On October 27, 2016, the Seattle-based nonprofit, Sahar, will recognize the students, staff, and parents at Frantz H. Coe Elementary with the Janet W. Ketcham Award. Sahar gives this award every year at their annual dinner to recognize an outstanding contribution to girls’ education in Afghanistan.
The partnership began after Coe Elementary’s school building was destroyed by a fire on January 21, 2001. As parents, teachers, and students began to process their loss, they discussed the fact that other children in other parts of the world did not have a school.
The following year, the Coe Elementary community committed to raise money to help build one of the first girls’ schools in northern Afghanistan after the Taliban’s fall from power—and to continue to raise money each year to maintain it.
Coe Elementary students have raised money and awareness through bake sales, coin drives, and educational events. They’ve funded a new school roof, a library, a well, books, a playground, science equipment, teacher training workshops, and other projects to benefit the girls at their sister school in Afghanistan.
“There is a very simple formula for breaking down cultural stereotypes and prejudice: allow the natural curiosity of children to blossom. Coe Elementary School's project has shaped an entire generation of young people in Seattle and rural Afghanistan. Questions that began with, “What do Afghan and American children eat and do with their time after school?” have helped students mature into international citizens. The beauty of a group of five-year-olds sitting in the Coe gymnasium blossomed into a journey that—for many—continues today, fostering cultural competencies in two crucial nations.” —Ginna Brelsford, Executive Director, Sahar
Seattle native Janet Wright Ketcham is devoted to breaking down the barriers that exist for girls and women in Afghanistan. To date, more than 23,000 girls have been served by schools funded by the Janet W. Ketcham Foundation. Sahar honors Ms. Ketcham’s generosity and dedication every year with this award. Ms. Ketcham studied at Smith College, where she has since served on the Board of Trustees. She is also a University of Washington graduate.
Sahar’s vision started with building bridges of understanding between the U.S. and Afghanistan for peace and cooperation in 2001. Since then, Sahar has expanded, building schools, computer centers, and managing teacher training programs in Northern Afghanistan. Sahar has worked in the midst of ongoing conflict for over a decade to increase the status of girls and women in Afghanistan through education, enabling them to participate actively in the social, political, and economic arenas in their communities.
Sahar partnered with the University of Washington’s School of Architecture to design their newest school in Gohar Khaton, reflecting the local culture and values of the Muslim society. The UW School of Architecture continues to offer a studio-design course using the Gohar Khaton Girls’ School as a case study to solve development issues.