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A Letter on Transnational Skyping, Learning, and Relationship

January 11th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Following our successful fundraiser for the Morning Program in December, the Afghan School Project is now turning our attention to supporting the Afternoon Program, which has struggled after the end of large donor funding in the Fall of 2013.

To this end, we are honoured to publish this touching and informative appeal from Caroline Burke:

For Nargis and me, January marked our third year of “Can you hear me?” “Yes, I can hear you!!!” This twice-weekly exchange never loses its emotion. For the last two years, through the Alliance for International Women’s Rights, I’ve been teaching Nargis English via Skype. But in December of 2013, The Kandahar Institute of Modern Studies, has had to shut down the high-speed internet due to lack of funding in the wake of the US troop-withdrawal. If in the coming months the school does not find enough income, it will shut down entirely. I am doing my best now to let people know what’s going on, brainstorm solutions, and raise donations in any way I can.

Here’s my logic:

I know that each of us believe in the power of education, particularly when it is offered to everyone… even women. I also know how existentially frustrating it is to feel like we can’t make a difference, can’t help make a change in a visible way. So here, I think, is a very simple way. Through the Canadian Learning Foundation – this site – 100% of the proceeds go straight to KIMS. Each girl pays about $1 a day to attend and tuition is $25 a month. The headmaster, Ehsanullah Ehsan, has had an inspired vision for the school’s future since its inception, and like many, I am motivated by his audacity.

When I began volunteering for this organization (aiwr.org) January of 2012, I thought it would be a short stint. I lived in Greece and the time difference between Thessaloniki and Afghanistan was just under 2 hours. It was an easy hour from my day, and it was fun. But that July, I couldn’t imagine it ending when I had to move back home. By that time, Nargis and I had drudged through the difference between “present simple” & “continuous” a dozen times, lost our respective cats, shared our families with one another, and, among several other tragic events, grieved the Kandahar massacre that left 16 civilians in her city dead. So a year & a half later, every Monday and Wednesday, I wake up at 5:00am and spend the next two hours with her working on grammar, gabbing about shampoo and shoes, trying and failing to explain Santa Clause (fat weird man who flies and fits in a chimney?), learning fascinating Pashtu folklore (lots of tigers), and exchanging words, thoughts and prayers of encouragement with my significantly wiser Skype counterpart.

There are dozens of these relationships just like ours operating on Skype through KIMS, the school. I can’t imagine the kind of generational change that can be created by this intimate of an understanding among women across the globe — if only we can keep the connection alive. In between all the cultural rhetoric, media messages, government propaganda and senseless violence, it threads a needle of camaraderie, empathy and hope. We can proselytize for international understanding and connection between women, but what does it mean without real conversation? Low bandwidth and audio hiccups notwithstanding, this program gives us the chance to talk and to listen, to teach and to learn. And while my title may be “Volunteer Teacher,” I incur far more wisdom than I impart.

Nargis is 16. She wants to become a biologist or doctor and stay in Afghanistan to help her country realize its potential. I believe she will achieve this goal and many others. We’ve done lessons on subjects ranging from Nelson Mandela to catabolism, Frida Kahlo to Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” to Bob Marley (Her favorite song is “Three Little Birds.” She likes him even more than Beyoncé. I get it. Far worse, though, she loves Avril).

NBC Nightly News filmed KIMS along with Nargis and me for a story they aired on April 4th on the importance of keeping the school open. I’m honored to share it here.

To see the school stay open for years to come will bring joy — and quite literally, bring power — to thousands of women both here and in Afghanistan. A thought, a prayer, a dollar, a smile or (and especially) a moment in reading about the movement all add to its momentum.

To contribute financially, click here.

And here is an interview NPR did with Ehsan after the massacre in 2012.

– Caroline Burke

  1. February 10th, 2014 at 06:33 | #1

    We have had a black-out for the last two days as KIMS main generator broke down. We are doing our utmost to fix things as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.


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