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When Afghanistan makes the news, it’s usually for all the wrong reasons.
Media coverage usually centers on the war-ravaged country and the Taliban or Al-Qaeda.
But there are a lot of people who are trying to make a difference in the country and one of them just happens to be from Los Alamos.
Robert Fuselier, a local veterinarian, traveled to Afghanistan and visited the Advanced Education Center in May of 2012, to attend the graduation ceremonies and meet with various State Department officials, including then U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Fuselier, a 1982 graduate of Louisiana State University, also had meetings with elders from the village of Sarkar to discuss the possibility of raising funds for a school there.
And since then, that is exactly what Fuselier has been doing.
“I had been working on behalf of the Afghan Sister Village Project, which was assisting Green Village Schools with their projects,” he said. “I am now working to raise funds directly for the Sarkar school project, which is being managed by Green Village Schools. Thus, all donations go through Green Village Schools.”
Fuselier has been working closely with Dr. Mohammad Khan Kharoti, who established the Green Village School.
Fuselier stayed with Kharoti while in Afghanistan and when he got there, he immediately put on Afghani garb, as not to attract any kind of undue attention.
Kharoti, who lives in Portland, Ore., and has made a couple of trips to Los Alamos, is somewhat of a rock star in Afghanistan.
This came from the Green Village Schools Project fall newsletter.
“The Elders had previously secured permission from the Taliban (security insurance) to begin construction on the new school but by the time Mohammad arrived in Helmand Province in early October, rumors had created a setback.
“Word was that Mohammad and his son Yama (not in Afghanistan for several years) were promoting Christianity. The Taliban, themselves concerned about Mohammad’s safety, wanted to meet in Chaman, Pakistan.
“He obliged, accompanied by two Shin Kalay elders. The Taliban seemed thoroughly reassured by the answers to questions about GVS, the AEC and the new school in Shin Kalay. They are also eager to watch ‘Stealing the Light’ and will be provided a copy. The reverence for Mohammad in Southern Afghanistan has spilled over into this border region of Pakistan and facilitates the work and security of GVS.”
In his blog, Fuselier recalled his meeting with the elders in Afghanistan.
“My introduction at the meeting included where I was from, my profession and more importantly, why I had come to Afghanistan: to support the work of Dr. Kharoti, whom I had come to trust and respect. I explained that a tradition taught to me by my father and fostered by my faith was to help others, that by serving others I served God. Serving God by serving others is a major principle of Islam; the elders understood what I was saying. I recounted our meeting from the day before, reiterating that I was willing to take their story back to the people of my community, many of whom would be interested in helping them. I then asked them for their story.
“One elder spoke for all. I’m not sure of his level of education, but he appeared well informed and knowledgeable. He began by saying that he and his people have nothing against Americans, they are tired of war and being bombed, and they believe a better future for them and their children will come through education. He reminded me that long ago, Afghanistan and the surrounding region was an intellectual center of the world. In many cities of Afghanistan, he continued, there exist important texts that date back centuries.”
And that’s why Fuselier believes, the GVS, started by Kharoti, is so important.
Kharoti started the Shin Kalay school for girls and boys prior to Sept. 11 in 2001, but the school was destroyed in the fall of 2008 (more than 1,500 students had attended classes by then).
Kharoti then started the Advanced Education Center in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province in August 2011, connecting more than 200 Afghan students with Los Alamos.
Afghan high school students began letter exchanges and other projects over the Internet with counterparts in Los Alamos and other areas of the United States.
Kharoti said the AEC was supported in the U.S. by Project PeacePal out of Albuquerque and the Afghan Sister Village Project from Los Alamos through a major grant.
Afghans are currently rebuilding the school in Shin Kalay and the education push in rural Afghanistan is already paying dividends.
Three young women who started their education at GVS’s Shin Kalay School and who graduated from the AEC in May 2011 entered medical school later that month. Upon graduation, they plan to return to Shin Kalay to become the only women physicians in the rural village of about 18,000 people.
Fuselier, meanwhile, is raising funds for the school in Sarkar.
“As of today, more than $14,000 has been raised for the school in Sarkar,” he said. “Another $8,000 has been pledged to match future donations up to that amount. In late 2012, the elders from Sarkar met with other local officials and Afghan educational administrators to gain support for the operation of the school. They also were able to acquire the land for the school.”
Contributions for the school in Sarkar can be made at greenvillageschools.org/donate. Select “New School Construction in Sarkar” to ensure your donation is eligible for the matching fund.
Fuselier also pointed out that since GVS is meeting the goals of the ASVP, the board of the ASVP decided to dissolve the ASVP and lend their support to GVS.
“This would allow the funds that were used for administrative purposes at the ASVP to go directly to schools in Afghanistan,” Fuselier said.