On April 7th, we welcomed the director and founder of Kids4AfghanKids, Ms. Khris Nedam, in the Sudakoff Center of New College of Florida. In our second official event as part of our lecture series, she discussed her experience and work in Afghanistan over several decades. Ms.Nedam started her work in Afghanistan towards the end of the Soviet invasion. The Soviet Union was trying to gain access to a warm water port in the Arabian Sea, but Afghanistan fought back and eventually the Afghans, led by the Taliban, forced the Soviets to retreat.
Filled with hope due to their success, the Afghan people believed the Taliban would restore order and bring peace to the nation. These hopes were crushed when instead the Taliban took control and, over time, instituted authoritarian policies. The Taliban forced changes to Afghan social structure which pushed Afghanistan back decades in terms of women’s rights and political freedoms. Due to the influence and position of the Taliban, the Afghan education system disenfranchised women in countless ways. Outside of the cities, education became difficult to come by for the general population.
Up until the Taliban takeover, Ms. Nedam had been working in refugee camps throughout Afghanistan and then later taught at the International School in Kabul. As the Taliban took power she and other foreigners were forced to leave, some including herself put on a list for people unwelcome in the nation. Ms. Nedam was determined to continue helping Afghans and thus after returning to Michigan, she and her sixth grade class started a nonprofit organization called Kids4AfghanKids. They worked with community leaders in a small village three hours southwest of Kabul, connecting with the children there and forming long-distance friendships. As Ms.Nedam emphasized, despite the United States’ relationship and history with Afghanistan, her students firmly believed that they could continue these friendships and make a difference in the lives of Afghan children just like them.
The project originally consisted of the creation of a small school for elementary school students but over time has expanded into several impressive facilities for Afghan students in Kindergarten through the 12th grade. The program has been a tremendous success and the audience was clearly touched and impressed by her hard work and determination. As she talked of plans to build a library and university, students as well as others showed their support. A few students of New College of Florida have now begun talks of connecting with Kids4AfghanKids and aiding Ms.Nedam’s work. It will be an exciting journey to see how people, especially our youth, can connect across borders to help progress the world to a brighter and more peaceful future.