Share This Page

Group builds 'Sisterhood'

More than 1,200 Afghani girls will have their own school next month, thanks to the efforts of four Pittsburgh students.

Danielle Tomson, Alana Rudkin, Shanti Singh and Kirsten Spittel, who attend the Ellis School in Shadyside, helped raise more than $14,000 in the past two years to build Khwahari (meaning "sisterhood") middle school in Afghanistan's Herat province.

They were inspired by a visit to Ellis two years ago by Fahima Vorgetts, an Afghan refugee fighting for the educational rights of women in her home country.

"She had an amazing, heartbreaking personal story," Tomson recalled. "My friends and I thought, 'Well, what if we build a school for girls in Afghanistan• We can do that, right?' "

The girls and other members of the Asian Culture Club raised money by selling handmade rugs, crafts, shawls and jewelry from Afghanistan. They received donations from alumni, businesses and others.

The middle school, nearly finished except for a computer lab and library, is the only one for five villages. It will teach more than 1,200 girls the fundamentals of reading, writing, arithmetic and language. Tomson said the school will serve as a community center and offer literacy classes to women.

Tomson said she wants to see local schools get involved in supporting education in other parts of the world.

"One of my hopes and aspirations is to have schools in the (area) adopt a school in the Middle East," said Tomson, a junior at Ellis, an all-girl school. "It's such a unifier for a school to have something beyond the students to collaborate on and come together with."

Tomson said American youths take their education for granted and don't understand that education in other parts of the globe, especially for women, is sometimes forbidden or frowned upon.

"A lot of kids in this country have everything at their fingertips," Tomson said. "What students in America need to do is extend their hand and help others in other parts of the world get a good education."

Tomson said a rewarding aspect of her involvement in the project is the gratitude of the girls who will attend school there.

"It's absolutely amazing to see the deep appreciation from them for something that we just take for granted," she said.

For their efforts, Pittsburgh City Council declared Dec. 5 a day in their honor.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.