Chicago dad Dusty Huscher speaks with pride about his college-aged daughter. But he's also filled with pride for the other 23 girls he has helped attend college this year.
Huscher has spent the past six years making sure girls in Afghanistan have a chance to attend school. Working with the humanitarian organization CARE, Huscher has traveled to Khost Province to help oversee schools for girls in rural areas.
"There are very limited opportunities for girls beyond sixth grade in rural areas," Huscher says. "Secondary education is somewhat novel there. While primary education is necessary, finishing the sixth grade only is basic literacy and numeracy; it doesn't alter their lives like a secondary education does."
This year 23 of the girls who started with the program in seventh grade are attending universities, most studying to be doctors and nurses, thanks to a scholarship program Huscher underwrote. The schools Huscher works with all are funded by private donations and run by local Afghan women.
The money and effort he and others have invested will make a long-term difference in the country, he says.
"Afghan families place such a high value on family and the extended family that it's likely they'll go back to their communities," Huscher says. "It will raise the status of women within the community and also will establish health care in the communities, which essentially doesn't exist."
Huscher travels to Afghanistan once or twice a year and has made it a family affair-he recently brought his daughter, who now is a freshman in college.
He also works with the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, helping redevelop the heart of the old city of Kabul. "We ran electricity to homes, ran water into homes, we established a primary school and a family health clinic," he says. The organization also works with traditional Afghan arts and architecture.
Huscher is quick to note that the accomplishments of the programs aren't from his efforts. "It's being attuned to the local community and giving them a sense of ownership," he says. "We don't need to tell the Afghans what they need. They can tell us what they need and we can help them provide it."
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.