Almost $60 billion has been committed toward aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan with very little to show for it. I want to know why.
The girls stared shyly at us, sneaking peeks whenever they thought we weren't looking. Our tour guide explained who we were and why we were there, then started asking questions of the class. When he asked what each girl wanted to be when she grew up, the answers surprised me. Most answered that they wanted to be a teacher, specifically an English teacher. Other common responses were journalists and lawyers, and one particularly ambitious student even answered, “a politician.”
The most remarkable part of these answers was that they were coming from young girls in Afghanistan, who for the first time were able to dream about having a life of their own choosing, instead of one chosen for them by their families. Contrary to what most people believe, Afghan parents want their children, including their daughters, to have every opportunity -- just like all parents the world over.
In March of 2010 I spent ten unforgettable days in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of an educational trip to explore issues facing women there. The main reason why I chose to go on this trip to a war zone was to see the other side of the story, to find situations like this. I knew there had to be more to the country than the war that is currently being waged there, and I wanted to see it firsthand. Everything I found in Kabul confirmed this belief. The Afghan people are the friendliest, most welcoming and gracious hosts anyone could imagine.
Once I stepped foot outside the airport in Kabul and actually saw the city and started to meet people, any residual fear of what might happen quickly faded from my mind. I felt like I had come home. I adjusted to the different culture and strange city surprisingly quickly. If I experienced culture shock, it was mild enough not to leave a lasting impression.
Every day in Kabul was crammed full of meetings with people, from women's rights activists to Members of Parliament to the director of a reconciliation organization that works to convince Taliban members to leave the Taliban and come over to the government. I took copious amounts of notes and tried to learn as much as I could. However, the most important lesson I learned in Afghanistan was that the more I learned, the less I understood. Afghan culture is complex and rooted in thousands of years of tradition. No outsider will understand it easily, or maybe even completely. There will be no easy solution to the situation there. But that doesn't mean that we should stop trying.
I strongly believe that as a journalist I have the storytelling abilities to bring the humanity across, to make people sitting on their couch in Ohio care about a mother in Somalia who lost all her children but one on a seemingly endless trek to find help. Give me a camera, a pen and notebook, and enough time and I can tell a compelling story that will influence minds and impact hearts.
It is possible to change the world, and I intend to do it, one story at a time.
That trip was part of the reason why I decided to go to journalism school -- I felt like there was much more to the country and the people than the war being fought there, which seemed to be all that was being reported in the news.
I've been particularly interested researching in the aid and development scene there since in the last ten years billions of dollars have been spent by the U.S. and other countries, but when I saw little evidence of it when I was there. As a result, I decided to incorporate this investigation into my thesis project, so I arranged to spend the summer in Kabul poking around the aid community in order to determine just what it is that makes an aid project successful when so many others fail.
I will be writing several stories about my findings, and as part of the process I will be incorporating multimedia elements into my journalistic project. I love photography so that will be my focus, but I also plan to incorporate video and audio components, as well as social media. I will be blogging regularly about how my project is going as well as about my experience living in Afghanistan and volunteering at a girls' school.
Not everyone has the ability to report from such a fascinating place as Afghanistan -- even the mainstream media doesn't report from there often -- so I intend to make the most of this opportunity to provide a detailed, insightful look at life in Afghanistan.
I truly appreciate your support in making this fantastic opportunity a reality, and it is my hope that your donation will make a difference in how aid is administered in Afghanistan. If my research is successful, it should help to eliminate waste and hopefully save you some tax dollars.
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May 4, 2012 - May 9, 2012
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A thank-you email and continual updates from the project.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
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A thank-you postcard featuring original photos from the project and updates from the project.Estimated delivery: Sep 2012
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A personal thank-you card and a set of four postcards with original photos from Afghanistan, plus updates from the project.Estimated delivery: Sep 2012
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A personal thank-you card, a set of six postcards with original photos from Afghanistan, plus updates from the project.Estimated delivery: Sep 2012
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A personal thank-you, a set of eight postcards with original photos from Afghanistan, updates from the project, plus an 8x10 high-quality photo of your choice from the project.Estimated delivery: Sep 2012
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All of the above plus a surprise from Afghanistan!Estimated delivery: Oct 2012