A group of former students sprung into action upon learning that a fellow classmate was caught in the crisis in Afghanistan, unable to leave the country. The alumni are now calling on volunteers and donors to help provide vital resources for those in need.
On August 15, 2021, McCourt alums Andrea Vargas Delgado (MPP’19) and Peter Nouhan (MPP’19) were alerted that one their former classmates was impacted by the crisis in Afghanistan. Shuja Jamal (MPP’19), director-general for international relations and regional cooperation at the Afghan National Security Council, was actively involved in peace efforts with the Taliban. Ties to the former government left him vulnerable following the extremist group’s resurgence in his home country.
Almost immediately, 25 members of the McCourt School Class of 2019, living in four different continents, banded together to develop an exit strategy for their Afghan friend. While Jamal evacuated Afghanistan through a different arrangement, the alumni group succeeded in raising a substantial sum of money to help others who were displaced.
“I remain eternally grateful for the expressions of care and support from my McCourt classmates,” said Jamal. “They have gone out of their way to be helpful in the most difficult time of my life.”
Banding together, across differences, to support those in need
The same network of McCourt alums is now using their connections to help get visas processed for Afghan refugees in various countries around the world. To date, they have helped secure more than 130 visas and raised more than $8,000, with an ultimate goal of $30,000.
The former students have worked tirelessly, applying their knowledge and skills to be a force for good. “I am very encouraged by how strongly the McCourt community has come together,” said Jamal, who has been invited by classmates involved in the fundraising effort to advise on how best to employ the funds.
By tapping into their expertise and personal networks, the alums were able to coordinate with 64 organizations across 11 different countries to direct donations to US-based non-governmental organizations aiding the crisis.
Throughout the process, individuals reached out to the group, asking if non-Muslim volunteers were invited to support their efforts or if they had politically-motivated intentions. The students’ response remains the same: “Together, we are McCourt policy-making friends, applying what we learned and acting as a community. We welcome volunteers from all religious and ethnic backgrounds to join us.”
The alumni group is committed to improving life for Afghans and individuals around the world, regardless of background, religion, race or gender. They may fundamentally disagree on politics, but each of them is committed to changing lives, lifting communities and addressing the challenges of the international world.
How to get involved
To support individuals affected by the crisis in Afghanistan, the McCourt alums challenge you to volunteer, make a donation or simply read more about the crisis to remain informed. Your involvement will help provide housing, food and a safe living environment to Afghan refugees arriving in different countries around the world.
Special recognition to the current team of volunteers: Alberto Alejandre (MPP‘20), Caroline Craig (MPP‘19), Humera Durani (MPP‘19), Rachel Grich (MPP‘19), Ido Levy (MPP‘20), Junaid Masood (MPP‘19), Amanda McDonald (MPP‘19), Tina Meins (MPP‘19), Isabel Mejia (MDP‘19), Ben Mindes (MPP‘19), Robin Nicols (MPP‘19), Peter Nouhan (MPP‘19), Krista O’Connell (MPP‘19), Milagros O’Diana (MDP‘19), Roxanne Peloux (MPP‘20), Olivia Prieto (MPP‘18), Megan Reichert (MPP‘19), Feroza Safi (Stanford‘19), Disraeli Smith (MPP‘18), Danett Song (MPP‘18), Neha Tiwari (MPP‘20), Andrea Vargas (MPP‘19), Shuja Jamal (MPP‘19), and other students and alumni.
The featured image for this story was photographed by Nathan Posner (COL‘24).