On August 15, 2021, Kabul — Afghanistan’s fabled capital — fell to the Taliban, unceremoniously bringing America’s 20-year tenure to a violent and chaotic end. The news, like a thunderbolt, reverberated across the globe with shocking images that stunned audiences. For our team, it was a time for action.
From Day One
By the morning of the 17th, I was in Doha, Qatar working with US Army Civil Affairs teams and Department of State officials to identify the urgent needs of the thousands of Afghans being evacuated to the Gulf country. In the coming weeks, Spirit of America would invest nearly half a million dollars in meeting the immediate humanitarian needs of an estimated 25,000 Afghans who passed through Qatar before moving on to permanent locations.
In Albania, we sponsored 124 Afghans, many of whom would have likely faced death had they not escaped. We provided them room, board, healthcare, and educational support for seven months as their legal status and visas were sorted. We also delivered hygiene supplies to thousands of evacuated Afghans in Germany and Kosovo.
In Tajikistan, we launched what would evolve into a multi-year endeavor to support the country’s only school dedicated to Afghan refugees. Our funding kept the school open, the lights on, and students learning. Additionally, we provided funding and programmatic support for educational centers where youth accessed informal education and organized clubs and activities, including one impressive rock band I saw in action on many occasions.
It was a global effort for Spirit of America, one that was central to our mission, commensurate with the gravity of the situation, and consistent with our values. Nearly two years after the fall of Kabul, our commitment to Afghans endures. Our focus remains steadfast.
Looking to the Future
I’m pleased to share that we have recently launched the Afghan Future Campaign, a half-million-dollar initiative spanning six countries. The campaign — one of the biggest undertakings in the history of Spirit of America — is guided by three goals:
- Promoting the education of displaced Afghans
- Supporting their future transition to permanent countries
- Demonstrating the goodwill of the American people
Working with US embassy teams, local stakeholders, and partners, the campaign will impact thousands of young Afghans currently in Lebanon, Iraq, Qatar, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. We will boost informal education programs, organize professional development retreats, fund tutoring services, and arrange cultural experiences to improve psychosocial well-being.
The Afghan people have been dealt a cruel hand, yet they persevere with grit and resilience. Many are flung the world over in search of new homes and new beginnings. Their path ahead is winding and riddled with uncertainty, but Afghans are made of strong timber with deep roots. Our job is to help nurture these roots in the soil of their new homelands.
Recently at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon’s iconic institution of higher education that stood firm in its mission of learning and tolerance during the long and ugly years of the Lebanese Civil War, we launched one of the Afghan Future Campaign initiatives. On this occasion, one of the university’s students, Saddam Khan, offered brief remarks that touchingly encapsulated the Afghan experience:
“To tell you about the experience of Afghan students in one sentence: It’s going to bed with a thousand fears and worries about the future and waking with bright eyes and countless hopes to build the kind of future we want to live.”
Students like Khan, strengthened by the trials and tribulations of displacement, will one day write new and glorious chapters for the Afghan people. Indeed, these young Afghans represent a free and vibrant future that is worth fighting for.
Through the Afghan Future Campaign, we will do our part.