News about the foundation, girls' education, and women's rights in Afghanistan
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We're pleased to highlight several teachers in the US — as well as one of our own — who instill in their students the importance of Afghan girls' education. Through fundraising, providing resources, or facilitating teleconferences between their American students and peers at the Zabuli Education Center, these students forge unforgettable bonds and come to understand that we really are all the same in the ways that matter. This is important work — but it requires these teachers to go well beyond the call of duty in time and commitment. We're deeply grateful for all that these special teachers do to make our world a better place.
Laura Smolcha, grade 7 social studies teacher at Sharon Middle School in Sharon, MA, is also the co-advisor for the school's Girls Learn International Club. Laura has been a long-time supporter of Razia's Ray of Hope — and she's our most active social media champion! Her students recently attended a conference to share their experience interacting with Afghan peers via tele-conference. Read the girls' words here.
The photo at right was taken at the most recent videoconference: Laura Smolcha is in the middle row, second from the left, seated next to Patti Quigley who is in turn sitting next to Razia Jan.
Liz Gray is a grade 6 teacher at Carlisle Middle School in Carlisle, MA. She is also faculty sponsor of the EarlyAct Club under the Rotary Club of Concord. Initiated one year ago by a student who wanted to do a project for her bat mitzvah, the club started with 8 members. This year the group has more than 30 participants! They meet for breakfast before school every Friday to promote goodwill, understanding, and peace through committed citizenship.
Liz Gray is pictured fourth from the right with her enthusiastic EarlyAct Rotary Club selling Afghan
scarves and jewelry at an Ocktoberfest event this fall.
Tracey Menten teaches English at Central High School in Omaha, NE. She is a co-coordinator of the school's sister relationship with the Zabuli Education Center. For many years, Central High has done an enormous amount to support the Zabuli Education Center, including a gift of 20 solar-powered lamps that charge during daylight hours and allow our students to study at night — previously a luxury for students whose families are unable to afford or access electricity.
Tracey notes that she's somewhat camera shy; while she delighted in the group hug that her students bestowed upon her in the photo at right, she maintained a stoic camera face!
Nahid Alawi joined the Zabuli Education Center in November 2012 as an English and science teacher for grades 4-9. The next year, Nahid because our school's Executive Administrator. She also teaches English and science to grades 7-11. Nahid is tireless in her efforts to support her students, our school, and our administrative team. "My greatest wish," she says, "is for peace and stability in Afghanistan, so that my students can continue their education." We can't thank Nahid enough for all that she does.
Nahid (middle of back row) is pictured here with the 15 graduates of the Zabuli Education Center's Class of 2016. She is beloved by students and faculty.
In October 2016, six students from the Girls Learn International Club (GLI) in Sharon went to the Student Showcase at the annual MassCUE Conference at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. There, they explained to educators from around the state how they connect with the Zabuli Education Center in Afghanistan through videoconferences facilitated by the Global Nomads Group, and work to support the center by raising awareness and money. Following the conference, five of the girls wrote about the experience.
Today was amazing! We got to share our love for changing the world with others. We went to the MASSCUE conference to share how we video call with the girls who go to school at the Zabuli Center of Education in Afghanistan. We were told by one women that we were the best presentation there. We explained how we fundraise by having bake sales, a figure skating event, and a movie showing. We also got to tell people about the problem the girls in Zabuli face. Like child marriage and not being safe to go to school since there are some people in Afghanistan who do not approve of it.
I have presented about the Zabuli Center many times in my four years as a member of GLI and today at the MassCUE conference was by far the most meaningful presentation we have ever given. The room was full of educators – people who truly grasp the importance of education – and speaking with some of these people was amazing because we were able to share about everything we do and stand for as a club and were met with enthusiastic reactions and stories of other schools making a difference in the world. We talked of our fundraisers, videoconferences, and how we advocate for girls education. Several people asked what our takeaway from GLI is.
Up until today, I hadn’t really thought about it but as soon as the question was posed, I realized that this club and connecting with the Zabuli Center has really shaped who I am and I am a completely different person because of it. I joined GLI not really knowing what I was signing up for but soon as I got involved, I realized that anyone can make a difference and being a member of GLI has opened my eyes to the world. The connections forged with the girls in Afghanistan at the videoconferences are what motivates me to keep striving for change. Hearing how different their lives are – how everything they don’t have we take for granted – that is what makes the work we do important. This contrast was drawn by several educators we talked to today, including one woman who told us a story about a girl from the Middle East who fell in love with a man living in the states and was prevented from ever seeing him again by her father. The girl didn’t even have the power to choose her love, similar to many girls living in Afghanistan. This lady we talked to seemed to feel as passionately about girls education and equal rights as we do, because she understands the importance of education and the doors it can open. Speaking with her and people like her was what made today so meaningful for me.
On October 19, 2016, students from the high school and middle school GLI Club went to the MassCUE Conference at Gillette Stadium. I went in very nervous and jittery for I was afraid to present in front of educators and other prestigious people. I thought that it would be nerve wracking and scary but ended up being one of the most meaningful experience in my life. I not only talked about our club but how it has impacted me. I realized only there, how much I loved participating in this club and being able to help the girls in Afghanistan. I learned so much from the people who talked to us. They gave us suggestions on how to advocate more and about people they knew themselves who went through the same types of hardships. Some of their stories were absolutely amazing. We explained our fundraising methods like the ice skating event we held last year, bake sales, and the upcoming movie, What Tomorrow Brings. We were told by many people that what we were doing was great and how it impressed them. I was inspired to do more by going to the MassCUE Conference and hope to do it again next year.
Going to MassCUE was a great experience! We were given the opportunity to present about our club and what we do. Some of the main points we focused on were fundraisers, videoconferences and advertising about the upcoming film. Many people pointed out that we were doing a really good deed for the world. Up until now I never realized how big of an impact I am making on the world. One lady asked us what we took away from the club, and I have to admit never really thought about what I took away. But now I realize how very fortunate we all are to have easy access to education, and to live in such a diverse community. Also, I never really thought about further “studies” in social justice, now I probably will want to do something for the world and make a difference. MassCUE was a great and inspiring experience, and it taught me so many things! I am glad to have gone and definitely want to go next year.
MassCUE was an awe-inspiring experience. It was a great chance to speak, and tell other curious members how we use the technology to communicate with the girls of Zabuli. We told people about our fundraisers, our video conferences, and what we do and contribute to the wonderful students. MassCUE, and the people there helped me realize what we really are doing. I finally learned that even though we have done small things to help them, every step of the way matters. Many of the people that asked us questions, also told us that we were doing something extraordinary. People here take many things for granted-especially their education. For girls at Zabuli, just going to school safely is a big deal. The girls there want to go to school, and they want to get educated. Even though MassCUE was meant for me, Nikita, Rachel, Riley, Hannah, and Samyuktha to present our way of communication to Zabuli, we learned much more. The smallest things that you do in life, make a big difference, and MassCUE helped us realize this.