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August 7, 2014 – Central Asia Institute Publishes its 2013 Annual Report

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Dear Friends of CAI,

I write as the new Executive Director of Central Asia Institute (CAI) with a positive report and message to accompany our 2013 financial statements.

In April 2011, CAI suffered a nationally televised assertion of widespread wrongdoing by a powerful reporting source. Within months, the Office of the Attorney General of Montana (OAG) had launched an investigation that resulted in a voluntary settlement that required CAI make specific improvements to its governance, management, and operations systems. These changes have all been made. A civil suit also resulted from this report; but in October 2013 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a lower federal court judge’s ruling that the lawsuit stemming from the media accusations contained “imprecise, in part flimsy, and speculative” claims and theories and permanently dismissed the claims.

But, CAI was far from vindicated. Grave damage had been done. These allegations directly led to a devastating 80% drop in CAI donations and CAI’s reputation was significantly harmed. Yet, in spite of this onslaught of adversity, CAI learned from its mistakes and has survived and is living up to its promises to be an improved, more transparent, and efficient organization.

CAI grew rapidly from 2007 through early 2011. With an extremely lean management team and a rapid pace of growth, the organization’s management made some noteworthy mistakes in judgment during this period. Yet it is worth remembering that in the 18 years since its inception, CAI has provided funds to build 191 new schools and pioneered another 208 education and community-service programs. This is an accomplishment nearly everyone, including CAI’s critics, regard as nearly miraculous. Today, contrary to accusations in the press, CAI remains committed to the hundreds of schools, projects, and programs it built and/or currently supports. And most importantly, that ongoing commitment means that even now, tens of thousands of students, mostly girls, are enrolled in school.

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Photo by Erik Petersen.

CAI learned some important lessons from this experience. In addition to addressing all of the actions required in its agreement with the Montana Attorney General, the Board of Directors and employees have gone far beyond these to verify that every penny donated is accounted for, making numerous improvements in financial and operating systems. CAI goes through an annual, rigorous audit and has recruited well-schooled and experienced additions to its domestic team. Finally, CAI has developed a new respect for the necessity of conforming to and complying with regulations and reporting requirements in the United States and each of the countries and provinces it serves.

As you will see in the pages that follow, CAI made substantial improvements in every facet of operations in FY 2012/2013, with one vitally important exception: Donations remained depressed. The favorable federal court ruling came too late in the year for CAI to reverse the tide of negative donor perceptions in 2013.

But time is a healer and CAI has proven its resiliency. Armed with the decision of the courts, in FY 2013/2014 CAI expects to halt the downward trend in donations while simultaneously consolidating its gains in international operations.

It is an honor and a privilege to be part of the resilient team at Central Asia Institute. We love our mission and the people we live to serve. CAI does frontline work in regions where the need for literacy and education is desperate and where few others dare to tread. Many times this work is difficult and dangerous, and the difficulties and dangers increase daily. I am filled with personal admiration for each and every member of the CAI team. Every day, I see them working with energy, enthusiasm, and a deep sense of commitment to the worthwhile cause of promoting peace by enabling literacy and education.

CAI is on the move again. We hope you will join us, or re-join us, on this marvelous Journey of Hope*. We look forward to walking this path with you and the good people of the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

Sincerely,
Jim Thaden
Executive Director
Central Asia Institute.

CAI’s Annual Report, the full audited financial statements, and Tax Form 990 are also provided on our Financials Page.

* Journey of Hope is CAI’s annual magazine. Visit www.ikat.org to register for a free subscription.