One never knows when you’re going to meet an angel. While I meet them often in my work with Vital Voices, sometimes I meet them in the most unexpected places. That was the case with Razia Jan, whom I met in Santa Fe this summer, when we both mentored young artists at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
An Afghan by birth, educated at Harvard and teaching in Boston, Razia started Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, to bridge the gap between Afghans and Americans. She got her Massachusetts community to send blankets to workers at Ground Zero, care packages to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 30,000 pairs of shoes to Afghan children through the military’s Operation ShoeFly. Her homemade quilts about 9-11 have hung at Madison Square Garden, fires stations and the Pentagon. That in itself, is pretty amazing.
But what really drew me to Razia was her work educating young Afghan girls, She moved to Afghanistan several years ago and started the only free private school for Afghan girls. The school, which now educates over 300 girls from the poorest of villages outside of Kabul, is a safe, empowering environment in an area where schooling for girls was banned by the Taliban. But the Taliban are no match for the will of Razia. As she did in Massachusetts, she convinced the village elders and the families that the girls should have the opportunity to learn—for their good and for the good of Afghanistan.
Our team at SDI has now gotten to know Razia and her schoolgirls, and we are helping in a very small way to make sure the girls have what they need to do well every day. Razia is not shy about saying what the girls need, and if you take time to look at this video, you will probably do as we did—sign on the spot!