HELP Pimps Our Ride

26 May 2011

By the time you read these lines, our Combi will be the first world camping car made in Afghanistan. The NGO called HELP, who has been our savior over the last two weeks has not only helped us secure the road pass, but has made Combinations a local project. HELP integrates Afghan refugees returning from Iran back into Afghan society. This is mainly achieved through job and skills training which happens in a big warehouse on the outskirts of Herat. HELP has a workshop and skills training center for carpentry, sewing, mechanics, upholstery, electrical work, and cooking.
Alfred, the director of HELP decided to use our project as a way to challenge his team. The mission: using skills and materials from all departments, transform the bus into a camping car with a bed and other fabulous amenities and special touches.

On day one, members from each department, Aurel, and Alfred met together with the bus close by. Ideas were thrown in from all sides—diagrams, maps, and preliminary sketches were drawn up on the spot. Discussions broke out about size, design, functionality, and efficiency. As the hot Herati sun beat down, the team was hard at work measuring and working out how to adorn our Combi with the best of the best. After 45 years in the country, the bus was thrilled to have his last Afghan touch before hitting the road.
Four days later, a party was organized in the garden of HELP’s guesthouse. All the teams are reunited as 45 people come together to celebrate the bus’s completion: women, children, mechanics, tailors, electricians who specialize in solar panels, and even the former Afghan Volkswagen importer from Herat, a neighbor of the HELP guesthouse and friend of Alfred, and the man who most probably imported our little Combi in 1966. Who would have thought?!

Now for your eyes only, the Combi Camping Car! On the roof, a solar panel that charges a secondary battery so we can have light (the electricians installed a lamp with 3 meters of cord so we can use it anywhere in the bus); a tent made of fine mesh can be attached on the side of the bus with Velcro where the double back doors are, creating a little cabana so we have more space and no bugs; curtains made in two colors by skilled tailors, shiny on the outside to reflect the light and matte on the inside and fixed with a lovely fringe; two sets of wooden cabinets for storage, one under the custom back seat that folds out into a double bed; and seat covers of the most fabulous design, made of a mix of leather and fake leopard print fur! You’ve never seen anything quite like this.

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