KABUL, Afghanistan — A pilot program initiated recently by Kabul’s mayor, Muhammad Yunus Nawandish, and Task Force Centurion commander Brig. Gen. William Hall is providing clear and immediate benefits to a community where the positive results of long-term, capacity-building coalition activities such as training police officers and building schools can take much longer to be realized.
The Kabul Youth Corps program provides full-time work and life-skill opportunities for young men age 17 to 21 throughout the city.
“I am happy to give these young men an opportunity to learn new skills,” said Nawandish during a ceremony Feb. 11 for the program’s official opening.
In the program, 80-man teams spend eight months picking up trash, shoveling mud and planting flowers throughout the city, while each worker earns a regular paycheck and is provided with lodging.
Program managers, working with the city’s Directorate of Greenery, plan to plant thousands of flowers, trees and shrubs throughout Kabul this year.
Kabul has swelled with people over the past few years and now is nearing 5 million inhabitants. Residents are concerned about the aesthetics, environmental damage and possible disease and health issues caused by piles of waste in the roads. Cleaning the city is the mayor’s top priority, but, because the sanitation department is unable to keep up with waste management, much of the trash simply sits on the streets.
Some of the young men employed by the new Kabul Youth Corps program will be designated as waste management workers, while others will be gardeners.
“When I finish this program, I hope I can continue doing the same work as a gardener for the city,” said Zabieullah, an 18-year-old who started working in Kabul Youth Corps a month ago.
The Youth Corps workers spend up to eight hours a day working around the city and earn nearly $200 per month.
“The work is hard sometimes,” Zabieullah said. “But I need to work in order to send money home to my family.”
The new program not only improves the city’s appearance and air quality, but increases the economic capacity of Kabul’s vulnerable young men.
Although coalition forces are assisting Kabul with the Youth Corps program, the responsibility for programs such as this one, in addition to providing security, improving the economy and stabilizing society, will soon be entirely on Kabul residents’ shoulders.
“After 2014, I am sure that we will continue this project,” Nawandish said. “Everyone benefits from this program: the city, the youth and their families.”