Many young adults in the United States have opportunities for higher education. In Afghanistan, however, warfare has left thousands of young women widowed, many who are illiterate and have children to support.
William Seo, army medic and member of Terre Haute Central Presbyterian Church here was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. Seeing that Afghan widows were “abandoned on the streets,” Seo collaborated with an Afghan doctor to found a women’s school in Jalalabad teaching reading, math, and hygiene — but also sewing and embroidery skills, so that the women could support themselves after graduation.
Terre Haute Central Presbyterian Church has supported Seo’s work by contributing funds and spreading news about the project locally. The cost of a new sewing machine for a graduate to start her business is $60. After seeing church member Joshua Powers demonstrate a sewing machine like those used in the Afghan school (see photo), the children of Central Presbyterian voted to use money from their Sunday offerings to purchase two machines.
Additionally, the congregation commissioned a hand-embroidered tapestry from the school’s third class of students. It now hangs in the fellowship hall.
By January 2013 the school had graduated eight classes, and graduates reportedly earning three times the average Afghan wage. The mission plans to start 10 more schools in 2013–14.
“Women are knocking on the door of our school and asking to join the next class,” Seo says. “My heart aches to open more doors for them.”
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