When I was a kid, a fortuneteller told my mom that later on what I do for a living would have to do with saving lives. My mom guessed I would be a doctor. I used to dream of being a teacher one day. But neither doctor nor teacher worked out.
I know how fortunate I am. My parents gave me the best education one could have. They sent me to college to study management in France. But I always knew there was one thing they could never help me with: finding a career that would fire me up everyday. My whole time in college felt like climbing up a ladder without knowing where I was heading. I was so unsure about my future career.
Then came business school. It opened up my world so that I had exposure to different areas that I never had before which, ironically, brought me to the non-profit sector. I realized how fascinated I was listening to people from Path talking about vaccine delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa, how passionate I feel watching the TED talks of Melinda Gates about empowering women around the world. It was an epiphany to me that what I cared so deeply about wasn’t the profit a company makes a quarter, but the number of lives saved in the wake of a new vaccine development, the number of girls getting an education in the most remote areas in the world (it’s still numbers anyway since I study business J). I was deeply touched and inspired by the film Girl Rising that tells the stories of girls from different countries and backgrounds who face the greatest barriers but strive for a better life. A calling flooded over me after watching the film. I need to do something for these girls. And that was when I first met Ginna, the executive director of AYNI Education International who happened to be in the panel leading to the film screening. Her speech was inspirational.
And that was how I end up spending the summer between my 2 years of MBA with AYNI. AYNI’s mission of empowering girls and bringing education to them really resonates with me. I didn’t know much about Afghanistan before my internship but I have learned so much about the country and its people over the last 5 weeks. I just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. The book gripped me of how much suffering Afghan women experience in their lives, which I never imagined could happen in a person’s life. And for the last five weeks, the first thing I did in the morning while having breakfast was read a piece of news about Afghanistan, and as one can imagine, it was all about war, conflicts and women struggling. My days start a little bit heavy like that, but when we were stuffing envelopes to send out appeals, I learned about how much money has been given by donors to our organization, I realized the world we are living in is still a blessing place. There are still a lot of people who care about unfortunate lives. That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy what I’m doing so much.
This internship is only my first step into the non-profit sector. I don’t know what the future looks like, but I know for sure that I will keep nurturing my passion for helping and empowering people and pursuing a career in international development. And if everything turns out as I expect, I guess the fortuneteller was right.
Ayni Education International works in the space of empowering girls’ education in Afghanistan. To most this means providing access to school buildings, including teachers and texts from which to learn to read and write. To me, it has come to mean that as the executive director I must keep our international NGO nimble, innovative and responsive to the ever changing on-the ground needs of the more than 28,000 girls we serve in a post-conflict zone. This means different things at different times.
This year has already seen a number of new innovative programs and projects—from our new school, Gohar Khaton, that combines environmental initiatives with artistic expression, to new approaches to learning such as our short story competition and a recently announced artist competition, that encourage girls to creatively use their voices to affect change in their local community. Education has the power to go beyond the classroom and empower girls to engage in their nation’s culture and politics.
Afghanistan has seen increased violence around the recent elections and emphasized the increased need for widespread education of both boys and girls. We are more committed than ever in providing education as a pathway out of violence and into peace.
In the spirit of engaging in conversation with our donors, readers and students, Ayni is re-launching our blog as a platform of communication. Come here to learn about our projects, and watch for pieces that allow you to connect more deeply with the Ayni team in the U.S. and Afghanistan. You’ll hear from board members, our interns—who keep the organization moving forward operationally, to our Afghan partners and Ministry of Education interviews to the very girls whose stories capture that elegant edge between hope and war zone realities. Our blog will represent as best as we can a platform for Afghan Girls’ Voices.
Welcome to our team. We hope you will become as passionate about the potential of education as we are.
Ginna Brelsford, Executive Director
July 16, 2014 Airokhsh Faiz
Every time I go to visit the girls in any school, there are always obstacles on our way which makes me disappointed for a while but what gives me more hope and energy to make sure and return to talk with these girls is the courage and thirst of these girls to education and exchange of ideas. When I talk with them, it is like no one has ever asked about their dreams before. They are full of love and joy, they each have stories to tell and a totally different world they live in. They are working hard for their future. They say I inspire them, but to tell the truth they inspire me, with their fullest smiles and the kisses they throw at me, with their motivation and continuous effort regardless of the harsh situation life has brought upon them. If you look at the first and second picture, you can see the difference. In the first one, the janitor is not allowing the girl to come close to us. But then she runs, towards us, to tell us she is free, to tell us she wants to run towards her dreams and that she can achieve anything she wants.
July 11, 2014 Airokhsh Faiz
Maryam is one of the participants in Omulbelad computer center who dreams to develop a software when she studies computer science in the future.
When I talked with Maryam a 10th grader in Omubelad high school, I found her full of hope and energy about her future. It is just amazing to see girls who are dreaming to achieve what they want. This wasn’t possible 10 or 20 years ago. Still many young girls in Afghanistan are married at the age of 16. Maryam thinks it is crucial for young Afghan girls to learn how to use computers. She believes by learning computer girls can get jobs along with boys in the society because today technology plays an important role in every aspect of our lives. “We can learn about the new technology in the world. Everything is now connected with computers. I would like to study computer science after graduating from high school and someday I hope to develop a software like Microsoft. Creating this computer center has helped us in so many ways and will have so much positive effects in our lives. The three most important facts about this computer are: It is inside our school, safe and comfortable. This way our families don’t have to worry about us, because they know we are in our high school. In our class students are all girls. We can exchange ideas and ask from each other. It wouldn’t be the same if there were boys in our class. There are enough computers for all of us here in this class. Each girl can use one computer which gives her a lot of time to practice using the computer on her own”.
June 17, 2014 Airokhsh Faiz
Life is busy as usual here in Mazar-e Sharif. The weather is 100 degrees celsius and young and old are busy with their work. In spite of the efforts by those who want to disrupt the security, the city is quite safe and you see little girls and boys walking to school everyday. Everyone is full of energy and hopes for their future as Afghans await for the second round of presidential elections.
Ayni has made it possible for hundreds of girls and boys to be able to dream about their future. They consider themselves the lucky ones to have the opportunity to be a part of Ayni’s services. One wants to become a journalist, the other who is currently attending one of our computer center wants to develop her own software someday while she dreams to study computer science. Talking with these girls and just asking about their future plans and telling their dream is legit and is possible to happen gives them more hope. In their daily life, they don’t face a lot of people who can listen to what they have to say. Every decision is taken for them; at home by their parents and at school by their principle or teachers. Talking to these little agents of peace makes me think that Afghanistan won’t go back, that these girls will grow up to become the future leaders, that they won’t be stuck in the cages anymore. Their smiles, their laughter, their joy, and kisses being thrown towards you says it all!
We held our ‘Afghan Girls: Their Time is Now’ event at Seattle University on May 11th. The event was a great success. We would like to give special thanks to our intern Halla Ahmed for her tireless efforts in organizing this event that highlighted the different aspects surrounding girls’ education in Afghanistan. We are extremely grateful to the many interns and staff who helped put on this event. Specifically, we want to thank our speakers: Serena Cosgrove of Seattle University, Farhana Ahmad of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and Catherine Gelband, president of our board of directors. We would also like to thank the many friends and family of Halla Ahmed who contributed to making this event possible. Thank you!!!
Please enjoy some photos of the night’s events.
Halla pictured on the left and one of our speakers, Farhana Ahmad.
A Place to Learn: Sustainable School Design in Afghanistan opens in the AIA Seattle Design Gallery on Tuesday, May 14. Join us at the opening reception where our Executive Director Ginna Brelsford will discuss the Gohar Khaton Girls’ School design. The reception is from 5-7pm and there will be drinks and light snacks.
Ayni Education International is pleased to announce that they will be hosting “Afghan Girls, Their Time is Now” at Seattle University on May 11th at 7:00pm. This event is aimed at discussing girls’ right to education in Afghanistan and will include speakers from Ayni Education International, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and Seattle University. Please join us on this exciting evening to gain insights on girls’ education in Afghanistan and the Islamic perspective on the important of girls’ education.
Dinner will be free!
Please RSVP at email@example.com
Seattle Times highlights architect Robert Hull and Ayni’s latest project!
The Seattle Times has recently highlighted architect Robert Hull and his accomplishments and experiences abroad in Afghanistan. Robert Hull is currently leading the design for Ayni’s latest project, in cooperation with the Janet W. Ketcham Foundation, to build a girl’s school in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.
Click here to see the article!
UW Today displays student designs for the Janet W. Ketcham girls’ school!
The finished designs of students from the University of Washington School of Architecture have recently been showcased in UW Today, highlighting Ayni’s latest project in cooperation with the Janet W. Ketcham Foundation.
Click here to see the article!