Learning Foundation featured on CBC Radio-Canada

We are proud to inform you that the Canadian International Learning Foundation (CanILF) was featured on CBC Radio-Canada in February 2009. Please click here to view the story (in French), and read below for the transcript in English, which was prepared by CanILF volunteers.

Thank you to all of our supporters who have made our work possible. It is your generosity which has built the “School of Hope” for women in Kandahar. To help us continue to provide this vital assistance, please Donate.

“Kandahar: A school for girls financed by people from Ottawa”
CBC Transcript – February 11th, 2009

Despite the horrors of the war in Afghanistan, here is a beautiful story of human solidarity and devotion.

A group of citizens from Ottawa have decided to help Afghan women who have been deprived of education for years. And these volunteers have opened a school. Marc Gauthier will describe for us this ambitious project that has so fruitfully produced.

“The School of Hope”

Everywhere in Afghanistan, schools for women were shut down when the Taliban came in to power in the mid-1990s. Many schools have reopened since the fall of the regime, but women still face the risks and dangers of attending class.

Last fall, for example, two women were disfigured by acid while walking to school.

But there is hope.

In Kandahar, sheltered from scrutiny and threats, there is a school were girls can take off their burqa and study in peace. The school has been put in place and financed by residents of Ottawa since 2007.

Ryan Aldred: “It is really a beautiful building that we have been able to rent with the money from CIDA.”

Its founder is Ryan Aldred, a reservist with the army. Every week, with several volunteers, he organizes the good functioning of the Afghan Canadian Community Center, situated only 10,000km from here.

Victoria Gauthier: “I just like knowing that I am helping women who don’t have the same rights as us. Personally, I think that it is everybody’s right to learn and to have the same rights to education.”

Ryan Aldred: “…but I think that it would be great, there is certainly a lot of support…”

The volunteers come from all horizons, yet all of them have been touched by the situation of women over there.

Mallory Mroz: “Imagine, somebody would actually throw acid in the face of a woman just because she wants to go to school. It is unbelievable… how we can live here without danger – just the snow that bothers us – no acid like that. ”

Together they are planning the budget for the school and they are organizing computers with internet connection which permits the volunteers to communicate with the students.

Mallory Mroz: “There are young women who write to me who want to be doctors, nurses, teachers; they have a lot of dreams.”

Ehsan Ullah: “Can you tell me what is in the next paragraph?”

If the project exists in Kandahar, it is thanks to this man, Ehsan Ullah who has managed this Afghan-Canadian school since 2007 and is also a teacher. His work also includes risks to his life, as he regularly receives death threats at the school.

At the school, the women receive, at no charge, courses in English, technology, and health. Thanks to the internet, they also have access to business courses offered by a technical college in Calgary. As of next week, the courses will also be coming from Ottawa.

Annette Levesque: “There is a range from math, English, English as a Second language…”

This private company, the Ottawa-Carleton E-School, has accepted to offer courses at no-charge at the secondary school level for the Afghan School Project. The courses will be internationally recognized.

Annette Levesque: “The teachers have agreed to volunteer their time to provide the credits to these students.”

The Afghan School Project has had so much success that it now receives 700 hundred students and counts some 40 employees. All of this has a cost of about $15,000 per year. This cost is almost completely covered by local donations.

Ryan Aldred: “We don’t take any salaries for the work we do.”

We don’t take a salary and every dollar given to the school is invested in the school, assures Mr. Aldred.

Every volunteer puts in a couple of hours a week.

Victoria Gauthier: “That helps a lot, yes, because if we have 40 volunteers, that is a lot of help.”
The project received help from CIDA last year; the Canadian International Development Agency pays for the rent of the building where the school has recently moved to, approximately $60,000.

Nicolas Lacroix: “This is one of the projects that we are pretty proud of here in Kandahar. It is not one of our costly projects, but it is one where we have seen tangible results, making it an excellent investment.”

There have already been some hundred women who have received their diploma from the Afghan School. And many of them now work for the reconstruction of their country with non-governmental organizations.

Unidentified student: “I would like to brighten my future.”

I would like a better future than that of my parents who did not receive an education and live in blackness, states this student.

Ryan Alrdred: “I am very proud.”

Ryan Aldred is very proud to see that with a handful of volunteers, a couple thousand dollars, he is successfully changing the lives of so many people at the other end of the world.

Population : 31,100,000 habitants (2008)
Annual income/habitant: $335 (2006)
Life expectancy (men): 44 years (2007)
Life expectancy (women): 46 years (2007)

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