One of the major barriers to education in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan isn’t what you might think. As populations grow and the education revolution takes hold, there simply aren’t enough classrooms to hold all the students who want to learn. This simple lack of classrooms is holding thousands of children back, and many of them are girls. How do we know? Along with research from various global relief organizations, we seek out counsel from the people living in the villages who are experiencing these problems first hand.
Jack Few is an adventure cyclist with a soft spot for the places he travels and people he meets. At 24 he’s already completed a 3,000-mile bike ride through India, self-published a book of stories and wisdom learned on the road, and now he has embarked on an even bigger challenge. This year Jack is riding his bike from Brighton, England to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and raising money for girls’ education along the way. Jack is one of the lastest adventurer-turned-advocates who is using his passion to raise awareness and funds for Central Asia Institute.
In Tajikistan, poverty is one of the largest barriers to higher education. All too often promising students must end their academic dreams early, or their families take out loans they can never pay back and are often not sufficient to put their children through school. With help from donors, CAI’s partner in Tajikistan (CAIT) gives scholarships to students based on need and merit, ensuring poverty does not derail the dreams and careers of some of the country’s best and brightest students. Each applicant must submit their school grades and their family’s income information, complete an interview, and submit recommendations from village elders and teachers.
“I have long believed that the best way to fight terrorism and poverty is to educate women. When women have knowledge they begin to realize they have power. They begin to transfer that to their children. They teach their daughters that women are valuable and can make a difference. They teach their sons compassion. They teach their children that there is more than one way to look at the world.” - Elaine Olson. Read about what it's like to be a Dream Maker in our monthly giving program from two women who believe in the power of education.
January 2018 ushered in a new tax law with many sweeping changes. The 503-page document left many CAI supporters wondering how their donations to charities will be affected, and what to do about the loss of possible deductions. There is good news as the new tax law preserves the IRA charitable rollover rules, more appropriately called a qualified charitable distribution (QCD), making it permanent. This allows donors to continue to donate directly from their IRA to nonprofit organizations like CAI. The new tax bill streamlines giving options through your IRA and opens up more opportunities to make a charitable donation through your IRA when it’s most convenient for you.
In 2017, after careful talk and negotiation, CAI was presented with the opportunity to create more educational opportunities to Diamer District, an incredibly conservative area in Pakistan. In this region 72 percent of children age three to 16 are out of school, with girls representing the majority of that number. For decades outside groups have attempted to bring education to this region, but the concerned mullahs (religious leaders), were cautious of these foreign groups, many of which tried to start programs without talking with them or getting their approval.
During this festive time of the year the sweet smell of seasonal treats and the taste of traditional holiday foods connect us with familiar memories of family and culture. Hanukkah has just begun and many people are sharing potato latkes and sufganiyot(jelly donuts) or sitting down to meals of savory Brisket. People who celebrate Christmas are enjoying traditions from many cultures including specialty cookies, cakes, and puddings that hail as much from ancestral regions as they do family tradition. In many of the countries where CAI works, food plays an important cultural role during holidays, and nowhere is this more apparent than Afghanistan. Afghan food plays a central role in culture, gatherings, and holidays.
In northern Afghanistan most schools don’t have computers. Teachers and administrators must keep track of grades, attendance, and lessons by hand. It’s not always lack of access to computers that’s holding these teachers back, but a lack of computer skills training and understanding of this new technology that keeps them isolated.
There is a saying in Afghanistan, “Women should stay home or in the grave.” This sentiment is a remnant of the Taliban-era, when women could be whipped in public for baring their ankles, lose a finger for painting their nails, or be thrown down a flight of stairs for hosting an informal school in their homes.
Suddenly it’s November. Snow is falling gently outside the window at CAI, and this year’s Journey of Hope magazine is at the printer ready to display a year’s worth of progress, challenge, and hope in its glossy pages. Gift-giving season has snuck up on us once again, and this year CAI is trying something new, a gift catalogue with a variety of charitable choices that make a meaningful gift for friends and family. Each gift in the catalogue goes directly to programs overseas, so you can be sure your donation gifts are doing the most good.