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Children & Young People · 02:43

WAKHAN PROJECT - Snow without borders in Afghanistan

  • By Igino Castellani · Italy, Europe

 

WAKHAN PROJECT - Snow without borders in Afghanistan

Main aim of the charity

Try to give hope of peace and dignity to the young population in a wonderful, yet very poor region, marked by so many tragedies and an endless war. That country is Afghanistan, the region is the valley of Wakhan. A long passage that borders with Tajikistan-Pakistan-China, a 250 km (long) valley surrounded by high mountains, the chain of Pamir, that have created a strong isolation from the rest of the country, especially in Winter when heavy snowfalls are frequent. The project is to create in this area a microeconomy linked to a mountain tourism, thus train local young people by teaching them ski mountaineering and the dangers of the mountain in Winter and in Spring and how to face and prevent them. Therefore, in the perspective of a development of a tourism that is oriented mainly towards other countries (Europe/America…), combine a commitment of civil protection and safeguarding of mountain populations in a scenario of a wider alliance between the mountain itself and its inhabitants in an effort to pacify their relationship and reduce the abandonment of the territory. Teaching the ski mountaineering to these young people can therefore result in a powerful possibility of survival against the threats of the wilderness and be at the same time opportunity for amusement, change and improvement of the quality of life. This project will eventually include all the young population indiscriminately.

How the employee got involved and why

I am a member and ski mountaineering coach of the "Renzo Giuliani" school in Verona (IT). We organize ski mountaineering courses at different levels on a voluntary basis. We teach people to face the mountain in the winter season. The Wakhan project was born in 2017 taking a cue from a mountain guide's idea, Ferdinando Rolando, who, back in 2010, tried to introduce the ski mountaineering in Afghanistan in order to lift its population. The reason of this project is to celebrate in 2021 the 50th anniversary of the school and we have considered a period of 5 years to develop it. The idea that my knowledge and my experience can help other people and be opportunity for a change of their conditions, is what makes me more enthusiastic about this initiative. In August 2018 our school director was in Wakhan to climb the highest peak of Afghanistan (Noshaq, 7492 mt) with the main purpose to understand whether there are any assumptions to get the local people involved and become a reference. When he came back to Italy the whole school staff started working on the development of this project.

What work does the employee do for charity?

First of all I volunteered to visit this area in Afghanistan. In September 2018 we started to contact companies in order to gather equipment to carry with us (ski, technical equipment, clothing and other stuff), we organised evenings to explain the project and raise funds. The CAI (Club Alpino Italiano "Cesare Battisti") in Verona threw a fundraiser called "Natale Alpino" to help finance the mountain populations and we obtained a contribution of 5.000 euros. I prepared the documentation, took on logistical duties and got everything ready for our charity trip. So in April 2019 I left with the other three coaches, destination Wakhan, where our first 4 trainees (including a young lady) where waiting for us.

What impact would winning have on the charity?

It would certainly prove that this is a good and high-quality project. Considering that it has always been presented in a mountaineering contest, getting acknowledgement outside this environment would be of great value. A potential economic contribution would ensure more continuity to the project and would give it chance to develop in different forms. The goals of our work, seen in an increasingly ambitious perspective which considers the mountain a resource, could lead to the construction of a recreational facility for the local young people, where they could meet, share their knowledge and start an activity centred on the mountaineering for mountain-lovers, offer suitable resources such as learning material and publish reports with itineraries. In the mountain we can follow our dreams and Mountain is my passion.

What impact would winning have on the employee?

I would personally be very proud to receive such an important acknowledgement. I have been working for DHL for over 30 years and I have always seen challenges as a growth, both for the company and myself. The project I have explained above is complicated and might seem visionary. We, at the mountaineering school "Renzo Giuliani", are aware that we cannot change the life of these people overnight, mostly because they live in a remote area of the world but we also believe that if we don't do anything, nothing will change. This is a challenge and challenges are won with the contribution of people and with the passion we put to achieve our goals.

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