Local Rotary program looks to secure funding for computer labs in Afghanistan

Thousands of students have benefited from Afghan Youth Connect.

After a turbulent summer in Afghanistan as the Taliban reclaimed control, a program that provides funding for computer labs in the country’s gender-segregated schools has been able to resume operations.

“We’ve been doing it for 13 years and it’s had strong public support right from the beginning,” said Stephen Brown, a charter member of the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club. “It provides students with employable skills and, through the internet, a window to the world.”

The program, known as Afghan Youth Connect, was initially known as the Global Connection and Exchange program, Brown said. It was funded at first through a grant from the federal government, then by multiple grants from various sources.

Brown said that Afghan Youth Connect started by providing computer training in both boys and girls classrooms across five public high schools, eventually expanding to 14 public high schools in Jalalabad. About 21,820 students have successfully completed that training, Brown said, including 12,844 boys and 8,976 girls. Upon receipt of additional funding, the Foundation plans to continue AYC in these 14 high schools.

Brown said his goal is to “raise money to keep the program running.”

“The more young Afghans we can have go through the program and develop these skills, the better it is for their country,” he said.

Brown said that the projected annual cost to continue Afghan Youth Connect is $115,000 to cover salaries for Afghans, internet connectivity, fuel for generators and other costs.

He recently wrote to the U.S. Department of State about the program.

“With the encouragement from the local principals of the school involved, our Foundation is currently in the process of restarting AYC on a limited basis for both boys and girls,” he wrote. “We can scale up the program when funding is secured.”

Through the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary, Brown’s work in Afghanistan includes a polio immunization effort that raised more than $1 billion, according to a 2012 Del Mar Times article.

For more information, Brown said to contact him at 858-692-3310 or StephenRbrown@att.net.