In April 2020, as Kabul was under a tough lockdown to prevent Covid-19 rapid spread, Kocha ba Kocha, a group of young volunteers in the capital Kabul, took an initiative to help poor families who were in dire need relief at a time when the country was facing hard time and heavy financial burden.
At initial stage, a small group of friends undertook contributing small amount of money and later they initiated to collect money from circles of their friends for families in need. With lockdown continued, Kocha ba Kocha launched a campaign on social media, aiming to raise more funds.
Mahdi Mudabber, who is a founding member of Kocha ba Kocha campaign, tells a personal story which prompted him to launch this campaign. On April 02, as I, tired and hungry, reached home my mother welcomed me with a hot bowl of lentil soup, Mahdi recalls. “Is it lentil soup a food,” I told my mother, “Our neighbor does not have anything to eat,” my mother replied.
For Mahdi, the sad heartbreaking story of the poor neighbor, who was unable to feed three children in Covid-19 period, echoed the misery of human fellows; it was a test too: a test of humanity and generosity. Mr. Mudabber took the story of poor neighbor to Facebook, calling for relief. “A mother along with her three children, who are living close to our house, do not have basic food material. Anyone willing to help can leave me a message.” The next day, as Mahdi checked his messenger box, he received three responses one of which was sent by Jawad Zawulistani, a friend to Mahdi.
Jawad and Mahdi, take a handful relief package and some cash to the house of vulnerable families. Seeing a bad situation getting into worst, they came with an idea to start a fund raising program for poor families. “The situation is worse, let’s bring happiness for more people,” Jawad tells Mahdi.
The two young volunteers believe that helping others makes them happy. Seeing a human happy makes us happy; it was a great moment of happiness, they say.
First weeks of campaign
In first weeks of campaign a small circle of friends volunteered their time and resource to identify vulnerable families, raise fund, and collect relief packages. They identified target group who included women-led families, war victim families, families affected by drug addiction and daily wage workers.
Given the heavy workload and substantial amount of donations, the volunteers undertook identifying vulnerable families in some targeted areas in Kabul and then distributed aid packages for the target families. As the campaign took momentum, more volunteers joined it.
Spirit of volunteerism
Inspired by happiness every aid recipient family would feel, the young volunteers in Kocha ba Kocha chose to extend their campaign and widen their target area. In addition to aid raising and relief delivery, they started to raise public awareness on Covid-19, preventive measures, and how to care for those infected with the virus, distribute of soap and face masks in areas they covered. To make the campaign more effective, the team was divided into management body, medical team, and relief distribution team.
To preserve dignity, and self-esteem—all defined as values of the campaign—of the aid recipients, Kocha Ba Kocha volunteers avoided taking photos, video footage, or naming them. 20 days after the campaign was kicked off, in cooperation with Jafar Rezae who lives in California of the United States, the team launched the hashtag #KochaBaKocha and Facebook fundraising to collect donations from Afghan diaspora in The US, Europe and Australia.
With an online fundraising platform, a total of USD 13,704 was raised in two different fundraising campaigns launched on Facebook. Moreover, a total of AFN 246,345 in-cash aid was made through the campaign during Covid-19 period.
Those donated in Facebook fundraising were Afghan diaspora and migrants living overseas. Some foreign nationals, too, donated to the campaign. A citizen of Chile, a western country of the South America and a distant country from Afghanistan, donated to the campaign. Donating to Kocha ba Kocha, an Iranian woman, who lives in Canada, has expressed regret for mal treatment of the Iranian government with Afghan refugees. She called on Iranians to donate for the campaign and share solidarity with Afghans during the Covid-19 period. On her Facebook, Vision Stubbs, a British woman, also asked her followers to donate for Kocha Ba Kocha campaign. “These people are doing great work on the ground in Afghanistan and need all the help they can get,” she wrote in support of Kocha ba Kocha volunteers.
An Afghan girl who is studying in China donated her one month stipend (USD 211) to the campaign, noting that it would be enough for her to live with bread, water, and smile.
Turan Sultani, a volunteer, donated 800 facemasks and Laila Haidari, founder of the Mother Camp, donated 400 facemasks to Kocha ba Kocha. The Gahwara Group, a group of volunteers who are working on child literature in Afghanistan, gave dozens of child story books to Kocha ba Kocha volunteers, asking them to pass it to children of the families they visit.
A unique soul experience
Volunteers, who took part in Kocha ba Kocha campaign, tell a soothing story about their experience during Covid-19 period. They say each relief package they delivered to a family would sooth their soul.
A total of 405 families were covered by aid packages. In the early stage, each family was paid around AFN 5,000 in cash but later they decided to distribute packages of food materials to the target families. The packages included a gunny of flour, a bottle of cooking oil, eight pockets of macaroni (dry pasta), seven kilo of rice, few kilos of bean, few kilos of lentil, sugar, date, and hygiene packages including soup, facemasks, and etc.
The food packages were distributed, as “gift” in eight rounds, to the families over six months by volunteers. Volunteers would call the families by phone, saying they are on their doorstep with a gift and the families would ask who had sent the gift. One of the volunteers, Khaliq Ebrahimi, would often reply “no one” has sent this gift.
Khaliq, who explained his observation about distribution of aid packages wrote on Facebook, “Fatima, mother of eight children says that Ramadan was the worst month for them. She would make her children sleep with empty stomach during the nights when they did not receive Iftari from neighbors.”
The outbreak of Covid-19 made things worse for thousands of families in Afghanistan.
Kocha ba Kocha covered surgery expenses of a poor man who was contracted to bone tuberculosis. In August this year, as flash flood hit Charikar, the capital of northern Parwan province, Kocha ba Kocha volunteers delivered as many as 165 aid packages to flood hit families.