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Local Perspectives: A Day in the Park

Helmand is still one of the most difficult operating environments in Afghanistan. Despite the security challenges, local entrepreneurs in the country’s largest province display a remarkable sense of resilience, helped by the PDM-Helmand project, which is accredited with having facilitated almost $150 million in contracts awarded to Helmandi companies by international buyers, thereby creating thousands of local jobs. Now, meet entrepreneurs who are building the Helmandi marketplace!

These stories were written by Nooruddin Bakhshi. He is an Afghan journalist who has worked for many years with The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Times. He has also worked on several NGO communication projects. He is based in Kabul.

The Father of the Nation park in the city has a ferris wheel, a fountain, and some play equipment. All have seen better days and only the play equipment is in regular working order. Still, when the Islamic Sabbath of Friday comes, the park draws in scores of locals, all men and boys, who embrace the park for picnics, football and volleyball, and a spot of kalk janji (partridge fighting). It is one of the few recreational areas in dusty Lashkar Gah that has grass and a bit of shade. And no-one is worried about security. The park sits across the Helmand river, at the Bolan Bridge, which leads to Marjah, and there is a heavy presence of police and officers from the National Directorate of Security.

Fifteen-year-old Sultan and his friends take to the park each Friday, coming with deep-fried chips and soft drinks. “We are facing our lives with happiness here,” he says of the city. The eighth-grade student says his joy comes from the fact that he and his fellow pupils have teachers for every class, and they can go to school without fear. “On every traffic circle, there are policemen. When I see them, I know they are looking out for trouble, so this makes me feel safe.” While Lashkar Gah is still by no means entirely peaceful, violence is more of a rarity now, than an accepted part of daily life.

Sultan says at the end of the day, after kicking the football around in three-side scratch games, he and his friends return home, pray, and then do some studying. At night, with his family, they retire in front of the television to watch one of the Pashtun-language channels before listening to Afghan music on the radio. Sultan says enjoying these times is important.

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