In the 1980s, an Afghan woman named Gulalei Beena and her husband fled the civil war. When her husband died suddenly, she was left with four children to support while living as refugees in Pakistan. Too often the children of uneducated women have to survive on the streets. Their lives are short.
But Gulalei had finished high school. And she believed in herself.
With some additional training provided by a humanitarian aid organization, she opened a preschool in her home in Peshawar, Pakistan. For almost 20 years, Gulalei educated generations of children. Her son, Mohammad, remembers their home being full of children. “When we would walk down the street and see families of the children in our school, they always said hello. My mother was quite respected in our neighborhood.”
Eventually, Gulalei and her children emigrated to the United Kingdom and the U.S., respectively. She had the joy of seeing her children complete degrees in higher education and start families of their own. She had impacted thousands of lives.
Sadly, her son said the recent events in Afghanistan broke her heart. In late August, Gulalei passed away of a heart attack at her home in England.
But her legacy lives on: Her son, Mohammad—who attended her preschool—is now an employment case manager at ReWA. “After my father died when I was young, my mother made a future possible for us. Through education and her community leadership, she changed so many lives.”
To this day, Mohammed feels he is following his mother’s example as they helps connect women and men in South King County—many of them newly arrived from Afghanistan— to educational and employment opportunities, just like his mother when they fled decades ago.