Piedra Vista high school teacher, Army vet reflects on nonprofit work in Iraq, Afghanistan
Burns says investment in Afghan women will pay off some day
Farmington Daily Times
Published 2:11 p.m. MT Nov 10, 2021
FARMINGTON — On the wall of Rick Burns' world history and government classroom at Piedra Vista High School hangs a photograph that serves to remind the retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel that pursuing an education isn't always as easy elsewhere in the world as it is in America.
The photograph, taken earlier this year, features a group of kindergarten students in a town in western Afghanistan. The children, backpacks slung over their shoulders, are pictured standing forlornly outside the gates of their school, which was closed in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the country after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The school was opened four years ago by a nonprofit organization founded by Burns called the Karadah Project International, which works with displaced women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq, where Burns was deployed three times during his Army career. He said the photo was taken and sent to him by an Afghan woman who runs the school.
"A week and a half ago, we reopened it," Burns said of the school. "Of course, we're having to work it a little bit differently because of the Taliban, make it a little bit more low key. It's being run by people on the ground there who exhibit the kind of courage I never had to exhibit (in the Army)."
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One of the truly amazing outcomes of the past almost 20 years has been the emergence of Afghan and Iraqi women as leaders and change makers in their countries. This has been particularly pronounced in Afghanistan, where a mere two decades ago they were not allowed outside of their homes unchaperoned, denied education, and not allowed to speak their minds freely.
Afghan women have some distance to go before they have gained full equality, but they are shaping that future through courageously stepping forward and demanding to be heard. They are changing their communities in profoundly courageous ways.
These are stories that need to be heard. Karadah Project will bring you these stories of both Afghan and Iraqi women of courage and commitment through a series of interviews. We think you will look at Afghanistan and Iraq differently through the eyes of these amazing women.
Our first interview is with Fatema Jafari. She was an elected member of the Herat Provincial Council and an unrelenting advocate for women's rights. Fatema spent a year writing a book on issues surrounding Afghan women and voting while a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C. and Yale University in 2016. She is now preparing for studies at Bradford University in the UK on a Rotary International Fellowship. Fatema came to all of this through experiences that will inspire you.
WE STARTED A KINDERGARTEN
Displaced Children Face Unique Challenges--
Education Should Not Be One
Most of us know about refugees, those who are crossing international borders, but what of those displaced within their own countries? The internally displaced, hidden from the eyes of the world, face the same kinds of dangers and uncertainties as refugees, but too often without the attention that brings international resources. Conservative estimates put the number of refugees at about 25 million, while those suffering within their own country borders number about 40 million.
Displaced children are particularly vulnerable as they may be closer to the violence that displaced them. They are less likely to have documents needed to register for school. Poverty may require work over school. Once out of school, it becomes increasingly difficult to return. A child who is out of school for more than a year is unlikely to return and girls are 2.5 times more likely to drop out of school than boys. Such gender differences in education are striking. In urban areas in Afghanistan, as an example, only 1 percent of internally displaced (IDP) women were found to be literate, compared to 20 percent of IDP men.
Education is the great equalizer. Imagine the impact of educating a generation of displaced children. Our kindergarten is focused on teaching that next generation of displaced children and facilitating their entry into the public schools. Together we can make miracles happen in lives that have known only violence, poverty, and disruption.
In Support of the Afghan People
The #Afghan people are sitting in the mouth of hell... It's easy to forget sitting here in the U.S. We must do better— they deserve better. #afghanistan
Finding the Discipline of Hope in the Midst of Ongoing Crises
Karadah Project participated in a Tri-Faith Initiative discussion about Afghanistan. Our friend and fellow participant Maryam will make you think and feel. Well-worth listening to her thoughts and perspective.
What does it take to save a life?
Sometimes it is as simple and inexpensive as a bar of soap and good information. Western Afghanistan's uncontrolled border with Iran is the epicenter of the #CORONAVIRUS invasion of Afghanistan. The virus is spreading through the city and stressing an already fragile health system. Consider the concerns we have in the developed world about the large numbers of people in need of hospitalization, ventilators, doctors, nurses, and other medical resources. Then consider a health system already in crisis facing the same challenges.
Five displacement camps surround Herat. In these camps are some of the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan and the world. Far from their homes and without the traditional safety nets of extended family, they have fled violence, natural disasters, war, and other social disruptions. They are living in austere conditions without the benefit of money and resources to combat a virus that can very easily spread through their community. Families living in the displacement camps in this area are some of the most vulnerable.
We know that one of the most effective ways to fortify individuals and communities against a virus is soap and hand washing training. Providing this vulnerable population with soap is one of the best ways to fortify them against the spread of the virus through the camps. For about 70 cents, we gave two bars of soap to each adult and one bar to each child—a total of 19,662 people--in the displacement camps.
The amazing and courageous women at Women Education for Better Tomorrow, our implementation partners, risked their own health to get lifesaving soap and training to our friends in the displacement camps.
Amazon Shop, Change the World
When you Amazon shop, Amazon supports our peace, stability, and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its easy and costs you nothing. Here's how it works:
A KINDERGARTEN OF HOPE
What if a kindergarten for kids who had only known poverty, violence, and war is where hope is born. What if, in a faraway corner of the world, kids learned how to be leaders? What if we changed the world, one kindergarten class at a time.
When Moms Read...
The last 30 years of reading research confirms a simple truth—regardless of sex, race, nationality, or socioeconomic background—students who read the most, read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don’t read much, cannot get better at it.
Displaced women are at a particular disadvantage in Afghanistan. So, we created a literacy class for displaced moms at our kindergarten for displaced kids. Not only will it benefit their children who are learning to read, but will increase these women's economic capacity.