Monday, May 23, 2011

Laura Kavanaugh

On May 11 the Mission and Outreach hosted a presentation by Rev. Laura Kavanagh on her recent trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of her work with PWS&D. 
 We began with lunch.

Prepared and served by our friendly kitchen crew.

During lunch Laura recruited a number of women to model the scarfs and Salwar kameez (traditional dress for both men and women in Pakistan) that she had brought with her.

  Here Laura uses her very amateur models to show how a pashmina can be arranged, to demonstrate the cool comfort of the tunic and pants and to demonstrate a head covering. 
She also had a display of colourful fabrics, used as bedsheets in the villages she visited, but useful as tablecloths in Western cultures.

   Once we were all at ease in our Eastern clothes, Laura showed a series of slides documenting her journey through villages where PWS&D is active with local self-help groups, in partnership with CIDA and Canadian Foodgrains Bank, among others. 
    Laura was part of a delegation,  hosted by Church World Service – Pakistan/Afghanistan, who provided local hosts, interpreters and security.   Her group visited Sindh province and Swat in Pakistan, as well as Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan. The trip also included meetings with officials at the Canadian embassy in Kabul as well as at the High Commission in Islamabad.
    The visit provided an opportunity  to monitor existing programs, network with local partners, and account for how money had been spent.  Because PWS&D receives funds from CIDA, this monitoring of the work is vital, both to maintain funding and to learn what programs are most effective.
   The delegation was able to see firsthand the improvements in agricultural production, and community health, and to plan further projects.  PWS&D has been instrumental in training community health volunteers in very poor villages and the improvement in maternal and infant health has been significant.  In one of the villages where these health volunteers have been working, the last infant death occurred eight years ago.  Previously there would have been three or four infant deaths every year.
  Although living conditions in this part of the world are primitive by the standards of our society, Rev. Kavanagh is cheered by the improvements she has seen and the plans for future projects. One proposal is for a girls’ education project in Afghanistan, where the plight of girls is well-documented.  Although remote villages are very conservative in their approach to women and girls, the response to the girls' education project has been overwhelmingly positive. 
   Since this trip was also her vacation, Laura took advantage of the sight-seeing opportunities and the chance to meet many people.  She shopped in the markets, travelled over meagre to non-existant roads and noted the contrast between between the squalor of some homes and villages, versus places of great beauty, like the Lotus Temple.  
    She also showed us pictures of happy, healthy children, women providing for their families with the help of micro-loans from PWS&D and girls learning to read.  Despite the difficulties and hardships, it is clear that PWS&D, along with its partners, is making a positive difference in this part of the world.

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