AUGUSTA — Ferozan Hassanzada was denied the
opportunity to go to school as a young girl while the Taliban ruled
|How to help
Donors wishing to contribute to the
BluePack Project may send checks made out to Cony High
School to the school address at 16 Cony St., Augusta,
Maine 04330, with a note that the money is for the
BluePack Project, which will provide school supplies for
children in Afghanistan.
She had her first taste of a classroom when her
family fled their native land for neighboring Pakistan. There, for a
couple of hours a day, Hassanzada learned to read and write in
Now, after being in Augusta for 18 months, she
is helping to raise money to buy school supplies to permit girls and
boys in Afghanistan to go to school.
She and a half dozen other students in the
English as a Second Language Program at Cony High School are
spearheading the drive to fund backpacks filled with school supplies
and other items needed by children half a world away.
Nancy Kelly, who teaches English as a Second
Language at Cony, said the group has signed on with the BluePack
Project, a national effort of the Academy for Educational
Development. So far the Augusta students have raised $500 by taking
collections every Wednesday and Thursday in classrooms.
They now want to expand the effort to the whole
Their goal is to raise $1,000 by June 1, Kelly
Hassanzada, who speaks Pashtu, Farsi, Urdu, and
Punjabi, as well as English, said Afghani students must bring their
own writing supplies to school, an impossibility for friends of hers
whose parents have died. There are children who now sleep on the
"Some people help them like we do," she said.
"It's a fabulous service project because it
touched her personally," said Kelly.
Kelly said students in her class saw it as a
way of making others aware of the misfortunes facing students
elsewhere. "They don't understand what happened in Afghanistan," she
said. "There have been fabulous donations and homeroom teachers who
go out of their way to explain this is how you can help children in
a war-ravaged country."
Johny Assaf, a sophomore whose family is from
the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon, helps collect donations. "I
want to help her and I feel bad for her country," he said.
Hassanzada's family fled Afghanistan and went
to Pakistan for five years before coming to Augusta.
Her parents, Razq and Laila Hassanzada, both
work at Wal-Mart in Augusta.
Her sisters, Farbanza and Farkhunda, both
attend Farrington Elementary School, and her brother, Mustfa, goes
to Hodgkins Middle School.
Kelly said Ferozan Hassanzada has made huge
strides in learning English over the past 18 months. And recently
her school records arrived from Pakistan, so she has enough credits
to graduate from Cony this year.
Hassanzada hopes to go to the University of
Maine at Augusta and possibly have a career as a journalist in the
She remains in touch with family and friends in
Kabul through phone calls and the Internet.
"It's really important for them to go to
school," she said.
An uncle and his six children arrived in
Portland several nights ago after spending a year in Pakistan. They
are unsure about whether they will stay in Portland with other
relatives or move to Augusta, Hassanzada said.
In keeping with her native land's traditions,
Hassanzada has a fiance she has yet to meet in person, although she
has talked to him and seen photos of him. Moshin Laitf, 22, lives in
London. The marriage was arranged by their parents.
First Lady Laura Bush endorsed the BluePack
Project a year ago in remarks at the United Nations.
According to information posted on the Web site
www.bluepack.org, more than $800,000 was raised over the past year,
enabling the agency to distribute 30,000 packs.
The packs are assembled by women widowed during
the Afghan war. They in turn spend their earnings on food and
blankets for their own children, according to the Web site.
Items supplied to schools in Jalalabad and
Kunar as well as other districts include pencils, pencil sharpeners,
erasers, rulers, writing tablets, chalk, chalkboards, ink,
traditional bamboo pens and wooden writing boards. The blue packs
also contain soap, brushes, combs and a few toys.
The organization leading the effort estimates
that more than 10 million children in Afghanistan suffer from
effects of multiple catastrophes.
The American Red Cross and UNICEF estimate that
one out of every three Afghan children is an orphan and that in some
areas, there has been no school offered for more than 10 years.
Funds from the donations also support teacher
training and other long-term education initiatives.
Waterville Senior High School students recently
raised $1,000 for the project and other area schools are doing
Betty Adams — 621-5631
top of page