Bpeace Blog Briefs

Stories of bravery, transformation and impact.

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One Million Jobs Fundraising Extravaganza

What an incredible night! Bpeace took over the Samsung Experience for an evening of dancing, drinking, munching, and schmoozing all in the name of creating One Million Jobs.

We auctioned off Daily Show tickets, took photos on the "red carpet," and had the opportunity to meet New York Times best selling author and emcee for the night, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. With the help of Samsung, we highlighted our members, Fast Runners, and the countries in which we work on high definition screens--ranging from pocket-size to an entire wall. We ate a tower of Butter Lane cupcakes and kept things cool with heaping scoops of Blue Marble ice cream.

Fundraising awards were given out to a few select Bpeacers who went above and beyond to make our One Million Jobs campaign a big success.

  • The Top Fundraiser Award, bringing in money from over 60 donors, went to Susan McPherson.
  • The Top Young Professional Fundraising Award went to Delilah Rothenberg.
  • The Top New Bpeace Member Fundraising Award went to both Karen Vander Linde and Mallory Martino.

A special shout out to other Bpeace members who met or surpassed the $1,000 OMJ fundraising goal:

Loretta Davis, Ann Callison, Kara Castagna, Toni Maloney, Gita Patel, Stephen Kulovits, Liz Pulver, Dana Kuznetzkoff, Neil Charran, Meave Murphy, Karoline Barwinski, Biz Ghormley, Khristine Queja, Donna Fleetwood, Pamela Massenburg, Sabra Richardson, Monica Sanz, Aliana Pineiro, and Fahima Ahad.

The night capped the end of a four-month grassroots fundraising campaign that brought nearly 700 donors to Bpeace .  The campaign would not have been possible without the diligent coordination of the OMJ11 co-chairs:

Karoline Barwinski, Kara Castagna, Neil Charran, Biz Ghormley, Pam Massenburg,  Susan McPherson, Aliana Pineiro, Delilah Rothenberg, Nicole Stipp, Joanna Szaro, and Lori White.

A very special thank you to our incredible sponsors for the evening:

Samsung Experience which donated the venue!

Blue Marble, Bourbon CoffeeButter Lane, Camera OneHeather Williams ShoesLiving SocialScott Clark Photography.

Avon FoundationAvedaLe BernardinCrown PublishingHarperCollins Publishers.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Late Show with David Letterman, Morning Joe Show, Daily Show with Jon Stewart, New Jersey Performing Arts CenterLincoln Center.

Anfora, Bric’s Luggage, Bubble Lounge, Clearbridge Advisors, Dave Shelley, dell’anima, Dolium Winery Argentina, Equinox, Gather, Gotham Hotel, The Great LerdiniL’Artusi, Laura Rosenthal Casting, Laurie Chock, Lori White, Mandarin Oriental (Las Vegas), Maribeth Fox, Mirbeau Inn & Spa, Monini North AmericaMoritz Photography, Neil Charran, Nolita House, Om Hop Yoga, Philosophy, Pranna Lounge, Red Rooster, Ruth’s Chris SteakhouseSodaStream.

One Million Jobs — the OMJ way!

Just one job means a mother can send her daughter to school and won't sell her into an early marriage.  One job means a young man can join the workforce instead of a gang.  One job can sustain a family of eight in Afghanistan, Rwanda or El Salvador.  Bpeace works to create these jobs, but needs your enthusiasm to sustain our work.  Will you help us create peace, one job at a time?

It takes Bpeace $1,000 to create one job.  These funds provide the coaching and consulting that enables our Fast Runners to create one job within their community.  The model has proven successful: 93% of Bpeace supported businesses are self-sustaining, and 100% of them are generating income.

This year, Bpeace is raising money through our unique  "One Million Jobs Campaign."  OMJ is anchored in our core mission–creating jobs.  Fundraisers commit to raising $1,000 and creating one job.  Everyone who meets the $1,000 goal by May 1 celebrates with us for a night of music, mingling, great food and cocktails!  (See the slide show above from last year's celebration.)

The funds raised contribute to Bpeace's operating budget for the coming year. The success of this campaign is vital to continue the work we care so much about.

The Benefits of joining the OMJ campaign are clear:
For Bpeace --> This funds our work.
For Fast Runner Entrepreneurs --> Helps provide the services they need to grow and create meaningful employment.
For You --> You directly impact lives around the world by creating jobs and spreading peace in communities where its most needed.
For Your Friends --> They join the broader Bpeace family and participate in job creation.
For Everyone --> CREATING jobs means LESS VIOLENCE, helping local entrepreneurs shape their community and a new tomorrow.

Joining the campaign is fun, easy and immediately brings you into the Bpeace network — collaborating with other members and fundraisers for tips, support, and tools to reach our collective goal.  The more you raise, the more recognition you get, the more jobs you create, AND you have a chance to win prizes.

Sign up today at ( Help us realize our goal of one million jobs in one thousand communities, one job at a time.

And the envelope please! VERA not Oscar

The red carpet was the hallway at the global law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf.

The fashion statements were more sassy than flashy.

The opening video took the night’s first award.

The special celebrity guests included a glowing team of Bpeace’s Fast Runners from Afghanistan led by our country director Soraya Omar.

Oscar can’t compete with VERA for heart, soul, and authentic smiles.

Read more ...

The DOSTI soccer ball story



What better way to foster team spirit and friendship than with Afghan made DOSTI soccer balls?  Afghan women have been renowned for centuries for deft needlework.  Now the women of DOSTI, meaning “friendship” in Dari, have harnessed that heritage to handcraft club-quality soccer balls.

Each ball is sturdily hand-stitched using 32 panels of highest quality synthetic leather producing soccer balls with superior bounce and shape.  Bearing DOSTI’s signature Doves in Flight pattern in the colors of the Afghan flag, each ball purchased provides meaningful employment for Afghan women


  • Club-quality soccer ball
  • 32 hand-stitched panels, made from the leading synthetic leather, and a latex bladder
  • Silk-screened with a dovedesign in the colors of the Afghan flag, and the words: "Made by Afghan women"
  • Available in Size 5 (ages 12 and up)
  • Measurements: 8"L, 8"W, 8"H
  • Weight: 15oz

DOSTI soccer balls spark change through employment for Afghan women. During this introductory phase, DOSTI soccer balls are only available through Global Goods Partners, the non-profit Fair Trade online retailer.




Two female Afghan entrepreneurs share a product, and a mission: Soccer balls as a means to financial independence for Afghan women.

Taj and Aziza were heading up their own businesses, each employing women in the manufacture of soccer balls; Aziza in Kabul, and Taj in Daikundi Province. They separately had the idea: Afghan women's self-reliance is linked to steady work-from-home income.

Bpeace suggested they combine efforts. With the help of Bpeace and partial financial support from Beyond the 11th Foundation, Taj and Aziza formed DOSTI, a joint venture that produces soccer balls in Afghanistan for distribution in the United States.

Today, they collectively employ 564 Afghans, and DOSTI balls are starting to enter the U.S. market. By stitching 500 soccer balls, or 1 - 2 balls per day, an Afghan woman can earn enough income from DOSTI to support a family of six for a year.

  • Soghra is sending her 4 brothers and sisters to school, and has opened a bank account in order to save for the future.
  • Rahila is taking English classes, and is providing financially for her brother and sister.
  • Mursal has the means to purchase the oil and fuel for her family's home during the cold winters.




Each DOSTI ball is meticulously handcrafted and quality-tested, combining traditional skills and 21st century standards.

The process for every DOSTI ball is the same: Stretching the synthetic leather; drying it (which takes 3 days in the summer, and 6 days in the winter); cutting the material into 32 panels; silk-screening; hand-stitching the panels together; washing and airing the finished ball; and, finally, a rigorous quality control test.

Sewing the panels by hand is the most time-consuming element of the process, and also the most crucial for the soccer balls' quality. DOSTI workers often do their sewing from home--which is not only more practical for their lives as mothers and homemakers, but also safer. DOSTI makes it possible for Afghan women to be financially independent without risking their security, or threatening traditional roles.  And the pay is better: Other home-based employment options, such as embroidery, take significantly more time for equivalent money.




Buy one DOSTI soccer ball or up to 19 balls for $45 per ball plus shipping through Global Goods Partners.

For bulk orders between 20 and 199  DOSTI soccer balls contact Jennifer Gootman here or call 212.461.3647.

Wholesale orders 200 or more balls will be delivered in 4-5 weeks for $18 per ball. Shipping included direct from Kabul factory. Contact us here or call 347.526.5394.



The Healers of 9/11 by Nicholas D. Kristof
September 9, 2010

"Another initiative has been to train Afghan women, through a group called Business Council for Peace, to run a soccer ball manufacturing company. The bosses have been coached in quality control, inventory management and other skills, and they have recruited unemployed widows to stitch the balls—which are beginning to be exported under the brand Dosti."


Fast Runners flower in the Arizona desert

Five Bpeace Fast Runners were recently accepted for a 2 week training program in entrepreneurial skills and business growth at Project Artemis in Phoenix, Arizona on the campus of Thunderbird School for Global Management.  Project Artemis and Bpeace work hand in hand with women in Afghanistan who show potential as business builders.  Four Bpeace member/volunteers were on hand last week to see our Fast Runners learn and grow.

There was hardly a dry eye in the crowd, as Bpeace Fast Runner Maryam led the Afghan National Anthem followed by the Star Spangled Banner at the graduation ceremony for the Afghan women in this program.  Maryam’s Bpeace Advocate Johnna Hobgood was there, cheering her on with great pride.  Johnna has worked closely with Maryam in the Bpeace Race to Innovation, and as a Fast Runner, finally getting to meet her in person.

Maryam owns Bibi Maryam Private High School which currently operates grades 1 through 5 with 112 children.  Her vision is to expand this school through grades 12 so that children can complete their high education, and add an Internet café to allow the children as well as all women in the community to have access to the Internet and computer technology.  Johnna said: ‘I was so proud of Maryam as she walked across the stage at graduation, and it was an amazing experience to spend the week with her and the other Artemis fellows and mentors.  They really are a key to big changes for their country."

Bpeacer Mojdeh Barros says  “I spent four days with the Afghan women and I am overwhelmed by their high energy, bravery, enthusiasm and optimism. Most of these women have a day job and at least one business on the side (why they are in this program), they are very much involved with local politics and community work."

Donna Fleetwood met her Fast Runner Latifa in person after working with her for a year on her "Kitchen Queen" business, providing solutions for efficient kitchens and wire products for use in hotels, apartment buildings and war damaged homes as Kabul rebuilds.  Latifa is working on her product and price list and plans to hire 6 skilled workers in the next 6 months.  Donna said: "Being able to spend some personal time with Latifa was life changing...I feel that not only am I an Advocate for her business but now also an Advocate for Afghan women to let everyone know of their open hearts and beautiful spirit."

Former Bpeace Board Member Athena Katsaros led a full day workshop with the Afghan businesswomen and their mentors to help them put together concrete goals and plans to work on together once the Artemis graduates got back to Afghanistan.  “Knowing these smart and courageous women makes me feel hopeful that Afghanistan will see peace and prosperity sooner than we expect.  These women are breaking out of the traditional ideas of what’s possible for them.  They are creating a different future for their children.”

Topping off the astonishing moments was an evening trip to Rawhide in Phoenix, where Bpeace Fast Runners Maryam and Masooda took up country western line dancing and we believe they may be the first Afghan cowgirls.  With headscarves intact, they caught on quickly and added a few moves of their own.

Face to face time with our Fast Runners gave us new ways to connect the dots in their business plans and collaborate on next steps for each of our entrepreneurs.   The strength and commitment of these women touched us and they want what we all want: a strong economy, a healthy family, and peace.

Mojdeh says:  "Their last words to us as we were saying goodbye was 'Please don’t forget us, we need you in order for us to be successful, don’t leave us!'  On her way back to Boston, Mojdeh remembered this poem by famous Persian poet Sa'adi:

"All Human beings are in truth akin
All in creation share one origin
When fate allots a member pangs and pains
No ease for other members then remain
If, unperturbed, another's grief canst scan,
Thou are not worthy of the name of man."

It's complicated but promising

We are emerging from our one week immersion in El Salvador with some early insights.

No surprise that our meetings with significant business leaders, public and private associations, government ministries, private equity firms, private foundations, educational institutions, media companies, not for profits (some working directly with gangs), and security organizations has refined our initial assessments. They are too many to mention by name, but we thank everyone who invested their time with Bpeace this week. Each greatly advanced our knowledge and thinking.

One highlight with big implications for us: The Salvadoran web-like gang organization model means there are few recognized leaders to convince or influence. Uncertain as to where the gang webs reach, broadly the business community's response is to layer in security costs and minimize risk by reducing investment, and importantly to minimize gang contact. The solution to break the stalemate of gang violence is not as simple as employment of at risk youth.

But we see unique opportunity here.
Bpeace's approach in El Salvador can be custom designed for maximum result. The design must include not only what small and medium size businesses we support but also to what, where and how these businesses engage the causes and impact of violence.

What excites us most is that the approach can and must include the Salvadoran resources we can leverage-- a small but existing middle market economy, young educated professionals, innovative entrepreneurs and business people, an emerging CSR (corporate social responsibility)  interest and partnership among those organizations and institutions who have been engaging successfully here.

Before we leave the country we will take a trip to the Salvadoran countryside where we hear there is a little peace and quiet to be discovered. Stay tuned...

Peace, moms and hospitality

For three days we worked one-on-one with the Fast Runners on their Bpeace Forward Plans. In exhausting and exhilarating intimate two-hour dialogues, we helped them reach their aha moments on the steps they need to take to progress their business ideas. Peace comes at a cost for the Mazar Fast Runners. They are anticipating the day when business contracts funded by various western military and aid organizations will disappear and are already thinking of ways to transition their businesses with more customers from the “private sector.” Conversely, peace can’t come soon enough for the Kabul Fast Runners who cite security issues as the #1 barrier to them succeeding.

Both the women and men in our program told us how important their mothers were to their success—or hopes for the future. All had highly supportive mothers and in some cases fathers who wanted more for their children then they had available for themselves. A number of our Fast Runners are first in their families to be college educated and some of the women were the first in their families to work and are a role model for the other women in their families.

The Afghan hospitality is inspiring—it speaks to their culture and also speaks to the relationship we have with them. We spent time with Mobina and her husband and baby and also Ferishta, her husband and child. They both ask after Bpeacers by name. The new crop of Fast Runners actually envied jewelry manufacturer Khan Aga who entered our program 2010, six years after his wife first did. When he entered the room on the first day he got a hearty welcome from us all—a real lovefest. Actually, it was a wonderful unplanned non-verbal display of the relationship that they can have with Bpeace. It also showed our commitment to our Fast Runners.

Broadcasting success in Mazar

We were invited to lunch and tour Radio Rabea Balkhi, operated by Mobina, our 2007 Bpeace Fast Runner from Mazar. In just five years, this 31 year-old journalist and entrepreneur has expanded her radio station into one of the most successful in the region.

Remarkably, she has over a half a million listeners, despite focusing most of her programming content on informing women on social and economic issues. The radio station is named after a famous Afghan female poet, Rabea Balkhi, known for her beautiful poems about love and feminism.

Mobina beamed with pride giving us a tour of her radio station, which was fitted with modern radio broadcast equipment juxtaposed against home-made sound proofing made of egg crates, foam and fitted sheets. She talked about how she has applied what she learned 18 months ago when Bpeace arranged for her to visit radio stations in New York, D.C., and Allentown, Pa. Today, Mobina has 26 employees and we are pleased to accept her marketing manager into our 2010 group of Fast Runners, believing we should help our most successful entrepreneurs also develop their middle management.

Just recently Mobina acquired a second radio station—this one focused on farmers. Like we did with Radio Balkhi, Bpeace created a logo for the new station.
We were delighted to see the advances she has made to her business and her family with a recent addition of her first child. To our surprise Mobina was back at work a month after delivering her son!

Mobina was born to an illiterate father and spent her entire life in Afghanistan. However, she pursued her education, which gave her the confidence and knowledge to seize the right opportunity and become an economic success and a force for social change.

Sightseeing in Mazar-e-Sharif

Mazar-e-Sharif should be a destination of choice in Afghanistan. It feels like an Afghan city at peace--a beacon of hope for the rest of the country.

The people in the streets appear relaxed; there is no obvious military presence, stunning beauty at the Blue Mosque, and ice cream shops everywhere in the summer heat.

If you’ve been anywhere else in Afghanistan as a foreigner, you appreciate all of this. The positive energy here is palpable and you don’t see the evidence of war all around you—no bombed out buildings, no bullet holes in the walls, and there are trees and grass.

You do see the evidence of development. Modern glass shells around old buildings—a sort of construction face lift, new universities and schools going up, Mazar’s own McMansion neighborhood adjacent to spotless traditional domed mud huts—the dome an architectural design to withstand earthquakes.

Our entrepreneurs from Kabul visiting here with us in Mazar, marveled at the clean air and streets and they were so delighted to be able to take a safe walk on those streets after dinner.

Good food is easy to find and our item of choice is the local bread—which we’ve renamed the Magel—the Mazar bagel because it’s round, doughy and tastes just like a bagel.

Planning and plotting on the way home

How refreshed we still looked on our last day in Rwanda with Richard and Monique Schmidt of the Akilah Institute for Women.

About 8 hours later, as Donna, Fran and I sat at the Starbucks at the Brussels airport we knew we were closer to home. We brainstormed, of course Fran and I took the Brooklyn approach and Donna, as she has done throughout the mission, was the voice of reason who captured our energy and told us what we were saying in a manner that was calming. There's a special place in heaven for Donna with Fran and I on the loose.

We used the time to discuss Bpeace's future in Rwanda.

We realized that Bpeace has seeded a lot of human capital in Rwanda. Richard consults and Susan has a job that leverages their Bpeace experience. Our first group of Fast Runners have created jobs and formed their own networking group, and there is that amazing Business Club formed by applicants to the Bpeace Race to Innovation.

As we look to the future, and Bpeace's desire to leave as much on the ground as possible--is there a way to advance the Business Club as future Fast Runners and stay true to our vision to create jobs? Is there a way to assist the graduated Fast Runners network? They have been maintaining and sharing the Bpeace Brand by instinctively creating a "Bpeace Family" as they call themselves.

Donna, Fran and I are now in our seats on the plane going in various directions and still sending each other "love ya letters"

Thanks for all of your support.

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