10.26.2011 –The Ayenda Foundation’s sixth annual benefit dinner in support of the Afghan children was held on October 26 at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, DC, with the Mexican Ambassador, His Excellency Arturo Sarukhan, as the honored keynote speaker. Esteemed members of Congress, the diplomatic corp. and influential figures in the private sector, in addition to many valued friends of Ayenda, attended this highly successful and enthusiasm-filled dinner.
The funds raised at this dinner will go towards supporting the continued work and expansion of the Ayenda Foundation Learning Center and Computer Lab for orphan children in Bamiyan province and for several other critical projects around Afghanistan.
In his keynote address, His Excellency Ambassador Sarukhan spoke about how the world is shrinking and communities are getting ever closer, necessitating greater mutual understanding, cooperation and help. He praised the work of the Ayenda Foundation and underscored the distinctive mission of Ayenda as one worth supporting:
“I believe that the initiatives that the Ayenda Foundation has undertaken in Afghanistan, thanks to your permanent commitment and support, are extremely important and very welcome. Allow me then to acknowledge Ayenda’s work but also your generous contributions to giving more and more to all the Afghan Children and particularly to all “Afghan Girls” the possibility to gain better education through the myriad of initiatives and projects the Foundation is constantly implementing on the ground [sic].”
Former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush, who has been a friend of the Ayenda Foundation since its early days and continues to actively support the Foundation, sent a special message to the event. Her former chief of staff, Mrs. Anita McBride, read the message, expressing appreciation for Ayenda Foundation’s work and highlighting the importance of its mission:
“Afghan children are singing traditional nursery songs again thanks to the Ayenda Foundation’s Children’s Songbook. Boys and girls are playing soccer on fields built by the Foundation. Girls are in school and women are attending university with scholarships from Ayenda. In Bamiyan Province boys and girls are learning computer skills and enjoying meals every day at the Ayenda Learning Center.”
Mrs. Leslie Schweitzer, the master of ceremony for the night and a dedicated member of the boards of trustees of both the Ayenda Foundation and the American University of Afghanistan, highlighted the continued commitment of the Ayenda Foundation to Afghanistan’s most disadvantaged, yet continuously overlooked group: its children. She recalled her trip to the Ayenda Learning Center in Bamiyan province and recognized the tangible impact that the continued support to this program can make in the lives of the orphans who attend the school for both study and the nurturing environment it fosters.
Also attending the event was Ms. Freshta Akbari, a native resident of Bamiyan province currently attending Goucher College in Maryland. She spent her last summer at the Ayenda Learning Center in Bamiyan teaching computer courses to the students. Ms. Akbari said her interactions with the students highlighted to her the fact that an immeasurable thirst for knowledge can coexist amidst the incredible hardship her students faced each day of their lives. “It was a truly life-changing experience for me,” she said, noting one nine-year-old student in particular who walked several hours each day from his village to the Ayenda Learning Center for lessons and access to the school’s athletic court and computer lab.
Rounding out the night’s honored speakers, Mrs. Shamim Jawad, Founder and Executive Director of the Ayenda Foundation, expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the supporters of Ayenda whose generous donations sustain the Foundation’s numerous and critical projects. She said continued support from the friends of Ayenda will allow the Learning Center to expand, providing literacy and computer training to more kids, many of whom also receive their only hot meal of the day at the Learning Center.
Mrs. Jawad also highlighted other Ayenda projects that enable children to develop their physical, athletic, mental and psychological capacities in as most nurturing environment as is possible in a country undergoing war. Facilities such as the soccer field in Mir-Bacha Kot provide local schoolchildren with a safe area for physical activity, the Afghan Children’s Songbook Project connects them with their cultural heritage through song and dance, and the school bus – which will be purchased with new donations – will help transport students safely during the harsh, unforgiving winters from their far-flung villages around Bamiyan province to the Learning Center.
Mrs. Jawad thanked Ayenda’s committed board members, attendees and donors for their generosity of spirit and asked them to join her in reiterating their pledge to work for the Afghan children and never forget that their support makes a discernible difference in the lives of these impoverished children.