Category Archives: Get to Know the Barakat Staff

Changes to Barakat!


We realize we haven’t posted in a while and there are reasons for that. Usually we post about articles we find interesting and think you will too but this time we have news of our own! In late December one of our event coordinators, Mia Buchsbaum, took on the role of Administrator of our U.S. offices. During that time we also opted to close down our formal offices in Cambridge, MA. The reason for this is simple we want to make it possible for even more of every donation to go to what’s most important to us and likely most important to you as well, our programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan!

With that in mind, in the new year we took a close look at the yearly budgets for our programs to see where else we could lower overhead costs so a larger portion of funds we send overseas could go to our students instead of administrative costs. The result was the decision to close our main office for our Afghanistan programs located in Kabul Afghanistan and shift all operations to our smaller North Office. Our North Office is much closer to where our programs are actually taking place and thus has much closer ties to the community we’re trying to serve so is in a better position to represent what the programs need as opposed to a larger office south of the programs. This project is currently underway and will take about six months to be fully completed. However, we have already seen a drop in administrative costs for our Afghanistan program which means already more of every dollar donated is going to where it’s needed most, the schools!

On a much happier and exciting note we’re excited to announce that we had over 100 women graduate from our literacy programs at the end of December! The literacy program runs from April to December every year so it is on break till April when classes will resume again. The 2014-2015 school year also saw a record number of students enrolled in our programs with over 3,000 students enrolled, 62% of which were female! Stay tuned for more blog posts!



Barakat Visits the Amigos School in Cambridge


Early in the month of February, two of Barakat’s interns had the pleasure of visiting a classroom of second graders at the Amigos School in Cambridge, MA. During the visit, they hoped to facilitate activities that would increase the students’ awareness of the barriers to education faced by many children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In front of twenty sets of squirmy, crisscrossed legs, our interns, Katherine and Jessica, explained that children in these countries are often prevented from attending school. In 2010, Pakistan had a net enrollment ratio of around 70% at the primary school level, and the ratio was closer to 50% in Afghanistan [1]. At one point our Barakat representatives asked all the kids to stand up; they then instructed half of them to sit back down to illustrate the difference in primary school attendance between the United States and Afghanistan. When the students learned that only the number left standing might have the opportunity to attend school in a place like Afghanistan, a discussion broke out about the importance of education. All the kids, even those who may grumble at the prospect of sitting in class each day, voiced their beliefs about the benefits of schooling. School is important, the students argued, because it’s a great place to make friends, it is necessary to go on to a good college, and it teaches you things you would not learn anywhere else.


Cambridge second-graders signing a card for Barakat students in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Certainly we, and these young second-graders, are quick to recognize the absolute necessity of universal education. And yet, a significant segment of the Afghan and Pakistani populations – particularly girls and women – are prevented from attending school in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most of us are aware of the Taliban’s consistent, and often violent, opposition to girls’ education. Cultural and practical barriers prevent many families from sending their daughters to school. In many areas, this reluctance is compounded by a lack of access to adequate facilities, resources, and teachers.

After discussing the factors that obstruct the educations of so many children across the world, the Cambridge second graders were invited to write personal cards encouraging their peers in Afghanistan and Pakistan to continue their studies. This activity was inspired by one of their own classroom practices: there is a small bucket kept at the front of the classroom in which the students regularly drop words of encouragement and positive observations about others. Having had much practice with these particular acts of kindness, the students enthusiastically sat down to work, quickly filling their pages with sincere notes and drawings. Each student also signed a large, communal note that will be shared with Barakat’s schools.

At one moment during the class, a student observed that the girls in a photo of a Pakistani classroom were wearing scarves over their heads. She raised her hand and curiously asked, “what if they don’t want to wear these?” Her question prompted a thoughtful and lively conversation – demonstrating how the chance to attend school can give children everywhere the tools to articulate their own thoughts and consider diverse points of view. This truth felt particularly relevant, as this local Cambridge class was just completing a unit on persuasive writing!

The Barakat visit helped the Cambridge students to understand their world a bit better, and the experience of seeing these issues through the eyes of these younger citizens was also very powerful for us at Barakat. Connecting with curious youth in our own community has renewed our dedication to Barakat’s mission of increasing access to education in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


[1] UNICEF Statistics

Lyla Goes to Pakistan!


Interim Executive Director, Lyla Hardesty is in Pakistan this month!

Barakat’s Interim Executive Director, Lyla Hardesty, left for Pakistan on Wednesday to do program assessment on Barakat’s 4 schools in Attock. Punjab province.   These schools, the earliest of which dates back to 1994 and altogether educate 800 students and include an evening school especially for girls. Additionally, these schools sport such facilities as a lending library, computer lab and qualified teachers educated at either the University of Punjab or Allama Iqbal Open University. All of these programs are administered through the local subsidiary organization, Barakat Pakistan.

Lyla’s visit will allow her to see the progress of these programs firsthand, as well as to understand what needs still need to be met. Barakat’s programs in Pakistan began to educate Turkmen refugees from Afghanistan who had significant trouble getting educated because of linguistic barriers. Throughout her three-week long journey, Lyla will be sending us descriptions of her adventures and we’ll be posting them right here! Stay tuned for stories and photos straight from Pakistan!

Get To Know the Barakat Staff: Kate Bispham


Name: Kate Bispham

Hometown: Sydney, ME

School: Endicott College

What You Do At Barakat: 

Fun Fact: “I love the ocean and the mountains.

What You Have Learned Working at Barakat:

Favorite Quote: “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.” – Dian Fossey

Heroes: Dian Fossey, Greg Mortenson, many of my friends.

You’re Stranded on a Desert Island but you get to bring 5 things, they are:

1. 35mm SLR camera and film

2. memories

3. knowledge

4. a never-ending story

5. necessities for survival

Most Desired Superpower: Fluency in every language (like C3PO)

Get to Know the Barakat Staff: Sherbaz Khan


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Name: Sherbaz Khan

Hometown: Waltham, MA

School: Heller School of Social Policy & Management at Brandeis University


What You do at Barakat: Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Fun Fact: “I always smile”

What have you learned while at Barakat: “I have realized that I will be able to learn a lot about professional and personal development.”

Favorite Quote: “Our attitude towards life determines life’s attitude toward us.” -Earl Nightingale

5 Things to Bring if Stranded on a Desert Island: My diaries, shaving box, hand bag, pen and paper, and money

Most Desired Superpower: Power to eradicate poverty from the world

Get To Know the Barakat Staff: Cortney Gusick


Name: Cortney Gusick

Hometown: Kapolei, HI

School: Brandeis University, Graduate Student

What You Do At Barakat:  Program Assistant

Fun Fact About Yourself:  

“I’m an amazing tree climber/fruit forager.” “I’ve never had a Facebook account.”
“I’m currently writing a book, and I love the radio program, ‘This American Life”

 What Have You Learned working at Barakat?

“That unified, dynamic, and diverse people are an excellent recipe for growth and development.”

Favorite Quote: 

“Let Your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.” -Baha’u’ llah

Heroes: Naseem Alizadeh, Luc and Sophie Pardehpoosh, Troy & Shauna.

Your suddenly stranded on a desert island but naturally you get to bring your five favorite things.  They are:

Baha’i Books, paper, pens, polaroid camera, black licorice.

Most Desired Superpower:

“That’s easy: Self-multiplication.”

Get to know the Barakat staff! Colin Rink


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Name: Colin Rink

Hometown: Ossining, NY 

School: Northeastern University 

What do you do at Barakat: Corporate Sponsorship  

Fun fact about yourself: I have webbed toes.

What have you learned working at Barakat: Calling business and asking for sponsorship is not that bad. Business don’t hate me and some are very helpful. 

Favorite quote: “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” – Mark Twain  

Heroes: Bruce Springsteen, Barack, Spiderman  

You’re suddenly stranded on a desert island but naturally you got to bring your five favorite things. They are:
iPod, a good book, my girlfriend, George Foreman grill (solar-powered), radio to listen to Yankees games

Most desired superpower: