- Posted on 14 April 2006
- by Alexis Priddy
[caption id="attachment_366" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Bpeace volunteers and Associates; Rian Harris from the U.S. Embassy on far left"][/caption]
Today was the first time since we arrived in Kabul that we saw our Fast Runners as a group. Hugs and kisses flew. We started asking the Associates, "What's new? What's happened since we last caught up?" To hear all the progress in one sitting made the Bpeacers feel terrific.
Marking the first milestone of many
We all celebrated the Fast Runners’ completion of their first year of their three-year Bpeace program with a “pin ceremony,” attended by Rian Harris from the U.S. Embassy. The final pinning was Palwasha; she was also presented with an acceptance letter to Bucknell University for a full four-year scholarship facilitated by her mentors, Jim Reitzig and Tara Fabiano. It was a very emotional moment for many of us, tears coming to our eyes even as we write this.
Ray is shown the money
Scooting out of the peace discussion, Ray donned his best blue blazer and tie and went calling on banks in order to assess their interest in making loans to our Fast Runners. Kirsten Weiss of Shorebank, who we only met for the first time on Wednesday night, was good enough to accompany Ray on his rounds. Today’s banker said he can offer loans from $7,000 up to $250,000 and a very competitive interest rate, even without Bpeace guaranteeing a part of the loan. Our Fast Runners will have to qualify to the bank standards. Ray “show me the money” Maloney has several more appointments coming up this week.
The Fast Runners figure out how to find the money on their own
The Fast Runners viewed the first of the training videos today—“How to Write a Business Plan,” produced by Bpeacers Yasmin Ibrahim and Karine Baczynski. The videos are not a substitute for in-personal training and advice from Bpeace; instead, they provide a knowledge base, while Laila, Rosemary and the mentors provide the “consulting” to help the entrepreneurs get the specific assist they need.
Toni then showed the Associates a cool Excel spreadsheet tool that Yasmin developed. The Excel tool accompanies the “How to Track Your Money” workbook developed by Bpeacer Sabra Richardson. Bpeace Fast Runner Kamela and Toni walked the Associates through the workbook and tool. And to finally round out the money portion of the day, Toni sent the Fast Runners home with a workbook to read, “How to Finance Your Business,” developed by Marla and Bpeacer Liza Pullman. It takes the Fast Runners step-by-step through the process of applying for a loan. Kamela, who has her own consulting and training business, was most impressed by the training materials and wants to use them in her work with Afghans in several provinces.
The liveliest part of the day was when Toni asked the Associates to “bet” on how many new jobs they would create in the next year. Amazingly, the Associates “bid” between 8 and 20 jobs each.
As the first day of training closed, Toni and Rosemary reviewed products to pass onto the Dubai Women’s college. Hanifa Skar Ali brought blockbuster handbags we hadn’t seen before, and scarves with a unique ribbon embroidery design that Rosemary thought would be a big seller in the right Kabul market.
An evening treat for the team was dinner and ice cream with Rian Harris of the U.S. Embassy, whose knowledge of business in Afghanistan both informed and entertained us. Yes, there is cotton being produced here. All the cashmere is washed in Herat and taken out of the country. And silk is making a comeback as many NGOs bring silkworm larva to farmers with mulberry trees.