For seven students, the first graduating class from the Zabuli Education Center, tonight brought the future, a dream, and tears. At 12:30am EST on December 12th, Razia Jan, the founder of ZEC, stood in the front of a room full of family, friends, and students and welcomed everyone to a very special day. "It's beyond my hope," she said in between the tears, "and my dream that we would be sitting here today with our first graduating class."
The ceremony was as moving as it was historic, with readings, speeches, and dances from the youngest students to the girls' teachers. But there was also the unexpected: when the seniors were receiving their diplomas, one student rushed past the principal and Razia Jan toward her diploma out of seeming nerves. After some hugs and laughter, Razia Jan paused to tell the story in English: this student, age 14, was the youngest of the seven to graduate. After she sat down, a man stood up and spoke for a little while. What he said wasn't translated, but after the ceremony, Beth Murphy stood in front of the camera to tell us what had happened: her father had stood up to express his gratitude to the school and Razia Jan for providing his daughter with a future. His wife, and her mother, had died suddenly a few months earlier, but she was there in spirit, and in her daughter's strength. Though we couldn't understand the words he was saying, it was obvious the feeling he was conveying.
Watching this all from my Brooklyn apartment, it seems odd that the handwritten word is what connected us with this school and these students, but then I realize that this is exactly what the handwritten word does: it connects and conveys something deep and universal, translatable or not.
We were humbled and happy to publish the girls' story and letters, but also to provide people with the opportunity to write back to them. Please visit the exploration here, and if you feel as moved as we did by reading their handwritten personal statements to a college that didn't yet exist, write them a note back. We can't send snail mail, which is why we exist: to send Handwritten letters.
A long-distance congratulations to these seven inspiring students, Razia Jan, Beth Murphy, and everyone in Deh'Subz, Afghanistan. Some live-streamed images captured below: