thanks Coe Elementary
first-grader Zachary Harvey
for a welcome card written in Farsi.
Noor spoke at the school Monday
as part of a cultural exchange project started by Julia Bolz, right.
His message was delivered to a roomful of antsy elementary schoolers, but the words hit home for the adults, too: Education is the key to a better future.
Ustad Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of the Balkh province in Afghanistan, visited Coe Elementary on Monday to address students and teachers who have raised thousands of dollars to help build schools and deliver supplies to his country.
The Taliban, the religious regime that ruled the country until 2001, "closed the doors of education to people," Noor said. Now, people are hopeful about the future, he said, but "education is the only way we can improve democracy and freedom in our country."
|General Ata Mohammad Noor, governor of Balkh Province in Afghanistan, speaks to Coe Elementary students during an assembly at the Queen Anne school Monday.|
Over the past six years, students and school staff members at Coe and several other Seattle schools have participated in "Journey with an Afghan School," a project to encourage cultural understanding between schools in Afghanistan and America.
"We're not just trying to build structures; we're trying to build bridges of understanding between cultures," said Julia Bolz, a Seattle social-justice advocate and former human rights lawyer who founded the project and who spoke at the assembly Monday.
Coe Elementary was one of the first schools to participate in the project, and students, parents and teachers there raised about $20,000 to help build one of the first girls schools in the Balkh province, and to send four containers of school supplies, athletic gear and other equipment to the region.
Students at Coe and its sister school in Afghanistan have also exchanged photos and pictures, as well as crafts such as quilts and dolls. Some of the items were hung in a display on the side of the stage for Monday's event.
"A lot of the kids said it was really amazing," Coe principal David Elliott said of the all-school assembly.
The event was also a subtle way to show Noor and his delegation that Americans value education and the ties to his country.
"We want to put that (education) in the forefront of his agenda," Elliott said. "He understands that this is something that's important to us."