Story + Purpose
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"We decided the problems in Afghanistan required action on multiple fronts"
During our deployment, we saved countless American and NATO lives by providing close air support from above. But we couldn't help but wonder how else we might be able to disrupt and defeat the enemy. You can't help but think "there has to be another way," so we decided to focus on education and economics in addition to the security operations we were already conducting.
"Destitution gives evil a foot in the door"
After doing some research and talking with local Afghans we learned that insurgent groups in Afghanistan preyed on children who were forced to beg on the streets of Kabul. These children were desperate and in many cases responsible for providing for their younger siblings and their widowed mothers. Poverty and desperation opened the door for extremist groups who could offer them a salary they would otherwise never receive in exchange for their loyalty. Sadly, when you're 9 years old, homeless and starving - this is not a difficult choice.
"Employ widows. Educate their children. Suffocate the insurgency."
After learning about this unconscionable paradigm, the solution became clear: employ parents, keep kids in school and off the streets and suffocate insurgent recruiting. We were ambitious, but our team backed it up with immediate action. Co-founders Jonathan Hudgins and Josh Carroll, inspired by a picture they received from Jon's sister in which all the girls in her sorority were wearing scarves, met with a young man whose mother taught widows how to create handmade scarves among many other handicrafts. We learned that the women's husbands were killed by the Taliban, and, because of conservative cultural norms, they were unable to hold public employment or re-marry. These women had an average of 4 children each, most of whom were forced to peddle whatever items they could find or beg for on the streets of Kabul where insurgent recruiters would eventually find and likely coerce them into joining their group. In that moment, it was hard not to imagine that, if nothing else was done, our children would be fighting their children in 20 years. So, we went to work selling the widow's scarves online and sending whatever we could back to their families.
"Buy A Scarf. Change A Life."
The rest is history. Today Flying Scarfs is a 501(c)3 non-profit that has raised over $200,000 for widows in Afghanistan. Now, 60 women in Afghanistan work part-time for Flying Scarfs, and an astonishing 75% of their children are in primary school. We can't quantify how many of them would have been recruited by insurgents if their mothers weren't employed, but we're certain that our business saved at least some from the clutches of extremism.
Our work is far from over. There are a lot of challenges in importing scarves from Afghanistan, but our motivation is higher than it was when we first started. We still need customers to buy scarves, spread the word, and champion our cause. The future is bright at Flying Scarfs, and there's no limit on what we can do next.