Inside Kabul: landmine survivor aid activist live-blogs from lockdown in Afghanistan

I've known of James Hathaway and the NGO he co-founded, Clear Path International, for many years. They do great work to help civilian survivors of landmine blasts, people who now have disabling injuries, live better lives through medical care, education, improved mobility and access, and other forms of support. Clear Path originally focused their efforts in Vietnam, but have since expended into other conflict/post-conflict zones including Cambodia and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, James says, is "by far our largest project," with work ongoing in 19 of the country's 34 provinces.
James returned to Kabul to work with the CPI team there, just as the security situation abruptly escalated to a new level of crisis.

James and crew are spending a lot of time with bulletproof vests on, in safe rooms, and surrounded by very heavily armed security guys. James is blogging daily, and explains why he's there and what they're trying to accomplish in the following account, republished here in entirety with permission.

Why I Am Here in Kabul, Afghanistan
James Hathaway, Clear Path International

Seven years ago this month I was a guest blogger on my old friend Tom Peters' blog. He had asked me to guest-post while I took a nearly two-month journey across southeast Asia to visit all of our existing project sites. CPI was just five years old and we had really started to hit our stride with projects having already aided, in ways both large and small, well over a thousand people in Vietnam, Cambodia and along the Thai-Burma border.

On this trip, as I re-enter Clear Path International after three years away, I have a lot to learn about what has become our biggest and most complicated project: Clear Path Afghanistan.


The Clear Path International office in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The CPI Kabul office, in partnership with the US Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement provides assistance to landmine survivors and other people with disabilities by providing physical accessibility ramps to clinics, schools, government buildings, and mosques, which are often the most important sites in communities across Afghanistan. CPI supports disability resource centers for developing vocational skills and accessing peer support and assistance from disability advocates, none of which would otherwise be available to the beneficiaries here. CPI has expanded access to physical therapy services and physical rehabilitation, too. One of the most requested kinds of project activities in this extremely deprived environment is livelihood training to promote economic reintegration of accident survivors. CPI has been supporting these as well, always with the inclusion of literacy and numeracy education as a component. We even sponsor a first-rate cricket team made up entirely of landmine survivors and young menwith other physical disabilities. They routinely play against, and beat, teams of all able-bodied competitors.

We do this with a number of Afghan partners located in 19 out of 34 provinces across the country. While I can't name all of our projects and partners in this post, I want to highlight a few in the hopes that, as I post more, I will eventually touch on all of them.

Afghan SPARK

SPARK is an evolution of a project originally conceived in 2008 by Clear Path International, and employs disabled deminers and mine survivors to produce the equipment necessary for active deminers to carry out their essential work with increased safety.

Revenue generated from demining tool sales directly supports other victim assistance projects. SPARK products are locally available and often cost significantly less than other suppliers, which are generally sourced from outside Afghanistan.

Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (ALSO)

CPI partners with ALSO in providing accessibility ramps, social reintegration services, and awareness raising projects for disabled persons.

Their mission statement: To promote living situation of persons with disabilities by providing peer support/psychosocial support, education, economic inclusion, and rehabilitation services.
To promote the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities by advocating the Afghan decision makers to implement the victim assistance provisions of the Mine Ban Treaty and domestic laws and policies, and to ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Afghan Disabled Vulnerable Society Cricket Team

The name is awkward, but these guys can play cricket!

From a previous post on the CPI blog:

"The team was created by CPI's partner, Afghan Disabled Vulnerable Society (ADVS), to provide sports activities for youth with physical challenges, and to change public perceptions about the role of disabled persons in the community. Most of the players live in Jalalabad City, the bustling epicenter of the province near the Pakistan border. They are landmine survivors, young men who have contracted polio, or who've suffered in other ways from violence or disease related to war and the lack of medical care.

And yet they excel at competitive cricket. These men have played together for more than two years, having won several matches against teams without a single disabled player. In February, they won the overall trophy in a five-team tournament in Jalalabad. Over three days, they defeated each of the opposing teams. In September, they repeated their success against an entire board of teams without any disabled players, in northern Kunduz Province, by winning the four day tournament and taking home the overall first place trophy."

Read the rest of the post here.

On the trip I took seven years ago, I met with three young children injured by ordnance left over from the Vietnam war. In my post I said that I believed they would all thrive someday thanks to CPI's good work and the generosity of our donors. I am glad to report that they have. The CPI Vietnam office sent me pictures of two of them (Ha and Nghia) now with children of their own. I was moved to tears. I am proud that, also because of CPI's good work and the generosity of its donors, the organization itself has grown up as well.

Much like our Vietnam team did over a decade ago, Clear Path Afghanistan is staffed by a team so good that they have changed the game.

I am both thrilled and humbled to be back on the team.

You can donate to our work, and I hope you will, at