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United Afghan Club raises funds to build drinking-water wells in Afghanistan

By Andrea Schneck

Feb. 25, 2010 10:54 p.m.

UCLA’s United Afghan Club is raising money to build wells more than 7,000 miles away, holding a fundraising banquet today to help provide water for those in need in Afghanistan.

“Only 13 percent of the population has access to clean, safe drinking water,” said Salmon Hossein, a club member and fourth-year political science and international development studies student.

Resource depletion is a result of nearly 30 years of armed conflict, which devastated Afghanistan, according to the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees’ Web site.

Poverty is widespread, with 42 percent of the population living on less than $1 a day. Gender inequality is also prominent, with the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index ranking Afghanistan second to last of 102 countries not on the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development Countries list. An OECD country, according to the OECD Web site, is characterized by a commitment to democracy and economic growth and development. According to the SIGI Web site, this ranking of the country is based on five criteria: family code, physical integrity, son preference, civil liberties and ownership rights.

The United Afghan Club seeks to address some of these issues, both locally and abroad.

The banquet, which is free to attend, will include well-known figures from the Afghan community, including best-selling author Tamim Ansary, Afghan musician Naim Popal and global television personality Dr. Farid Younos. There will be food, a fashion show featuring traditional Afghan clothing, a bazaar, henna and a raffle.

The club will donate all proceeds raised from its banquet, “Rebuilding Afghanistan: One Drop at a Time,” to the Danish committee, a non-governmental organization dedicated to resource sustainability that will build the wells.

The Danish committee sends pictures and updates with each well built, including the exact location of the well, said Zachia Nazarzai, vice president of the United Afghan Club and second year psychobiology student. The organization also provides operational and maintenance training, as well as education regarding the sanitation of water.

Unlike clothing and school supplies, which are temporary, wells allow for the Afghan population to have access to a resource that can last for generations, Hossein said.

The goal of the fundraiser is to raise awareness about Afghan culture as well as educate people about human rights issues and civilians dying of dehydration, said Weiss Hamid, president of the United Afghan Club and a fourth-year political science student.

The club hopes to get at least 500 people to attend the fundraiser, Nazarzai said. Six hundred and fifty people attended last year’s fundraiser, where the club raised $10,000 in money and donated vitamins.

Wells vary in cost to build, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. While the wells are not targeted to be built in any specific area, the club expects them to be valuable and effective, Hossein said.

“It is our responsibility as students ““ that if we have the resources, to help people that have been suffering so long and show that students can take an active role in solving some of the world’s issues,” Hamid said.

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Andrea Schneck
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