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Along with many analysts, we at Pax Populi believe that in Afghanistan the best things we can do to advance peace is to support the advancement of civil society through education, economic development, and human rights. Acting on that belief, we are seeking to bring another student to study in the United States, Hila, who is from eastern Afghanistan. If we can obtain the needed support, she will enter as a junior in high school. Last year we at Pax Populi brought our first student, Shogofa, to study at Salem State University. Shogofa came here not only to learn, but also to help teach people here about conditions in her country, and for that reasons, she gave several speeches and held talks at the Rotary Club, the Marblehead Educators Professional Development Day, a university conference on women’s rights, and in public schools. We are very proud of Shogofa and feel we have benefited greatly from her educational contributions to us.

Hila (third from left), together with Bob McNulty, Ted Achilles (head of SOLA, third from right), and oothers from SOLA in Kabul.

Let me tell you a little about Hila. (For security reasons, we are not giving her last name.) Hila is currently as student in the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), where she is doing very well in her studies to prepare her for studies in the US. Like most Afghans, she has experienced many hardships over the course of her life. During the early years of the US conflict in Afghanistan, Hila and her family tried to hide from the Taliban by covering their door with so much mud that no one would know their house was occupied. They later sought safety in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Despite missing two years of schooling, after returning to Afghanistan, Hila was permitted to skip two grades and twice received her town’s best student award.

Hila visited the US during the summer of 2010 for medical treatment of her left eye. She stayed in the home of Jim and Cindy Haskins in North Carolina. Let me quote from Jim’s letter about Hila:

“In six weeks Hila taught me lessons I will never forget. She demonstrated a desire for learning that was endless…. We had the opportunity to take her to Washington, D.C. where we toured the Jefferson Memorial… I watched this Afghan girl trying to grasp some very foreign concepts. She turned to my wife and me and said, ‘I want to know more about this man.’ Later in her stay, I asked her to be careful because Afghanistan might not be ready for these ideas. Her response was, ‘Neither was America’.”

Before undertaking this effort to bring Hila to MHS, I met with the school’s principal, Mr. Kenneth Weinstein and other town educators. In his Commencement Address and in his newsletter to parents, Principal Weinstein’s support has been extremely heartening. In the newsletter he wrote the following:

I strongly support this effort as it delivers on our mission to develop global awareness among our students. Moreover, I see this as an opportunity to assist the next generation of Afghan leaders. We are working with the Pax Populi Educational Outreach program of the Marblehead-based nonprofit organization, Applied Ethics, Inc. to bring Hila to enter as a junior. As a foreign student, her tuition will be about $9,000 for the year in addition to which are transportation, insurance, and living costs. Applied Ethics is looking to the Marblehead community to find two host families each for six months, as well as the funds to cover the program costs.

I traveled to Afghanistan because I wanted to meet Hila and judge for myself whether she had the qualification to succeed in our school. I can say with complete confidence that I was deeply impressed with Hila. On every level, she exceeded my expectations. Her English was surprisingly good for a non-native speaker. She is clearly a highly intelligent and motivated young woman. And yet, despite the hardships she and her family has had to endure, she has a sweetness and sense of humor that led me to see her as becoming an esteemed member of the Marblehead community not only as a student, but as a person. I believe that she has tremendous potential to be a leader in her society. And because I believe this, I see our efforts on her behalf to be one that will contribute to the long term peace and stability of Afghanistan. In helping Hila, I believe we will be helping both Afghanistan and ourselves.

Can helping one Afghan girl can lead to peace in Afghanistan? In an important sense, the answer is “yes.” In World War II, my uncle gave his life in the fight against the Nazis, and my father was among the occupying troops in Japan after their surrender. We have been at peace with German and Japan ever since. Did my uncle and father bring peace to these countries? In as much as they contributed to a process that led to peace, the answer is “yes.” Pax Populi is our invitation to you to be part of the process of advancing peace on a personal level. Our small nongovernmental organization can’t do itself, nor do we want to do it ourselves. Pax Populi is true to its mission only if we have strong public participation. One family has already stepped forward to host Hila, but since she will be at MHS for two years, we need more families. We need to raise the money quickly to make this happen. Please consider donating online by clicking here or by sending a check to Applied Ethics, Inc., 46 Chestnut Street, Marblehead, MA 01945. Applied Ethics, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) federally recognized tax-exempt charity. Donations are tax deductible for US taxpayers.

It may seem like a small step on a long journey, but every step is important and needed if we are to achieve our goal of helping to create a lasting peace in Afghanistan. Together, I’m sure we can make a difference.

Pax!

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