https://dfid.blog.gov.uk/2010/09/27/why-i-work-in-afghanistan/

Why I work in Afghanistan

Picture: Meeting some of the local youngsters in Helmand
Meeting some of the local youngsters

In the UK we hear about Afghanistan almost every day. But most people have never met anyone who has actually been there, and from what you see in the media you’d be surprised that anyone would actually want to work in Afghanistan through choice.

The civilians working here have all volunteered for the job. There are over 200 UK civilians working in Afghanistan and I am one of them.

Picture: Discussing public works and investment with officials in Helmand
Discussing public works and investment with officials in Helmand

Almost 18 months ago I joined the DFID office in Afghanistan.  As the Deputy Programme Manager for Growth and Livelihoods I am responsible for managing growth programmes in Helmand. At DFID we use the term growth everyday, but to most people it doesn’t mean a lot. The Head of DFID’s Growth team, Paul Healey, describes growth as supporting poor countries to have stronger economies. And in Helmand I get to contribute to that first hand.

I am based in the British Embassy in Kabul but I also travel to Helmand frequently and get to meet some of the people who benefit from the work we are doing. That’s probably the best part of my job. It’s often hard to explain to people at home how things are improving out here – but when you get to see that personally it can be really rewarding.

Sometimes people are surprised that we are allowed out in Helmand, movements are limited but we are looked after by our security team and it’s really not always as bad as people think.

When I first came to Afghanistan I thought I knew quite a bit about what the conflict was about. Looking back I realise that to really understand this country, you have to experience life here for yourself. The issues are really complex.

The UK media tends to be focused on the military effort. Working in Helmand has allowed me to experience what the military are good at first hand, and I have nothing but admiration for all the soldiers who serve out here. But there are also hundreds of civilians who leave families in the UK to work on development or political issues and I want to give their side of the story.

DFID has a big team in Afghanistan and as our budget increases we’ll keep growing. At the moment there are over 50 DFID staff in Afghanistan, half of whom are employed locally, with a huge range of experience and personalities. I sit next to a Dutch agriculturalist, who can tell you everything you need to know about how crops grow and a markets adviser from Scotland, who is probably one of the happiest people I have met.

A lot of my friends at home think I must be crazy to work in a place like this, at times I think that myself. You have good days, where you feel like progress is going well, and other days when it feels like you are trying to climb a mountain. But we have signed up, as a team, to be here everyday so somehow we have to deal with both. I hope to give you a sense of what both are like.

I’ll be putting up another blog really soon to talk about my experience of monitoring the recent elections, so watch this space.

9 comments

  1. Ajmir Imtiaz

    Hi Carrie - Thank for sharing.

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  2. Yama

    Hi Carrie,

    I was one of the first staff members of DFID Afghanistan who moved from Islamabad Office to Kabul in 2002. I am Afghan, and enjoyed working for DFID for 3 years. More western Audience need to know about the real life in Afghanistan. In addition, British people should know that their presence in Afghanistan is crucial and as much as they are frustrated with casualties, etc, the stakes of leaving Afghanistan is High. I liked your blog and looking forward to reading more. Good luck with everything!
    Yama

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  3. amit sengupta

    hi carrie,
    your Afghanistan stint is challenging fraught with numerous layers of understanding the culture and polity of the war torn country...good to know that DFID is putting Afghan on its development radar...

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  4. Ali

    Hi Carrie:

    I read your 60s interview with The Metro London paper. You mentioned that you are involved in projects which build power stations, roads etc. Can you please name one of these power staions of roads that has been built in Helmand?
    Because I havent heard any of such projects have started or completed... thanks.

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  5. Carrie

    Hello Ali,

    Since 2006 DFID has been financing the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) to deliver small scale infrastructure projects in Helmand. 416 projects have been complete which MRRD say have benefited 269,000 families across Helmand Province. As part of this project 59 km of road has been built in Helmand province’s capital Lashkar Gah, and a further 25 km asphalted in other parts of the province.

    This year DFID is investing more funding into supporting a range of road projects across Helmand Province and improving a power plant which, once complete, will provide electricity to an estimated 49,000 people living in Gereshk.

    My next blog goes into more detail about some of the road projects we are financing this year – make sure you have a look.

    Carrie.

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  6. Cheis Whitley

    Hallo Carrie
    I saw your piece in the Metro and found it a real eye opener and an introduction to your blog. Although I'm a news freak, like Ali, I wasn't really aware of the infrastructure being created in Afghanistan. The main media outlets seem more intent on sticking reporters on the front line in flak jackets with the troops,than giving the uk & world public regular updates on the day to day work that is being achieved on the ground. The troops are doing the nasty bit, but people like you will "win" it for the average Afghani and we will all be better off for that. You and your colleagues have my undying admiration.Take care

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  7. M S shaihzad

    I was one of the first staff members of DFID Afghanistan who moved from Islamabad Office to Kabul in 2002. I am Afghan, and enjoyed working for DFID for 3 years. More western Audience need to know about the real life in Afghanistan. In addition, British people should know that their presence in Afghanistan is crucial and as much as they are frustrated with casualties, etc, the stakes of leaving Afghanistan is High. I liked your blog and looking forward to reading more. Good luck with everything!
    M S shaihzad

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  8. Chris whitley

    Is Carrie still in Afganistan. Her blog was informative

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  9. Simon Davis

    Hi Chris,

    Carrie left Afghanistan last year. You can read her final post here.

    Thanks for your interest.
    - Blog Moderator

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