Pakistan: An unexpected side to the tough-looking man revealed in the field

When AAR staff member Tomohiko MORITA was to conduct training on sanitation and hygiene to a group of difficult-looking men, he surprisingly found that it was their beaming smiles that calmed his nerves the most. This is Morita’s report from one of these training courses. AAR operates in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, situated in the region of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan.

“Unimaginable”: Communication with the severe-looking men

What images come to mind when you think of a typical man from Afghanistan or Pakistan? Through the protracted conflict in Afghanistan and news about terrorist bombings by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, a cheerful face may not be the image you conjure up. Before I left for this post, I too was slightly anxious about what topics of conversation would best build rapport and understanding with the local people.

From December 2012, I began working in the AAR Pakistan office and have been providing educational support to the Afghani refugee children that live in and around the refugee camps. Along with maintaining the sanitation facilities in the classrooms, libraries, toilets and washrooms of the schools, we have been conducting training courses aimed at teachers and parents with the aim of having accurate hygiene information delivered from adults to the children. From April 2012 to September this year, 793 teachers and parents have participated in AAR’s sanitation training courses. 

The training courses are conducted over 4 days and are separated into courses for men and women. On the first day of a training course held in March, the group that gathered was made up of severe-looking men with magnificent beards. I had prepared a game of Chinese-whispers to allow the participants to realize the importance of communicating well-organized information, but was nervous about their willingness to even participate in a game

The unexpected reaction

However, as soon as the game began all the participants began to laugh and giggle and lean in closely to each other to pass on the secret messages. When the answers were revealed, the excitement in the small classroom had reached its peak and tenor cheers of “Yes!! That’s right!!” “No!! Totally wrong!!” vibrated throughout. The participants appeared to have genuinely enjoyed the game. I was surprised by the serious note taking and concentration that was displayed by participants, and the lively responses and raising of hands to AAR staff questions that was seen after the game.

Most of the participants of the training courses arrived to the camps as Afghani refugees and thus had not had the opportunity to learn at a school up until this point. The participants appeared to thoroughly enjoy the chance to gather together to learn something, just like in a class at school. The Afghani and Pakistani people I met turned my image of “a strict people with harsh faces” right on its head.

The men from the refugee camp enjoying a game of Chinese-whispers. A smile slips as the message is whispered into his ear. (26th March 2013)


11.3 Million People Affected: AAR Japan Responds to Typhoon in the Philippines

Please support our cause to help those affected in Philippines

In response to Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) that struck the Philippines on November 8th, 2013, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) will deploy its staff members from Japan to carry out emergency assistance activities.

The typhoon, which caused massive flooding and landslides, has affected an estimated 11.3 million people all across the island nation, especially in areas around Leyte Island. It has been reported that as many as 10,000 people may have died in Tacloblan City alone, and more than 670,000 people have been forced to evacuate. These numbers are expected to increase through the subsequent surveys. Assistance is urgently needed including provision of water, food, medication, sanitary materials alternative shelters, and removal of debris (*source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: UNOCHA).

Zambia: Measures against HIV/AIDS “Don’t worry alone” AAR encourages HIV/AIDS patients to take medicine by cooperating with volunteers

AAR has been making comprehensive efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS infection since 2000 in Zambia by spreading proper knowledge, supporting children whose parents died of AIDS to go to school and providing care for HIV/AIDS patients. AAR reports about the ART (antiretroviral therapy) support, which we implement in the suburb of the capital city of Lusaka.

We wish more patients could live longer
Zambia, where more than 200 people die due to AIDS every day, is working on measures to combat HIV/AIDS. Recently, the treatment using “ARV”, the medicine for HIV, which slows down the progression of the disease, if taken properly everyday for the rest of patient’s life, has become common. However, among HIV/AIDS patients, many stop taking the drug due to various reasons. Some are afraid that their neighbors will know their status and thus hesitate to receive the drug in a clinic, while others procrastinate to visit a clinic, thinking “I am fine now.”

In response, AAR started training local volunteers who support patients to take ARV drugs since January 2013. 21 people were chosen from the area around a clinic, and received training for 23 days. The volunteers learned counseling skills such as how to make a friendly atmosphere that patients feel comfortable to talk, along with the basic knowledge of HIV/AIDS and ARV drugs.

The volunteers during the training. Their bright smiles and careful counseling support the patients. (April 10th, 2013)