A Little Piece of World Peace…

Lehigh name tag
My Global Village name tag… A memento of another wonderful year with some of the world’s best and brightest.

This past week has refocused my thoughts on the importance of “international relations”, how important it is for humanity to get along and live together on this planet without killing each other. Every tiny step toward that goal is reassuring even though it often feels like one step forward and two steps back.

For the past eleven years I’ve participated as a “Visiting Executive” in Lehigh University’s Global Village for Future Leaders. Each summer Global Village brings together over one hundred mostly 20 somethings from around the world for an intensive month or so of international leadership training. These are truly some of the best and brightest from nearly fifty countries. Following an afternoon of my lecturing on  “Modern Leadership”, their asking questions and challenging my assertions, and one-on-one interactions about their hopes and dreams, I came away, as I do every year, with the same belief…and prayer, that by the time their generation assumes the world’s leadership roles running governments and international conglomerates, they won’t want to blow each other up. I remain hopeful that such a new global attitude is possible.

One of the reasons I remain hopeful about the big picture is because in my work and travels I have witnessed many small victories taking place all the time, seen what good people can accomplish on a micro scale; how one person can indeed make a difference.

My first trip to Afghanistan occurred in 2006. I accompanied Toni Maloney, co-founder of the Business Council for Peace, (Bpeace), and a group of volunteers on a mission to assist Afghan women to become entrepreneurs. On of our goals was to help Habiba grow the first real daycare center/pre-school program in Kabul, which she was operating out of small house with a courtyard. The children had few toys and no outdoor play equipment. From the time we spent with her it was obvious that what they did have was a lot of love, patience and support from Habiba and her staff, but they needed to provide a proper facility for the children. My generous friends and colleagues contributed $4000 that went directly in to the construction of a new school building. Bepeace’s total effort raised over $30,000 so the children of Kabul could have a safe, clean daycare center.

Habiba and her students in 2013.
Habiba and her students in 2013.

A few days ago, I received a photo from Toni of Habiba today, watching over a new class of students. She and the daycare center are still going strong providing early education to the next generation of Afghans. I’m very proud of the role that I and so many others played in that outcome. Just as I am proud of all the young, smart, savvy Villagers who will return to their countries with a broader knowledge of their global neighbors.

Until that next generation is ready to lead, the world will most likely continue to careen between crisis and hope..from civil war in Syria, a coup in Egypt, to a new proposal of Israeli / Palestinian peace talks. What we can do in the meantime is light candles in the darkness and use them to show the way.





A Different Type of Warrior

Zarghona w-family 2011As my European friends would say, I’m “on holiday” this week. Translated in to American, that means I’m on vacation, so I was not planning to post my regular “Woman Warrior Wednesday” feature. Then, out of the blue, came these photographs of Zarghona, the young Afghan girl I found dying in a hospital in Kabul in 2006, now looking very happy with her family.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a story about Zarghona, for a woman’s global communications network, "World Pulse". The WP story was based on the last information I had about her, which was several years old. Retelling the harrowing story of how so many people had come together to save Zarghona from a terminal heart condition, and how after seeing her on my last trip to Afghanistan, I had no further information on her, prompted me to reach out to Dr. Ismail Wardak, the Afghan doctor who had been instrumental in bridging the language and culture barriers we had to cross to save her.

The result of that effort are the two photos you see here: Top, a smiling Zarghona with her parents, and below, with the wonderful Dr. Wardak, one of Afghanistan’s leading orthopedic surgeons. What do these photos tell us?  Zarghona w-Wardak 2011

Do they tell us that the media focus on the woeful condition of the Afghan National Army is accurate? Do they confirm the hyperbole of the pundits and talking heads, many of whom have never been to Afghanistan or have little first-hand knowledge of the Afghan Army, or for that matter, of our extensive US efforts to train them, that when they portray the ANA as unable and/or unwilling to defend their own country, the media are ill-informed?

The Afghan people are frequently stereotyped as ignorant, unaware, or unwilling to build their own future. I challenge you to look at these photographs of this family: A father who is a professional soldier, like many of our own warriors; a loving stay-at-home wife and mother who when her child was dying, never left her side, and a young teenager with a sweet smile, who now has a healthy and hopefully long future ahead of her…

Look at them and tell me that Afghanistan is not filled with it’s own warriors, men, women, and children, who are fighting a battle, each in their own way, to live their lives in peace and security. 

The Desire To Be Free…Through a post 9-11 lens

Today’s column in The Morning Call tells the story of a non-profit organization that brings Afghan entrepreneurs to the U.S. for training and mentoring. To become part of the program, one must already have a functioning small business, go through a rigorous interview process, and be willing to work within a business plan and prescribed level of expected outcomes. The goal is to grow the business and provide employment for as many Afghans as possible. “More jobs mean less violence” is the mantra.

After all the “T’s” are crossed and hoops jumped through, the group is brought to the U.S. for immersion in modern business techniques and set up with internships in their chosen fields. By way of disclaimer; I am a member of the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) and regularly participate in this program. Considering the obstacles that the average Afghan encounters every day, the success rate of the Bpeace program has been nothing short of amazing: Over 1000 jobs have been created to date, which in such a tight knit familial and tribal based society, translates into thousands of people whose lives have been stabilized and improved.

As a country of immigrants, the United States has always been tolerant and welcoming to people who want to come here. I imagine many of us have tales of family members who arrived on U.S. shores under less than ideal conditions. I personally know of two tales of daring do from people who jumped ship and become productive members of our society.

But that was then and this is now: “Now” is a post 9-11 world where people from other places must be looked at with suspicion, because they may mean to do us harm. And it’s a place where our southern border is a broken dam over which thousands of people pour and disappear into the landscape.

So when someone comes from a place that has been destroyed by 30 years of war, where hope is a fleeting emotion, and the future is uncertain, and decides to disappear because life here, with us, could be so much better, we no longer have the luxury of welcoming them, or even of rooting for them. Now we live in a world where we must worry about their motives…and fear them.

The Statue of Liberty must be weeping.

A Little Help For Our Friends

I’ve written many times about my two trips to Afghanistan: The impact those experiences had on me was life-altering. And although the security situation has  prevented me from returning, at least for now, it has not lessened my commitment to continue assisting the women entrepreneurs of Bpeace in whatever way I can.

That is why I, along with many others in the Lehigh Valley, including Cedar Crest College, Steel Valley Raymond James Investment Group, Inc, and my co-host, Attorney Eleanor Breslin, are sponsoring a very special evening event on Wednesday, March 31, in the PalwashaSamuels Theatre at Cedar Crest.

The benefit screening of the documentary “Thread” about five Afghan women who are bravely trying to improve their lives and their country will help Bpeace to continue it’s work in both Afghanistan and Rwanda. The film is an inspiring story of courage and determination that I promise will change your perspective.

The showing of the film will be preceded by a wine reception, and followed by a panel discussion featuring the film’s director and producer, the CEO of Bpeace, and a very special guest, Palwasha, one of the Afghan women featured in the film and the young woman whose photo is above.

Tickets for the film, panel discussion, and dessert reception are a tax deductible contribution of $45. Tickets for all of the preceding, plus the wine reception are a tax deductible contribution of $75. All tickets may be purchased online at 

Further information and a copy of the invitation to this very special event, are available on this blog by clicking “Special Events” in the top menu bar. Then click on the invitation to enlarge.

I hope to see you on March 31 at Cedar Crest College.  Your support will mean so much to so many. 

Scroll to Top