First Starfish Award to SOLA, School of Leadership, Afghanistan, & SOLA founder, Ted Achilles
By Guest Contributor on Friday, September 21st, 2012
Although many countries that no longer have Peace Corps programs, that doesn’t mean that the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who served in those places have forgotten them. Here Terry Dougherty writes about the ongoing engagement of Afghanistan RPCVs.
Last year, Friends of Afghanistan (FOA) presented the Starfish Award at the FoA reunion in Washington, D.C. to Ted Achilles, founder and director of SOLA, School of Leadership Afghanistan. This award is given to the person who truly “makes a difference” in an individual’s life. Through SOLA’s support for gender equal educational programs and scholarships for girls, SOLA is helping to build and sustain the next generation of female Afghan leaders.
Friends of Afghanistan is a proud and tangible supporter for SOLA in its efforts to promote equitable educational opportunity in Afghanistan. SOLA and Friends of Afghanistan have worked together to help launch the Afghan Women’s Writing Project by purchasing computers and setting up an email exchange between students and AWWP mentors. Together we helped select and support children under Solace for the Children‘s medical assistance program for war injured children. We continue to focus on developing ESL classes for students preparing to enter international high schools and higher educational opportunities.
We expect this partnership to grow in the years ahead—and SOLA students to return to run the program themselves. In fact, one already has: Shabana became SOLA’s new head of school on her return to Kabul after graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont in 2011.
SOLA students follow the maxim, SOLA helps those who help themselves. Upper-level students serve as teachers and mentors to new students and work as translators and advocates for Solace students. They have learned American sign language in order to teach a hearing-impaired student. They participate actively in the Afghan Women’s Writing Project to learn to write effectively in English. They perform office jobs at SOLA to learn proper business procedures and communications.
Friends of Afghanistan was an early financial supporter of SOLA as it started up in October 2008, Several RPCV’s are still involved as mentors and teachers, via Skype.