A year later, we wanted to honor their memory in some way. At the same time, the war in Afghanistan was constantly in the news, yet most Americans, including us, had not been asked to contribute to the effort in any significant way. We believed it was in our country’s best interest to help the people of Afghanistan, and felt a moral obligation to do so.
Years ago, Leslie and I had conducted economic research on the important role that women play in economic development. A long line of research has now clearly established the importance of better education for women to the success of economic development. Recently, Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wudunn have eloquently demonstrated why, via a series of powerful stories in their book, Half the Sky.
Supporting education opportunities for girls in Afghanistan was the obvious way to honor our friends. But finding a way to do that, with assurance that our support would be used well, turned out to be very challenging. With friends, we sought out NGOs that were working with leaders of local communities in Afghanistan to develop self-sustaining schools for girls as well as for boys—ones that might connect us with a community in Afghanistan, tell us about the support the community needed, and provide regular progress reports. That quest led us to Ayni founder Julie Bolz. Thanks to Julie and Ayni’s partner, the Afghanistan-American Friendship Foundation, we have been supporting a community school in Afghanistan for four years. In 2010, I was delighted to accept Julie’s invitation to join Ayni’s Board.
Deterioration in security in Afghanistan and the planned pullout of U.S. troops are challenging for Ayni’s efforts, but have also increased their importance. To Julie’s great credit and that of our partner, our support continues to be welcomed by community leaders, and we are confident that it is well used. We think the stability and prosperity of that country, and the security of our own, depend on it.