"Aid is working in Afghanistan," says new Country Director

53-year-old Benny Werge from Sorø in Denmark is new Country Director for Mission East’s biggest country programme, Afghanistan.

Benny Werge is quite familiar with life as an expat, having lived in Africa for nine years with his wife and his two children; but in the past two years and three months he has developed a special relationship with Afghanistan.
"In my experience, when the Afghans say that they want to do something to rebuild their country, they actually mean it," says Benny Werge, who worked as programme manager for another humanitarian organisation in Afghanistan until this New Year.

This April, he boarded a plane and headed for his new office with Mission East in Afghanistan. Here he will be in charge of the organisation's work, involving activities such as clean water supply, hygiene education, road building, beekeeping, and women's groups in poor villages in the northern part of the country.

"I've chosen this line of work because I have experienced that there is a need for it," says Benny.

"And it gives me a satisfaction to see things work; for example when I've helped repair an irrigation channel so the villagers can cultivate their land again, or when I see the joy in the faces of Afghan women who now have access to a Women’s Centre."

The Afghans work hard
Benny has seen a different side of Afghanistan from the one we normally see on TV or read about at home. He is convinced that the help really means something.
"We can’t just leave the Afghans to themselves again. And I believe that the aid is starting to work," he says while underlining that the Afghans truly hope for their country to develop into something better.

To give the local population a sense of ownership, Mission East carries out projects in cooperation with the villagers. It motivates them to do the necessary long-term maintenance of buildings, water systems, and roads.

"The Afghans work hard and are proud of what they achieve. Once you've agreed on how much a village needs to contribute to finish a project, they keep their promises."

Working as an expatriate often means that you don’t see your family for several months at a time. But seeing the results of his earlier work makes Benny believe it is worth it.
"It is never fun to be away from the family. But you can’t have everything, and I feel that by doing this I am doing something with my life – I make a difference," he says.

Read more about Mission East in Afghanistan here

April 2008