Support and Networking on Martha’s Vineyard

On August 23, 2010, CharityHelp International held its first gathering on Martha’s Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. The theme for the evening was “Empowering Afghan Women”. This event featured participants from the Support and Networking Program. Paul Stevers, the founder and President of CHI was also in attendance. Paul opened the floor by sharing the story of how he founded CharityHelp International to support orphans and how in turn the success of the Child Sponsorship Program inspired him to create the Support and Networking Program.

Hassina Sherjan, who has been participating in the SNP since October 2008, was one of the speakers. She is spending one year at Harvard University, where she is studying Public Policy at the Kennedy School. Beautiful home decorations were on display from Hassina’s textile production company, Boumi, based in Kabul. The Boumi Company uses Afghan cotton and features Afghan handiwork such as embroidery and bead-work in its designs.

Basia Jaworska Silva is an island resident and SNP partner to Mahbouba, an Afghan film maker. Mahbouba was unable to attend from Afghanistan, (delete Mahbouba was in Paris for a short workshop on film) however, one of Mahbouba’s documentary films “Phantoms of the Zoo” was screened. Basia presented a summary of Mahbouba’s business plan to create the Cinematic Center for Afghan Women.

Patti Quigley, Executive Director of Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, spoke about her work with Razia Jan, founder of the Zabuli Education Center for Women and Girls in Deh’ Subz Afghanistan.  Patti Quigley previously co-founded “Beyond the 11th” with Susan Retik, who gave a surprise appearance and offered the audience a short description of the organization and gave details about current fundraising and programs. Susan had just returned from the White House where she received the Presidential Citizen’s Medal.

Documentary film maker Beth Murphy showed her film trailer, “What Tomorrow Brings” which tells the story of the girls who attend Zabuli Education Center for Women and Girls in Deh’ Subz, and the difficulties in creating the first girls’ school in their town.  She spoke about her desire to inform the world about the situation through a feature-length film about these girls.

The moderator for the evening was Linda Black. Linda is the editor of Avalon Magazine ( which first featured the story about the relationship between Mahbouba and Basia in its inaugural summer issue.

Jenna Messier, U.S. SNP Consultant organized the event and was very pleased with the networking and outreach which was accomplished. If you would like to have a presentation to show your community the work which is being done by the women in SNP, then please contact Jenna for more information.

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SNP warmly welcomes a new Afghan Coordinator, Nasrin Sultani. Nasrin:

nasrinI was living in Heart province in the west of Afghanistan and I was a student of the  Economy faculty at Heart University. When AFCECO started to have an orphanage in Heart I worked with them as a volunteer for two or three months; after that I finished  college and moved to Kabul. I knew Andisha before so she  asked me whether I am ready to go as an interpreter with a group of children to the USA for medical treatment, my respond was positive and I travelled with the children in the month of June. When I came back I wanted to work somewhere through which I could help my people especially women. When Andisha told me about the SNP program I really got interested in working with this program that was how she introduced me as SNP coordinator so now I am working as SNP coordinator at the meantime I am orphanages administer in Kabul.

I think this is a golden opportunity for my people especially women who were the first victim in the three decades of war, this is the time to use the technology (internet and mobile phone) and mentors ideas and experience which is available for them in free to improve and develop their own as well as their country’s situation. They should have it in their mind that they are the only ones who can change their situation. No matter how big the activity is, at least they should try and dare to do something, use their efforts and work hard to achieve something, these small things will change to bigger things in the future. The developed countries were never like this at the beginning, they started from the small things so that they reached in this position. Using the mentors’ ideas and experience of the most developed and experienced countries is the greatest and the best opportunity. I am really thankful to all partners in this program, the ladies from Canada, the US, Europe and Australia who provided this golden opportunity to share their ideas and experience to support ladies in my country to improve their situation and take part in the economy of the country. We appreciate your support and sense of humanity. We need your further support in every field, we hope our combined efforts bring prosperity and peace to Afghanistan.

Many, many thanks once again for your kind support. Best wishes, Nasrin

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Women of Courage and Resolve  Part II: Cassandra

I was born in April 1960, in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. My parents still live in the house in which I grew up. Dad was a mechanical engineer and Mum was a secretary. My mother has a passionate belief in education, and in the importance of a woman’s financial independence. After my brother and sister were born,  she  returned to full time work in the mid 1950s, at a time when it was still frowned upon to do this. My maternal Grandmother looked after us while Mum and Dad were at work.

In 1965 I started at the school where I was to spend the next 12 years, a catholic girls’ school which has a history of promoting the education of women. Although it provided vocational courses, it also gave a steady stream of doctors and lawyers their start in life. In the 1880s it had prepared young women for matriculation exams although they were not able to attend university at that time. It was my mother’s school, and not an expensive one. I was also given an excellent musical education and studied the piano and clarinet, both at school and as a hobby during my time at University.

At 16 years of age I went to University to study history and law. By 1977 one third of the university’s law students were women, a big increase over previous years. During this time I travelled overseas during the Christmas summer holidays and was in Austria during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I remember trying to use my schoolgirl German to follow the news.

After graduation, I worked for the government for a year and then went to England to visit my sister who was living there at the time.  It was a great year. I spent some time studying art history and also visiting relatives in Scotland and working there. Upon my return to Australia I completed my qualifications to practice law, and then worked in Brisbane and Sydney before getting married at 30 years of age. One of my Sydney jobs was with the Aboriginal Legal Service, which I left to move to the south coast of New South Wales. My daughter was born the following year and my son five years later. I was keen to spend time at home with my children and after taking maternity leave, I returned to work on a part-time basis over the next eight years.

Over the years I became rather restless and wanted to make some changes in my life. With my husband’s support I retrained as a primary school teacher and we then moved to the bush where it is culturally very different from the coast. In Bourke we taught at schools where the majority of the students are Aboriginal. Aboriginal people first came to this area over 40,000 years ago, and although many traditional customs have been lost, they still possess a strong  and vibrant culture. We experienced searing heat, chilly winters, drought and flood. We learned much about Australia’s history and geography, met new people and made new friends. We ate emu and johnnycakes for the first time. I am now living in a different area and I am the principal of a small country school with 25 students. Some students are from farms and some from the town. Some are Aboriginal.  My husband is the principal of a larger school about an hour up the road.

My mother and grandmother were the vital force in my education. My older sister gave me several opportunities to travel and broaden my horizons at a relatively young age. My father and husband are both passionate readers who have always given me intellectual stimulation.  At times my husband and I have both turned each other’s lives upside down with our ideas and projects, and these changes have ultimately turned out to be fruitful and interesting. My children have had varied opportunities and experiences, and are good kids. I have much for which to be grateful.

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