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Alex Beard '14 Reflects on Visit from Hassina Sherjan
11.13.13 |
After a pretty rough start to my Lebanon Valley College career, I realized in my junior year that I genuinely enjoy learning. My parents had been trying to beat it into my head since I was in middle school that learning is cool—“It’s cool to be a nerd,” my stepdad would tell me whenever my grades dipped (yes, somehow, I got bad grades in middle school—we all have our mistakes).

I came closer than is ideal to losing my scholarship after sophomore year, so I decided that junior year was my time to take this school thing seriously and, what do you know, I had fun and ended up on the Dean’s List. Learning, I discovered, was a great thing.

Hassina Sherjan agrees. Since 2001 she’s made it her mission to bring education to the women of Afghanistan, a country in which upwards of 80 percent of the population is illiterate. After the attacks of 9/11, Sherjan saw a unique opportunity to bring change to her mother country and dedicated herself to establishing schools to provide Afghan women, and thereby the country at large, with the tools to function in a democracy, something she sees coming to Afghanistan in the near future. Her NGO Aid Afghanistan for Education has helped enroll 3,000 Afghan girls and put them on track to earn their diplomas.

I sat in the crowd for her talk at LVC on Oct. 31 and it was clear how passionate she was about her work. She led off with a slideshow of pictures of rural Afghanistan, areas untouched by human development. She shared pictures of steep cliffs, crystal clear rivers, and empty countrysides—it was a side of Afghanistan that we don’t see in America, and it was clear that Ms. Sherjan has a real love for her country.

She made it clearer still when, after her talk, someone in the audience asked her why she went back to Afghanistan after years of living in the West. “Home is home,” she said simply.

Sherjan has not earned a salary for the past six months. She cares deeply about this project. This is a woman who went into post-9/11 Afghanistan to meet with leaders of the Taliban and demanded change. She is brave. She describes her work as being like a drug. The commitment is real.

It feels weird retracing my own academic experiences in contrast with those of the women and girls in Afghanistan. For a long time I took for granted the opportunity I had to gain an education. Hassina Sherjan is working to make sure that the people of Afghanistan cherish that opportunity, and with that, she hopes that she is sowing the seeds of freedom for her people.

Alex Beard is a senior English major from Frederick, Md.

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