B.C. schoolgirls raise thousands for Afghan girls
Inspired by the plight of young girls in Afghanistan, a group of Grade 5 girls from B.C.'s Okanagan Valley has raised enough money to pay the salaries of five Afghan schoolteachers for one year.
Alaina Podmorow, 10, said she became interested inAfghanistan last year after her mother Jamie took her to a speech by Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong, who has written books and made documentaries on Afghanistan.
"I heard about bombings in Afghanistan. I was unaware. That night, I got educated about it," said Alaina.
In her speech, Armstrong explained that while many Afghan girls have gone back to school since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the fear of local warlords and militia groups continues to keep girls out of classrooms.
Jamie Podmorow said she felt her daughter would be able to handle the difficult subject matter.
"I questioned it in the beginning because I knew the information may be a bit heavy … but she's pretty mature," said Jamie Podmorow.
Alaina said she was inspired when Armstrong talked about a national organization called Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.
"I decided that I would start my group called Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan," she said.
The group, which now has 18 members, decided to raise money for teachers' salaries after learning that many Afghan families believe their daughters must be taught by female teachers, but that there was not enough money to pay for them.
Experts believe the promise of a guaranteed paycheque will help attract educated Afghan women to teach in schools.
$750 pays a teacher for a year
Through various events, including potluck dinners and an auction, the group raised enough money to pay the salaries of five female schoolteachers for one year — $750 per teacher.
"I thought it's not fair for the guys to go to school and the girls not to," saidgroup member Amber Coles.
"Not to show their faces, not to be free, not to be educated. I think it's terrible how that's happening," said Mary Lottie Reid Reiner.
"It's hard for them to, well, be a kid," said Amelia Leonard.
Alaina said she's had e-mails from across the country and that chapters of her group could be started in other parts of the country. She plans to become the national director of Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan and has already hit the speakers circuit to promote the group.
Jamie Podmorow said it's her job to make sure Alaina still has time to bea kid.
"I'll explain to people [that] she's too tired or she's watching cartoons that day … we all have to remember she's only 10 years old," she said.
This weekend, the grouphopes to raise thousands of dollars by hosting a gala for 200 people at the Creekside Theatre in Lake Country, north of Kelowna.