Yesterday, we talked about the non-military steps that could be taken to create a functional society in Afghanistan. Moreover, we started asking about ways that we can pitch in. Allow me to suggest The Afghan School Project. The Project is a Canadian grassroots initiative that serves the Afghan-Canadian Community Center (ACCC), an educational facility in Kandahar. According to the site: "The ACCC provides more than 700 women and men with the opportunity to receive education in Business Management, Information Technology, English and Health care, while providing members of the community with access to the Internet and online classes from Canadian and international institutions."
They take small donations and it's possible to "adopt a student" for $10-20/ month. Or about what it costs to buy lunch at my university!
I agree with Brian that opportunities for trade will enrich Afghan society, and I will try to post more microfinance organizations here as I find them. But, even more importantly- a society needs people with the education and skills to make a life for themselves, no matter what they decide to do. For me, one of the few bright spots in the Afghan engagement has been the dramatic uptick in enrollment of girls in schools. This is an unquestionable good.
Maybe I should admit my bias as a future educator: of course I believe that education is central to living a happy life. And, as a child of the Enlightenment, I remain convinced of the centrality of an educated citizenry to the survival of an open society. The ideal of a country filled with intellectually independent and enlightened citizens has, admittedly, never been fully achieved anywhere. But a society in which only certain citizens can develop their ability to reason for themselves is in no way free, democratic, or open. And I think this is why the insurgent attacks on schools for girls are more ominous and upsetting, to my mind, than any other terrorist attacks. Attacking educators with violence is as much an indicator of a pathological psychology as torturing animals. There are, of course, always legitimate critiques to be made of educators and educational systems; that's something I do here. But, mark my words: He who takes violent steps against educators today will be goose stepping tomorrow.