Emerald Isle was fortunate to have some distinguished guests New Years week. 44 Afghan college women came to Emerald Isle for their semester break. They are all participants in the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women. Check out www.ieaw.org for information on the program.
Alicia Baucom, Coordinator of the program, lives in Cape Carteret with her husband Bill. Alicia was responsible for organizing the week long visit (some stayed two weeks) to Emerald Isle. This was the first time that the girls had gone to a tourist destination for semester break and they loved it. Even though it wasn’t the best time of year to visit a beach town, they stayed active. Since most had not been to a beach town, just walking on the beach was a treasure for most of them. They also visited the Aquarium, spent time at the Emerald Isle Recreation Center in various activities, the Cape Carteret Aquatic and Wellness Center and spent a lot of time socializing with each other. The entire group only gets together once a year, so there was a lot of catching up to do. They enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and they all want to come back next year, and I hope they do.
Diane and I were honored to be invited to have dinner with them one night. The girls and organizers were staying in oceanfront homes and the dinner was held in a duplex that had a connecting door. Not a lot of room for 50+ diners, but there was so much excitement in the room that it didn’t seem crowded at all. A great time was had by all. The girls prepared traditional Afghan dishes and served it in an informal buffet style. They had dishes like rice (palau), chicken (qorma-e-morgh), lamb (qorma-e-gosht), potatoes (borane kachalo), and rice pudding (shir birinj), and it was all great.
There are 46 girls in the program attending 20 colleges on scholarship. Most are studying political science or business. One of the conditions of the program is that the girls return to Afghanistan upon graduation.
Paula Nirschel founded the Initiative in 2002 after learning how Afghan women were kept hidden and denied education for the seven years of the Taliban’s reign over Afghanistan. Determined to make a difference, Paula started the program to offer education to some of the country’s highly motivated young women. All the students return home every summer to work for reconstruction and to help support their families. They commit to return to Afghanistan at the completion of their education, where it is anticipated they will move into leadership roles, further reconstruction efforts and assist in improving the place of women in their society. Seven have already graduated from the program and eight more will graduate this spring.