Wednesday, December 26

BENNINGTON — Asadullah, a 17-year-old exchange student from Afghanistan, is on a mission to build a library in his hometown. Asad, who opted not to give his last name, has spent most of his life as a refugee is trying to help thousands of uneducated Afghans.”Right now, the life is improving a lot. Everyone is wanting to learn — boys and girls are going to school,” said Asad in a recent interview.

Asad’s hometown, the Bamiyan province, has a population of over 60,000 people and only one library. That library is actually two small shops next to each other, one for the books and the other for the office. It was started and directed by one of Asad’s high school teachers.

Books are not printed in Afghanistan, so the teacher buys books from neighboring countries and loans them out. The shops are solely supported by donations from mullahs and rich people, said Asad.

“It’s a public library but the people of Bamiyan are poor and can’t support it,” said Asad. “When the Taliban took over Bamiyan, he carried all the important books out by way of donkey.”

Asad at that time also left the province to live in the mountains. His family spent three years there before returning to Bamiyan, just to once again be driven from their homes for three months. According to Asad, the Northern Alliance drove the Taliban out of the village, and it is now considered one of the safest places in the country.

“When the Taliban captured Bamiyan, they massacred a lot of people and burnt down the houses,” said Asad. “We lived the whole winter in caves.”

The province is now rebuilding and children are going to school but do not have a place to study. All the students use the library to borrow books, as do people from neighboring areas, said Asad.

While he is in the U.S. for a year as a recipient of a federal scholarship, the Youth Exchange and Study Program, Asad is hoping to raise money for the library.

He has met with the Goodrich foundation, which has agreed to help. Sally Goodrich, the founder of the Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation, will oversee the construction of the library and Asad’s teacher will find a location and hire an engineer to develop plans.

“I called the director of the library and I was shaking for him. He said it was one of his dreams to have a student do this,” said Asad.

Goodrich estimates the project to cost $100,000 and Asad is in charge of the fundraising. So far, he has raised $210 but said that “it is only the beginning of the movie.”

Oak Hill Day Care in Pownal and Mount Anthony High School will host fundraisers, and Asad will be soliciting donations at various speaking engagements he has scheduled.

“Some people talked about sending supplies but with the money you spend to buy them here and send them over, you can buy five times as much over there,” said Asad’s host parent, Kara Lozier. “A few dollars goes a lot further over there than over here.”

Asad lives with his host family in Pownal and attends Mount Anthony High School. He will return to Afghanistan in June but hopes to return to the U.S. on another scholarship or to attend college.