In this posting I want to look at what is ahead regarding Shogofa’s time here in the United States and the Pax Populi Educational Outreach program in general. However, before writing another word, I really want to emphasize how grateful I am to the many people who contributed time, effort, and money, as well as the encouragement, love, and personal commitment to make this happen. This effort has constituted an excellent example of Pax Populi in action. We have succeeded this far because many people were committed to the belief that by supporting the educational advancement of one very deserving Afghan we are not only helping her and her country, but ourselves, as we will be among the greatest beneficiaries of peace in Afghanistan.
2010-11 Educational Objectives for Shogofa
Shogofa was admitted to Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts, in a program called “conditional undergraduate admission,” and given her high TOEFL score, she was permitted to begin working towards her Bachelors of Science degree in Political Science. This semester she is splitting her time between an intensive English as a Second Language course and two regular college courses. After Shogofa’s first year is completed, she plans to return to Afghanistan after which she will return to the United States to finish her undergraduate degree. We are very grateful to the staff at the Center for International Education at Salem State University whose assistance was invaluable in making this possible.
During her year here, Shogofa will be staying with an exceptional host family in which the host father is the executive director of a community counseling center and the host mother worked for over three decades as an English teacher and, for many of those years, as a volunteer ESL teacher. Both are well known as people of unusual kindness and generosity. Shogofa’s First Day in America
Shogofa arrived in Boston after a very long flight from Kabul with long layovers in Dubai and Washington. On our way back from the Boston airport we were going to get some lunch when her host mom brilliantly suggested that we go to Revere beach. There, for the first time, Shogofa was able to say hello to the ocean by running up to the shore and walking right into its unusually warm waters. We sat at an outdoor table by the beach under a roof that protected us from the warm rain of the so-called “hurricane” Earl, who turned out to be a mellow fellow. For Shogofa’s first meal in the United States, we had a delicious Revere Beach Bianchi’s pizza and from there drove to her new home.
A Concrete Peace, a Peace for People
It is easy to speak of peace in the abstract as some ideal state. Such talk can be valuable, but let’s be clear: we are not aiming at utopia. Our concern is to help advance peace in Afghanistan in practical terms of people there having the opportunity to live a normal, decent life without oppression and fear of violence. Shogofa has come to the United States not only to advance her formal education, but to learn about our culture and society with the aim of putting her education, in the broadest sense, to good use in the development of her country.
The Days & Months Ahead: Balancing School and Public Events
Shogofa has already begun her studies at Salem State and her #1 responsibility while here is to study hard and advance her language skills and her education generally. However, she has come to the United States also to teach. Slowly we will look for opportunities for her to speak to schools and organizations (including perhaps one or more Rotary Club) about conditions in Afghanistan. Organizations who would like to have Shogofa speak should contact Applied Ethics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shogofa’s Special Concern for the Women of Afghanistan
It only takes a moment to realize that Shogofa is an exceptional young woman. She is poised, clear-headed, kind-hearted, intelligent, articulate, and focused. She is committed to helping to build the new Afghanistan. She has told me that life is difficult for Afghans generally, but especially for Afghan women. They are in particular need, and therefore, we expect the women of Afghanistan to be a special focus of her talks.
The Bigger Picture
In the broadest terms, the aim of the Pax Populi program is to help promote peace in Afghanistan and elsewhere through direct people-to-people peacemaking. Bringing Shogofa to advance her education is one manifestation of the Pax Populi vision. Our fundraising effort must continue so as to pay back the loan that was given by one very generous donor to cover part of the costs of this project. Moreover, we are planning to bring more Afghan students to study in the USA in 2011 and maybe to other countries as well. We need to maintain the fundraising effort to cover our current loan and expenses and to continue and expand the program in the future. Your ongoing support would be most appreciated. To contribute to this effort, please click here.
Ted Achilles, the remarkable head of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), ended a recent email to me with the following quote from one of his students: “If one fails to take a generational perspective over here [in Afghanistan], the result can only be frustration and a sense of helplessness, even anger at why nothing gets fixed ‘now’ and [this can lead Americans to have] a desire to pull out….”
But as Ted put it, the young students with whom we are working are THE generation of Afghans who will bring about the change needed in Afghanistan. Our job, Ted suggests, is to “hold things together long enough for them to take charge.”
At Pax Populi we are trying to support those people who have much at stake in the creation of a stable, peaceful, and successful Afghanistan. When peace comes to Afghanistan, the terrible costs of war in terms of lives lost or damaged and the economic drain, will cease. We in the US will benefit as these costs will cease and we can turn our people, resources, and energies toward more productive ends. We will be able to redefine our relationship with Afghanistan as one that is based on economic and cultural exchanges rather than military engagements. Our security will be enhanced and our economy and society will be strengthened.
We welcome Shogofa and hope that her time in the United States will be very beneficial to her. We also hope that we will be able to reach out to other outstanding Afghans like her and together work to advance a peace that will benefit people the world over.