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UMCOR helps Afghan villagers return home

3/20/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

By United Methodist News Service

Villagers in the Bagram Province of Afghanistan are regaining their homes and their lives with assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The agency's $635,847 Integrated Community Rehabilitation Project emphasizes "high impact interventions" in a small area, according to Henry Hamilton, UMCOR's head of mission in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"As far as I know, we are the only implementers doing such a thorough project," Hamilton told United Methodist News Service in a March 19 e-mail message. "We have made it possible for 70 percent of the exiled people to return to our targeted area."

About 90 percent of the 200 homes that UMCOR committed to rebuild in Bagram are complete. The project also includes rehabilitating water sources, such as wells and irrigation networks; providing seeds, pesticides and fertilizers; and providing income opportunities through loans. The villagers are active participants in the work.

To help with the upcoming planting season, for example, UMCOR has distributed spring wheat seed and fertilizer to 600 farmers and vineyards, as well as orchard rootstock to 200 farmers. The total distribution is 30,000 plants, according to Hamilton.

UMCOR also is putting the finishing touches on a 1,600-student high school in the Panjshair Valley and is awaiting the arrival of 2,000 school kits for distribution. "This project was actually a project being funded by Masood (the Taliban opposition leader) before his assassination," he said.

Hamilton is trying to raise funds to expand UMCOR's work to surrounding villages in the Shumali Plain, many of which were nearly destroyed. "Much of this farming population is displaced in Kabul, many (living) in tents and partially destroyed buildings," he added.

If the displaced people could be returned to their villages, they could raise the agricultural products that nearby residents of Kabul must now import from Pakistan, he explained.

"By putting a roof over their heads, assuring potable water access and supplying them with the basic agricultural inputs to restart their economic activities, these people could begin to rebuild their lives and communities independently," Hamilton said. "I am passionately pushing for funds to accomplish this vital mending of the communities around Kabul."

Donations to support UMCOR's work in Afghanistan should be earmarked for Advance No. 982540-1, "Global Peace Building and Reconcilation - Afghanistan." Checks can be dropped in local church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583. Donations also can be made online at, the agency's Web site.

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