Tag Archives: Feb Break

Already Nostalgic

The reality of time hit when we returned for our final semester at Middlebury after February break.

I spent my break with eight wonderful friends from Middlebury, on a road trip from here to Savannah, Georgia. Six of those eight friends had just graduated as Febs, and the other two and I flew back to campus for the spring semester while the graduates continued the adventure and drove to San Francisco, California.

Watching the Febs graduate and then returning to campus without them made me truly acknowledge that this is our last semester. In the first week, my friends and I threw a potluck, went for walks, and talked about everything we want to make sure to do before we leave the utopia that is Middlebury College. Sure, there are stresses here at times, and yes, not everything is always perfect, but it is hard to complain about life here.

So I will use this week’s blog post to list my favorite aspects about this college — both the deeply meaningful and trivially glorious things — that I want to appreciate at all times for the next four months before graduation:

– Professors who take the time to get to know us, and remember our names.

– The beauty of Vermont in all seasons.

– Our amazing dining hall food and friendly staff.

– The beautiful, comfortable, and clean dorms.

– The ability to take courses in completely new areas while still deeply focusing on my major.

– Constantly meeting new and wonderful people who are passionate.

– Dance parties whenever we want.

– Cross country skiing around the golf course or at Bread Loaf.

– Singing with the Mischords (my a cappella group).

– Having someone willing to go on an adventure with me at any time.

– Hiking around Vermont.

– Apple picking in the fall.

– The Middlebury farmer’s market.

– The friendly businesses around town who remember us.

– Good Vermont cheeses.

– Road biking on sunny days.

– Running with friends around the golf course.

– Having amazing speakers and events available to me for free all of the time.

– Fresh air.

– The diversity of interests that my friends have.

– The cool accomplishments that people have made.

– The potential to get on board with a project anytime.

– Free dance and yoga classes.

– Subsidized music lessons.

– Hanging out on the lawn with friends in the spring.

– Learning a new language with an enthusiastic professor who is a native speaker of that language.

– Making brunch with friends on the weekends.

– Themes parties for no good reason other than to have a theme.

– The variety of activities that I get to participate in every day.

My Feb Break!

Ben is right. It has been a while since we last updated our blog. So much has happened and we all have a lot to share. I will start with my February break.

So two summers ago, I founded HELA, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Afghan women through education. HELA, Inc., aims to build girls’ schools, women’s centers, and high-school athletic fields for girls around the country. HELA’s founding was inspired by the need to build the first girls high school in Qalatik—my ancestral—village in Laghman Province.

In 2006, elders from my village approached my family to help build a school for them. Back then, I had recently returned from a one-year high-school exchange program in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin I had the opportunity to talk about Afghanistan in various settings. After hearing about the need for a school in my ancestral village, I paid a visit to what was a piece of donated land by a villager to be used as a school. There I saw 13 volunteer men and women from the village teaching children, letting the shade of the few trees delineate the classroom areas. The entire school of about 700 students owned three half-broken blackboards. First-grade children used small rocks to practice counting in their math class.

I was inspired by the students’ enthusiasm despite their circumstances, and the village elders’ dedication to providing education to their daughters. One of the elders told me, “Our sons can walk 4 kilometers to go to a high school. But our daughters… this [middle school] is all they get. As a father, I cannot look into my daughter’s eyes to tell her there is no more education for her. We want a high school for our daughters.” So far the school has six classrooms and a deep drinking well, thanks to an anonymous donor. My hope is to turn this school into the first girls high school in Qalatik village. In order to make that happen, I needs to raise enough money to build additional classrooms, provide teacher training and improve the school curriculum. Building this school inspired HELA’s founding, and has inspired me to accomplish much more for the women of Afghanistan.

HELA is still pending IRS approval to receive a tax exempt status. This has been a hurdle as I try to fundraise to build the school in my ancestral village. However, Middlebury College has agreed to support my fundraising initiative!!! “The HELA Project for Afghanistan” is a $100,000 fundraising initiative supported by Middlebury College on behalf of HELA, Inc. Funds raised through this initiative will support the building of the first girls’ high school in my ancestral village in Laghman Province. I will build the school this summer after I graduate from Middlebury College. Girls in my ancestral village will be able to attend high school for the very first time.

I took advantage of this Feb break to give talks about HELA and the fundraising initiative in different high schools. On February 1 I drove all the way to Boston only to find out most schools were canceled on February 2 and 3 because of the snow storm. Two of my speaking engagements at schools were canceled. Nonetheless, I made it to my last two destinations without any cancelations. I spoke with a group of high school students in Wesport, CT. They are trying to raise money for HELA. Although these fundraisings are small-scale but they add up and are powerful in that they are mutually beneficial to American high school students and Afghan students.