Salaam. The word ‘peace’ passed through my speakers and Qamar Gul’s kindness spilled through the screen as she greeted me. The stars were out in Texas as the sun cast shadows on the streets of Afghanistan — we smiled at one another, almost eight thousand miles apart. Sitting in front of a white and pastel pink wall, Qamar Gul began to speak in Dari. She explained that she has spent almost six months in a marketable skill’s training course, learning to make bags by hand in Herat, Afghanistan. …


During her stop in Des Moines, Iowa, and a presentation at Drake University, I met Zarifa Ghafari. Ms. Ghafari is mayor of Maidan Shahr, Afghanistan, and recipient of the US State Department’s 2020 Women of Courage award. This award recognizes women around the world who represent exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, most often at great personal risk and sacrifice. Mayor Ghafari was chosen to represent the other eleven women awardees in remarks during the ceremony, a distinct honor and recognition of her courage (see her speech here: https://twitter.com/i/status/1235233854602072065).

Ms…


“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

It is true that out of small things come that which is great. We, too often, consider our small acts of kindness and encouragement to be insignificant — too small to make a difference. In a world where needs are so great, we may be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of wars, violence, poverty, and disease. What difference will a small stone make if thrown into a lake of need? What might happen if ten people threw stones into the lake? What if hundreds threw stones into the…


The world seems complex, chaotic, and dangerous in this moment. And yet, over the past few decades we have made greater progress in alleviating poverty and suffering than during any other time in the history of the world.

The paradox —

Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time. -World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim

Globally, the forcibly displaced population increased in 2017…


All I can do is make this borrowed time matter

On April 27, 2019, a gunman entered the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in Poway, California and opened fire on innocent worshipers. In the chaotic few minutes it took for one person to dramatically change the lives of the hundred people worshipping on that day, Lori Gilbert-Kaye stepped in front of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein — saving his life and losing hers.

Rabbi Goldstein’s words, spoken in the aftermath of the tragedy have stayed with me.

I do not know why God spared my life in my Poway synagogue. All I can do is make this borrowed time matter.

The simple words…


“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone.”

-Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Those of us blessed to live in places of relative security and prosperity are the exception in a world of great complexity and inequity. The great blessing of that prosperity is that we can insulate ourselves from the suffering of others. In equal measure, the curse of our prosperity is that we do not have to experience the suffering of others, if…


I am amazed at and inspired by the resiliency of people, particularly women. Too often disdained, those who exist in a world of poverty, insecurity, displacement, and other monumental disadvantages find ways to survive and thrive. They get up each morning and face the day with courage and resolve, partially because they have to, but mostly because they choose to live. We see them as victims of circumstances, but they are so much more. Their super hero power, in a real world, is survival.

The women we work with in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Afghanistan are moms…


Afghan women as agents of change

Since helping to topple the Taliban in late 2001, the United States has spent over one trillion dollars on the war in Afghanistan. The situation on the ground is undoubtedly complex and the seemingly unending conflict has produced profound pain and placed tremendous burden on Afghan women. And yet the women of Afghanistan are far more than voiceless victims. They are resilient agents of change who in spite of unimaginable hardship continue to actively transform and rise above their suffering. As we work for sustainable solutions in Afghanistan, it is vital that we prioritize the empowerment of Afghan women, for…


Finding ways to move people out of poverty is challenging in the best of circumstances. It is made even more difficult in areas where civil war, local instability, domestic violence, and other kinds of conflict disproportionately impact women and children. In many conflict areas, women find themselves displaced and living in unfamiliar places— corralled into camps where they often become disadvantaged heads of households because their husbands have died, become disabled, or abandoned them. In other circumstances, husbands may not be able to fully support the family.

Research has confirmed that, in spite of the disadvantages women face, assets put…


A few weeks ago, Rotary International invited me to speak at the Peacebuilding Through ​Education and Literacy ​Conference held in Chicago, Illinois. I welcomed the opportunity to share with fellow rotarians some of the challenges facing Afghanistan, but more importantly the impact education has had on the lives of Afghans over the past 15–20 years. The relative security over that period has given rise to a unique generation of men and women who are making a difference in ways unimagined by their parents and grandparents. Over the past almost two decades, young Afghans have benefited from increased education opportunities, expanded…

Karadah Project International

Veteran-founded nonprofit building sustainable and long-term solutions in partnership with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from the heart of the Midwest

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