Please see the updates tab to read about the wonderful developments since our campaign began!!
So, what's this about?
We are a team of strangers from around the world who came together to help Ali Shahidy realize his dream of getting a college education. Ali is a remarkable young man from Afghanistan who has dedicated his life to helping others - his family, his community, Afghan women and women around the world. Five years ago he sacrificed his dream of attending college to lift his family out of poverty. With that mission accomplished, it is time to help make Ali's dream come true - a college education!! On May 17, 2013 he learned that he was awarded two very generous scholarships to attend Norwich University in Vermont, USA. We'll tell you more about that later... first, we want to introduce you to Ali.
Who is this guy with a global network of campaign boosters??
Ali was born in 1988 in Iran, where his family fled during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The fourth of eight children, he spent the first 14 years of his life as a refugee. His family returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after the Taliban was driven from power. During their time in Iran, Ali's father developed chronic health problems. Hence, when they returned to Afghanistan, the responsibility of supporting the family fell on the shoulders of Ali and his sisters. He and his sisters wove carpets at home during the years that Ali attended high school. His sisters did not attend school beyond 6th grade.
Ali dreamed of attending college. He was the only member of his family to graduate from high school. Though his family couldn't afford the private classes that are necessary to supplement the sub-standard educational system in Afghanistan, Ali still graduated in the top 10-15% of his class. He collected campaign posters and flyers during the 2004 and 2005 elections and sewed them together to make his notebooks. He wove carpets before and after school and studied by the light of an oil lamp at the end of his long days. His hopes of higher education faded as his parents became impatient with their poverty stricken life. It also pained Ali to see his younger sisters toiling away at the carpet loom so that he could go to school. His dream of further studies was thus abandoned.
Upon his high school graduation, Ali began a full-time job teaching English at a private English academy and was then promoted to branch manager. Then he became a translator / interpreter for ISAF forces from Portugal. With steadily increasing pay, he advanced from one job to another and is now a business development analyst for one company and a social media specialist for another. His success enabled him to provide the financial comfort and security his family needed.
In his role as head of the family, Ali takes care of his family's financial, physical, social and emotional needs. Like many families in Afghanistan, their needs have been many. The first thing he did was to send his sisters back to school. One younger sister is now in her second year of college. He is a beacon of hope for his family and they are eager to help him to realize his dreams of a university education.
He sounds pretty successful, why does he need to go to college?
Ali's advocacy is not limited to his family. He is very conscious of the suffering around him and was actively involved in community service from a young age - not a common thing in Afghanistan. While helping his mother and sisters in their daily lives, he was confronted with the many obstacles faced by women in Afghanistan. Seeing things through their eyes helped him to realize the gender inequality that plagues Afghan women. He began to question and challenge the social norms that create these problems.
Ali is now a passionate women's rights activist who aspires to be a university professor and social psychologist. Confronted with so many social challenges in his life, he always sought ways to address these problems, to learn of their origins, and to teach others of his findings. As a result, he developed a strong interest in social psychology and yearns to work in a university setting where he can teach, conduct research and contribute to a better understanding of the nature, causes and solutions for the social problems in Afghanistan. He has a specific interest in gender issues and will continue his women's rights activism during and after college. To reach his fullest potential and contribute in the most meaningful way, a university education is essential.
Why should we help?We feel compelled to help Ali because we know him. And we believe that if you know him, you will also want to help. Through our assorted backgrounds in international education; journalism; Afghan National Police training; Afghan National Army training; women's rights activism; and interfaith peace building, we are all intimately familiar with the problems in Afghanistan. We recognize Ali's gifts and we understand why Afghanistan needs young men like Ali. Christian Bayer Tygesen wrote in To Help Afghan Women, keep sending the boys to school, "Under conditions tantamount to patriarchal totalitarianism, the key to promoting human rights resides in the hands of Afghan men. Save a rebellion by Afghan women, only a voluntary shift in the attitudes of Afghan men can empower women and advance the human rights of every Afghan. All Afghan girls should get an education, but unless the men ease their repressive dominance, half of the population will never have the opportunity to exercise their human rights."
Ali has single-handedly raised the awareness of hundreds of Afghans about women's rights and violence against women. He conducts seminars for young adults (photo at left); actively promotes women's rights issues on social media; writes articles raising awareness about the plight of women in Afghanistan; participates in lectures, film screenings, social justice walks and fundraising events; volunteers for global digital action campaigns to end violence against women; and shares his message face-to-face in his daily life. Ali has helped women who have been victims of violence. He empowers women to find their voice and reach for their dreams. Upon realizing that Afghan women need more exposure to positive role models, he created a Facebook page called Daughters of Afghanistan to share inspirational stories of the many strong and courageous Afghan women who have overcome great obstacles to make a difference. In five short months the site has attracted over 1,600 active followers.
How will Ali use this money?
Borrowing from Ali's trademark optimism, any excess funds raised will help to offset Ali's living expenses and will be used for future years' attendance at Norwich University. Update 6/20/2013 - Ali will live 1/2 a block from campus with a wonderful local family who has offered to provide his room and board. The table below lists his other costs, scholarships and the remaining balance:
My heart is full but my pockets are empty - how else can I help?
We understand that not everybody can make a monetary contribution to our campaign. But you can help in other ways.
- Spread the word!! Share our campaign to support Ali's education on Facebook, Twitter, by email and more.
- Donate something we can add to our perks.
- Send Ali some encouraging words in the comment section.
- Share your tips and advice with us - this is new for all of us and we're looking for all the help we can get.
- Follow the campaign and check back for regular updates on our progress.
I want to learn more about Ali and what he has accomplished
Wow! That's great!! There's so much more we can say about Ali!! And there are more photos in the Gallery section. Ali has recently received global recognition for his women's rights activism. If you haven't heard enough about this amazing young man you can: 1) read some of his articles that have been posted, translated and read around the world; 2) listen to him in a short radio interview; or 3) view/listen to a webchat where he and two other male panelists discuss the role of men in women's rights issues. See the links below.
Why I’m breaking the cycle of violence in Afghanistan January 28, 2013 - written under the pseudonym, Salim Hussaini, Women’s Media Center: Women Under Siege Blog
Afghanistan: Breaking the Cycle March 7, 2013 - Huffington Post: The Blog; also posted in World Pulse's e-magazine.
What is the Role of Men in the Fight for Women’s Safety? April 11, 2013 - Panelist on webchat hosted by Public Radio International (PRI) - The World
A Sister and Brother Battle to Escape Domestic Abuse April 10, 2013 - radio interview on PRI's - The World
Street Harassment: How it looks in Afghanistan September 9, 2012 - World Pulse - End Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign. Also posted on Young Women for Change and translated into Dutch and Spanish and posted on other women's rights websites.
Join Ali's Team - Join the Campaign!!
We applaud the sacrifices Ali has made... we admire his passion for improving women's rights in Afghanistan... and we believe in his ability to make a difference. When we met him, we were all struck by his compassion for others, his humility and kind spirit. We hope that after hearing his story you will be similarly struck and will feel compelled to help this ambitious young man. Please...
Help us - to help Ali - to help Afghanistan!!
In late August, we will post a photo of Ali standing at this site - with thanks to everybody who helped him on his amazing journey!!
Any questions, post them in the comment section. If you want to include an email address, you can mark the comment "private". We will reply promptly.