The Shin Fujiyama Podcast | Social Entrepreneurship | Nonprofit Organizations | International Development Aid | NGOs

Shin Fujiyama is a CNN Hero and the Executive Director of Students Helping Honduras. He lives with 30 former street children in Honduras where he runs a school and international NGO out of a tree house. In each episode Shin will be interviewing a proven social entrepreneur or NGO leader in the nonprofit or international development aid industry-- including several CNN Heroes and bestselling authors. They’re going to deconstruct their journey to explain HOW they built up their organizations. They’ll also tell us about their greatest failures, lessons, regrets, and behind-the-scenes realities. We’ll talk about their tactics, philosophies, principles, tools, and motivations to give you inspiration and actionable advice. 1) Subscribe to this podcast. 2) Turn on automatic downloads. 3) Leave me a review. 4.) Enjoy every new interview for FREE during your commute or workout.
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The Shin Fujiyama Podcast | Social Entrepreneurship | Nonprofit Organizations | International Development Aid | NGOs



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Mar 20, 2017
Every morning for nearly a decade, CNN Hero Razia Jan drank a cup of water from her school's well to make sure it hadn’t been poisoned overnight by the Taliban.
She works in a part of Afghanistan where girls face unimaginable obstacles just to attend school. They must face the threat of getting acid thrown onto their faces, risk buying snacks with grenades hidden inside them, and make sure nobody has sprayed poisoned gas into their classrooms.

Razia Jan worked as a tailor and dry cleaner before starting Razia's Ray of Hope Foundation in 2008, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and children in Afghanistan through education. She operates the Zabuli Education Center, a school that she founded in rural Afghanistan that provides a free education to 625 girls. 

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Show Notes for Razia Jan

  • Razia was a single mother when she started her own tailoring and dry cleaning shop
  • Even as a tailor, Razia was involved in community volunteering
  • Razia was the only Afghani in her entire town during 9/11
  • After 9/11, Razia sent blankets and quilts to the Ground Zero rescue mission
  • Razia sent care packages and 30,000 shoes to the US Army during the war in Afghanistan
  • Razia returned to Afghanistan after 9/11, 38 years after she had moved to the US.
  • During that visit, she could not find her old home as everything had been destroyed
  • When Razia opened the Zabuli Education Center, they started with just 100 girls
  • The students at the Zabuli Education Center learn both Arabic and English
  • When Razia Jan joined the local Rotary Club, she was the only woman, and the only Muslim
  • She simply tried to blend in at the Rotary Club and eventually became the President
  • “Service Above Self” -Rotary International
  • Razia has been a part of Rotary International for 20 years
  • “You can’t do things on your own.”
  • All the houses in the village are mud houses and the roads are unpaved.
  • There are no trees in the village
  • Drought has affected Razia’s village where many families depend on their grape orchards to make a living
  • Razia Jan lived in Afghanistan for eight years (2007-2015) so she could be present 24/7 at the project
  • In 1920, the king of Afghanistan had built a boy’s school that was later destroyed. It was on that land that Razia Jan began building the Zabuli Education Center for girls
  • The land, by then a garbage dump, was given to Razia by the Ministry of Education
  • The community wanted a boys school at first, and not a girls school
  • The community members said that the boys were the backbone of Afghanistan and they needed to improve their future.
  • Razia answered: “The girls are the eyes of Afghanistan. And unfortunately, you all are blind.”
  • The community members did not like Razia’s vision at first, but ten years later, they finally understand the importance of girls education
  • “If you educate a boy, you educate a boy. If you educate a girl, you educate the whole family.”
  • In the community, it is common for girls to get married as young as age ten
  • A family can get a dowry payment by marrying off their daughters
  • A mayor in the village decided to marry a 16-year-old girl. In exchange, he wanted to marry off his daughter (in the 10th grade) to the 70 year old father of the bride. After the marriage, the daughter of the mayor was beaten repeatedly, her ribs and nose were broken, and she was burned by the new family. She refused to stay in the marriage and in the end, her father supported her and brought her back. That girl just graduated from school and is going to a midwife college.
  • The documentary about Razia’s work, What Tomorrow Brings, took seven years to create
  • In the trailer, Razia Jan is deciding where the blackboard should go during the construction of the third story of the school building. I asked her what was going through her head at that very moment.
  • “Each brick was set in front of me. I just wanted to make sure.”
  • Razia Jan hired an engineer and countless villagers to build the Zabuli Education Center, which provided steady employment to many men
  • The construction workers who work for Razia’s Ray of Hope make about $20/day in a place where most people make about $30/month.
  • Providing jobs improves the support the Zabuli Education Center gets from the community
  • The four-year-old students in kindergarten write their fathers’ names in Arabic and in English and they give these letters to their fathers. The fathers get ecstatic and become supportive of the school
  • Only about 0.7% of the community supported the Zabuli Education Center when they first started. Now, about 99% of the community members are in support
  • Zabuli Education Center offers classes that other schools in Afghanistan don’t offer, such as international social studies, English, and computer literacy.
  • The families are excited about their daughters learning English
  • 14 students in Zabuli Education Center are engaged but they won’t get married until they graduate
  • A 7th grader and a 9th grader are already married.
  • A 12-year-old girl in the 7th grade lived with a father who was addicted to drugs and two sisters. An uncle took them in and eventually decided to marry the three sisters off to his three sons who were much older. The oldest daughter tried to commit suicide because she didn’t want to marry her cousin and getting married would be ending her education. She traded in a bar of soap to buy rat poison at the corner shop. When the uncle said she was no longer going to school, the girl drank the rat poison. The following day, Razia took her to the hospital and she survived. The uncle felt bad and allowed the girl to go back to school and postponed the wedding. But shortly after, the uncle married off the three sisters and they left the village
  • “Each drop of water delivers, and we are each a drop of water and one day there will be a massive waterfall of educated girls in the developing world.” -Razia Jan
  • Someone was against the Zabuli Education Center building a three story building because having windows so high up would meant the girls could look at the homes in the village. So Razia Jan put the windows a little higher as a compromise
  • Razia Jan focuses on the girls and not as much on the community
  • The Zabuli Education Center provides bus transportation to their students as a security measure
  • Every morning, Razia Jan drank a cup of water from the school well to make sure it hadn’t been poisoned
  • Every morning, Razia and her staff make sure that the Taliban hasn’t sprayed the classrooms with poison gas
  • Once, a suspicious car (possibly Taliban) drove towards the Zabuli Education Center and five vigilant men from the nearby shop chased them away
  • Razia Jan keeps a low profile in Afghanistan for herself and for the school, which is necessary for their safety
  • Only a few people came to the opening day of the school. One guy wanted to obstruct the construction of the Zabuli Education Center by lying down in front of the bulldozer
  • Razia Jan’s response: “I’ll be very happy if you come lie down. I will bury you here and put a flag that says, ‘this guy never wanted a school here.’”
  • People make all kinds of empty threats and bluffs
  • 9 of Razia Jan’s graduates are hoping to attend American University at Kabul
  • The first year, Razia Jan raised just $5,000, mostly through her Rotary Club and friends
  • Public speaking engagements are the organization’s best fundraising strategy
  • The Zabuli Education Center has a child sponsorship program where donors give $300/year
  • A sponsor receives a letter and photo from the child, and frequent updates
  • Razia Jan answers the critics who criticize NGOs that utilize child sponsorship programs
  • Razia’s Ray of Hope has only three staff members in the US
  • Razia Jan doesn’t get stressed out from all the speaking engagements she has
  • Razia Jan always had self confidence
  • The Zabuli Education Center now offers courses on midwifery, computer science, and accounting
  • Razia is upset with the controversy in the book, Three Cups of Tea  
  • Razia had no idea what CNN Heroes was about. And they did two years of research on Razia’s Ray of Hope to verify everything. The phone call came as a surprise and honor to Razia Jan
  • Razia Jan recently received the Rotary International Women in Action Award
  • The girls at the Zabuli Education Center are so excited that one girl said she wanted to be an engineer but she had no idea what it meant to be an engineer and said she would find out very soon what it meant.
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