Afghanistan students earn money through carpet weaving
Pakistan Rotarians Aziz Memon (left) and Nasir Khan (right) present RI President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson with a carpet woven in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Rotary Club of Peshawar
Rotarians in Pakistan and the United States are using the centuries-old craft of carpet weaving to help inhabitants of a town in Afghanistan make better lives for themselves.
Spin Boldak, in southern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, has certainly felt the effects of the war. Thousands face a daily struggle to survive or find work.
Past RI Director Lynmar Brock helped connect the Rotary Club of Abaysin Central in Peshawar, Pakistan with the Rotary Club of Central Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA, to establish a project, to teach residents the art – and marketable skill – of carpet weaving, after Brock returned from a visit to Pakistan. The Pakistan club wrote up a matching grant application and sent it to Brock, who helped them find an international partner.
For centuries, experienced weavers in Afghanistan have painstakingly created a heritage of rugs, with many families passing on their designs for generations. A new 3 x 5-foot rug made by an amateur can sell for US$50 at a local bazaar – and overseas, the decorative carpets sell for far more.
“Skills in carpet weaving in war-torn areas of Afghanistan are an immediate source of earning, either in a carpet weaving factory, or one can start his or her own facility,” explains Vasanth Prabhu of the Central Chester County club.
The two Rotary clubs raised $15,000 with the help of the matching grant, which was used to buy 10 looms, tools, and wool for the training center.
Despite continued unrest in the region, materials still flow to Spin Boldak, allowing more and more of its residents to learn to weave. As of March, 90 men and women, mostly in their 20s and 30s, had graduated from the two-month training program.
Prabhu says the clubs are now hoping to cooperate with another nonprofit to sell the rugs internationally.
This will allow those in the program to concentrate more on the actual weaving and less on the marketing and selling of the carpets, says Prabhu.
“[It’s] a chance to be employed with a decent salary.”