in a while tasted so special.100603_img_1328

June 10, 2010 in Iraq |

06/03/2010

Go Iketani!

2010_17_low_210 volunteers from a company visited Iketani. There were actually 4 repeaters in that group. It was really appreciated.

Normally, most participants for Village Revitalization Volunteers had not met each other  before because they participated by themselves or with a friend etc. On the other hand, the10 participants this time have in common as they were from the same company since they saw the notice of the volunteer recruitment and participated in the activity. However, they belonged to different department and were in different age group.

“Oh, why you are here, sir?” A man could not help being surprised as his manager also joined in.
“Hey, how have you been?” Manager talk to him too.

The work and other matters during the stay such as cooking, room sharing and working group were fairly shared and organized for the 10 volunteers. 
 As time goes by, even though there were still kind of hierarchy, they enthusiastically talked each other as they got together with same motivation. Some members of Tokamachi Regional Development Planning Committee and JEN staff joined the conversation.  “How about having a company trip here?” “Why is the international corporation NGO engaging to village revitalization? ”, “What is the definition of “self reliance”?” ,“You are very fit and energetic, man”. The conversation did not stop.2010_69_low

There is normally an integration banquet between the villagers and volunteers in village revitalization volunteer. However, there was no banquet that time as they had sports event in the region next day.

The volunteers might think “We wish we could talk to the villagers more”. Next morning, they watched the event which was held in neighbouring village from beech forest where they visited after finishing the tasks. Their voice could not be heard by the villagers due to the distance, but their hearts were the one “Go IKetani!”

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There were many first time participants in the volunteer activities organized by JEN and the activities were in 6th year this year. On contrary, there were many repeaters too. We could see that the repeaters were advising to the first time volunteers.

JEN will continue sending “village revitalization volunteers” as long as it is needed. Although you need lots of courage for the first step, please join us if you are interested in!

Not only village revitalization volunteer, but also there is “Let’s Go to TAMBO!!”. Please feel free to contact us for further information.

June 3, 2010 in Niigata |

Water Sanitation assistance in Morobo county has been successful!!

JEN’s water sanitation programme for schools brought some changes to people’s life in Morobo county, remote area.

A person who lives in Ryokapoto said ”Well equipped hygiene facility and safe drinking water brought us fantastic development.” Ryokapoto is a local town in Morobo county.

Alhaji, a chief of water department in Morobo county, said "This is absolutely fantastic for people in Morobo. We did not expect that we achieved such a many things in one year".

By stocking rainwater from roofs, 1000 children learning in 6 schools in Morobo county became able to use lavatories.

Wani, a chef of Ryokapoto said “We had not used these kind of facilities before. We did not know JEN, neither. It has been a year since JEN started the projects here, there are many changes. We cannot talk about these changes without  JEN”

June 3, 2010 in South Sudan |

The Future Created by Agricultural Wells

100603_a_beneficiary_with_organic_p The other day, a JEN staff member spoke with a returned refugee who had participated in the construction of agricultural wells and JEN’s community-building workshops. He said that having water, a necessity for life, had also brought hope for the future. Through JEN’s support, he has gained an understanding of new agricultural techniques, cooperative methods and ways to share resources within the community. He said that he is now able to continue producing crops, and in a better way.
 Right now, he is focusing on the workshops’ lessons in maximizing harvests with minimal resources. This means vegetable gardening during the rainy season, when one can expect large harvests, in order to use his time effectively. He said he is waiting eagerly for more agricultural wells to be completed, since among other things they will allow him to continue farming.

The pictures are from a workshop held a few days earlier, through the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all of our supporters. You can see the organic pesticide he labored to make himself, the vegetables (eggplants) grown by other participants, and a test crop of bananas, which are difficult to grow here due to difficulties with water supply and wild elephants.

100603methodical_egg_plantjpg_culti  100603_testing_banana_plant
There will be a presentation on our support for Sri Lanka on June 18th.
We hope you’ll be there!
Find out more about the presentation here.

June 3, 2010 in Sri Lanka |