In May 2004, I went on a trip to Afghanistan where I had the opportunity to facilitate a two-week information and communication technology (ICT) training for a women’s organization in Kabul. In those two short weeks, in Kabul and its surrounding areas, amidst all that destruction and devastation, I found inspiration and hope in the stories and struggles of the women and girls of Afghanistan.Until recently, Afghan women faced intolerable odds in their struggle for survival. Many faced extreme levels of physical threats. Many lost their lives. Many had to flee their homes and became refugees in alien lands that welcomed them in words but not in deeds. Many lost friends and families in the never-ending conflict. But, in a true testament to human spirit, Afghan women struggled, endured, and survived. And those who survived had stories to tell for themselves and for those who are now lost. Stories of underground resistance, secret schools, and clandestine jobs. Fostered by improvised communities brought together by shared adversity and loss. These stories of endurance and spirit inspire me.And in the life of the women and girls of Afghanistan today, I found hope. These are times of hectic reconstruction, fragile peace, and tenuous elections in Afghanistan. Even in these uncertain times, women are hard at work, trying to heal their land from the ravages of decades of war. With limited resources, where every dollar seems to be required for ten different things, they are providing some desperately needed services to their communities. The women are also going back to damaged schools to teach. Schools where girls are flocking to read, write, and build better lives for themselves, their families, and societies. I returned from that trip profoundly affected by what I saw, heard, and experienced. And in this season of giving, in appreciation of what they gave me, I want to give my own gift to the women and girls of Afghanistan. The plan might sound crazy, but you know me enough by now to know that I am crazy. :-) And the plan is…<cue appropriate music here> I want to build a girls school in Afghanistan. And I want to build it from the funds raised by my own community of friends and family and their networks. Why a school? The gift of learning is the most impactful and lasting gift that one can hope to give. Education helps children better themselves and their families. It provides them the opportunities that a society might otherwise not be able to provide. Education also helps the resourceful kids rise above the rest, reach for the stars, and conquer the skies (or at least a portion of it). It is these kids who grow up to influence and advance their communities. And it is those grown ups that inspire other kids to dream. Every child who is educated does not aspire for or achieve greatness. But, if we had to teach a roomful of students to find only a couple who aim for more, and a schoolful to find only one who achieves, it would still be well worth it. There is another significant effect for a girls school – it creates numerous jobs for Afghan women to teach, manage, and administer an educational institution. Now, imagine a school run by resourceful women. Class rooms filled with girls, learning, hoping, and dreaming about a future Afghanistan… Why from funds raised from my own community of friends and family? In this information age, it is our communities that sustain us. It is your friends and family who hear you cry and see you laugh. It is they who know what moves you and what repulses you. It is they who hear your crazy plans and worse still, actually believe in those crazy plans. :-) And I have been blessed with one of the most wonderful communities spread out all over the world. So, who else will I ask? Plus, as you will see in the details, this is the age old “pooling our resources” strategy for the internet age. What I cannot accomplish by myself, I most definitely can with my community and my community’s community. So, come, let us build a school… To find out how to give to this project…
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