It’s no secret that living conditions in Afghanistan are rough, especially for women, but a group in Kingston is working to change that; Canadians for Women in Afghanistan (C4WA) is a volunteer-based, non-religious organization and registered charity whose mission is to support women, girls and families in Afghanistan.
“The Kingston chapter of C4WA was started in 2003 by myself and a colleague and we’ve been going strong ever since,” said Madeleine Tarasick, chapter president. “After learning about the conditions that these women face I wanted to make a difference if I could.”
The Kingston and area chapter is one of 13 across the country. Together the organization has raised over seven million dollars and educated more than 50,000 girls in Afghanistan by hiring teachers and supporting other programs. Currently, the organization is training teachers at a rate of 1,000 per year, which provides enormous benefit for thousands of children.
“Ninety per cent of the money we raise goes towards those programs,” said Tarasick. “We also have an Afghan staff of about 20 people and they partner with us and allow us to run our programs effectively. We hold fundraisers throughout the year and our annual gala, of course.”
This year’s gala is being held on May 1 at the Vimy Officers Mess at Canadian Forces Base Kingston. The evening features a sit down dinner, live and silent auction, marketplace and a very prominent guest speaker.
“This year’s guest is General (Ret.) Walter Natynczyk, currently the Deputy Minister of Veteran Affairs,” explained Tarasick. “He has a strong passion for Afghanistan and he will be sharing his reflections on the Afghan Mission. It should be very informative and appropriate to the cause.”
Since 2003, The Kingston Chapter of C4WA has raised more than $173,000 to date, plus approximately $20,000 in direct donations. With those funds, they have supported numerous schools in Afghanistan and multiple literacy programs and teacher training programs – impressive accomplishments for a group of about 25 Kingstonians.
“We have 26 members right now and we’ve seen that fluctuate over the years. We’ve grown and sometimes we have youth and university students involved too, “explained Tarasick. “New members are always welcome, all you have to do is contact us.”
C4WA has been a very fulfilling experience for Tarasick, especially after travelling to Afghanistan and seeing the impact her group has made first hand. She encourages others to get involved too, especially if they feel helpless when it comes to world issues and inequality.
“If people want a way to not feel completely powerless when they learn about places like Afghanistan then I would encourage them to join,” she said. “It doesn’t take that much effort to get involved and together, as a group of people, we can make a bigger difference.
The annual C4WA gala takes place on May 1 and doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $100, with a $45 income tax receipt, and are available at the Limestone District Education Centre, during daily working hours. Ticket sales will close on April 24th.