Making a Difference
Fathi M. '19
By Fathi M. '19
Forest Ridge Student
September 21, 2018
We all waited at the table, eating our lunch and waiting for Shabana Basij-Rasikh to beat Seattle traffic and arrive at Forest Ridge. We conversed about our new classes, schedules and whatnot, but as soon as she walked in the room we fell silent. Having just watched her TedTalk about her founding of HELA, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Afghan women through education, in my Servant Leadership class and reflecting on how she displays kinship, I thought, “wow, she’s actually here in the same room as me.”
This woman, who comes from halfway across the world, and has done such amazing things for her country, came to MY school after I just did a whole assignment dedicated to her. I felt extremely lucky. She introduced herself and her experience with education from her youth to the present, and how she grew up in the beginning of the Taliban rule. She emphasized how blessed she was to have parents who valued education and instilled that love of learning in her. Even when it was illegal for girls to go to school, she dressed up as a boy to go to a secret school. One thing in particular that struck with me from our meeting, was how as a child she thought it was cruel for her parents to risk her life for an education. But, now she realizes her family’s bravery.
We also got to watch a video of the boarding school for girls she founded. They gave us an exclusive tour of their campus and they were the most enthusiastic kids. The star of the video, Aisha, described every room she walked into as her “favorite.” After that, we continued discussing her education in America as an exchange student, as a college student, and how she got the idea to start her school. Shabana was looking for a way to positively impact her country, specifically girls, and she wanted a long-term solution. She used conceptualization to think way outside of the box, and her valor led her to start the first all-girls boarding school in her whole country. Not only was this a challenge, but she was risking her life to put this idea into motion – which she continues to do so every day.
Shabana still faces many obstacles, but the school has developed into a national success and will be expanding in the coming years to accept more students. Throughout half of the school year she is travelling to fundraise so that students from rural areas, who can barely pay, can be supported. She has dedicated her life to this school and will soon see a graduating class of high school students. With the support of the president, and those amazing families who believe their daughters deserve a rigorous education, we hope the progress of this wonderful school continues.
We fully support Shabana and wish the best for her. This visit was inspiring -- she has not only impacted her community, but ours as well.
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