On December 23rd 2015 a fundraiser as eccentric as Norfolk itself was held to raise money for the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association’s Well Building Project. An array of guests including Gulwali Passarlay, author of The Lightless Sky, and my inspiring friends and family gathered in the kitchen of my family home for a memorable evening of stories, donations, wine, and a home cooked Indian dinner.
(Some of the wonderful people who came are not in this photo as we took it a bit late!)
Ordinarily, my friends and I go for dinner at a local restaurant and spend too much on food and drink, albeit with copious hours of laughter and dancing. This time, given the brutality of the news of 2015 and reassessments of our own good fortunes, it was obvious that we should move the copious hours of laughter and dancing to my house instead where money would be better put in a glass jar for clean water in Pul-e-Khumri, Afghanistan.
A good 30 people were heard in the tiny space of my mum’s kitchen laughing, sharing stories of their own times in Central Asia, and catching up with those who they had not seen since the Christmas before. I stood on a chair as a professional speaker does and explained who the ACAA are and why I had invited this wonderful group of people to mum’s house for the evening, and now I am going to tell you the same thing.
The ACAA in the UK provides advice and integration support for Afghan refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. They achieve this with a Saturday school that delivers English, Maths, Dari, Pashto and ESOL classes, as well as by providing a women’s peer support group and drop in centre for advice and mentoring. The ACAA in Afghanistan runs 2 citizens’ advice centres providing legal advice and outreach to the most vulnerable groups in the population. Around 65% of those who visit the centres are women. Most clients visit about poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, and divorce.
Gulwali took centre stage and spoke with such passion and devotion for those who he is now working so hard himself to help, and gave us an insight into his journey from Afghanistan as a 12 year old refugee sent to Britain to avoid Taliban recruitment. For most of us living in the safety of our houses with our family, comprehending the idea of losing both your father and grandfather to the bullets of the US army is impossible. I will transcribe what he said and post this later, as I am currently suffering from jet lag and writing this in the early hours of Thursday morning.
We later stood in the kitchen eating a home cooked Indian dinner, rustled up by my step-dad Paul, off paper plates with some awesome tunes playing in the background.
With full stomachs (although mine wasn’t full as my mum took my plate away and told me that there wasn’t enough to go around, “that’s what happens when you’re the host” haha), a generous donation made to my homemade jar, and a lighter head after the wine, people started to retreat to their homes around 21:30.
The whole evening filled the kitchen with so much love, happiness, and kindness that by the end of the night we had raised 490GBP. They are now just 510GBP away from their 2000GBP aim, which is the total amount needed for the project to begin.
Words cannot sufficiently thank all of those who helped host and attend the fundraiser. As Gulwali said, it is astonishing to think that there are people in Norfolk helping and thinking of those in Pul-e-Khumri. I have the kindest friends and family who have now been a part of helping a provence of Baghlan get closer to receiving clean and fresh water.
(Again, a few people a missing!)
Gulwali Passarlay (The Lightless Sky – https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-lightless-sky/gulwali-passarlay/9781782398448)
(On my professional speakers stool)