This article is a personal interview with HELA Afghanistan’s founder Rahmatullah Hamdard. HELA stands for Hope for Education and Leadership in Afghanistan, the only non-governmental organization (NGO) that focuses on youth leadership and MUN in Afghanistan. In addition, this article discusses the significance of HELA and its future in inspiring Afghan youth leadership.
Kymberley: Why did you start HELA Afghanistan?
Rahmatullah: I attended THIMUN Qatar last year. When I came back to Afghanistan, I saw the benefit of MUN because it’s a leadership project and we didn’t have other leadership projects in Afghanistan. So, I thought that we could do this MUN project with many young people and spread the word of MUN in Afghanistan because it was important for me to teach it to others. I decided to share this amazing project with others. When I started with Skateistan (a non-governmental organization) with our first school, I saw all the interest from the students in this project.
Kymberley: How was HELA Afghanistan formed?
Rahmatullah: When I came back from THIMUN Qatar, I decided to start this project with some students along with Skateistan, one of the national organizations in Afghanistan who I am working for. The first class consisted of 22 students, 11 girls and 11 boys. For me, it was small because I wanted to expand the MUN project. So, I decided to go to other places and start it with other schools. However, the problem was that I had to register an organization. I decided to register under the name of AFMUN (Afghanistan Model United Nations). Unfortunately, our law doesn’t accept the word MUN because we wanted to be a non-governmental organization. They told me that the word United Nations is not allowed, so I had to think of another name which was related to our leadership project. Through that name, we could work on different initiatives.
The name we decided was HELA which stands for Hope for Education and Leadership in Afghanistan. It was similar to our project because MUN involves leadership. HELA’s programs include AFMUN (Afghanistan Model United Nations), and OMUN (Online Model United Nations). We follow THIMUN Qatar and whatever THIMUN Qatar is doing, we are doing that as well but under the name of HELA Afghanistan. After that, we decided to sign a protocol with the Ministry of Education so that we will be able to start our project with governor schools in Afghanistan. Hopefully, we will sign the protocol soon so that we can teach MUN to other Afghan schools.
Kymberley: What does HELA Afghanistan do now?Rahmatullah: Currently, we are teaching the leadership organization Afghanistan Youth Union’s employees about MUN. We also will teach other NGOs such as Skateistan and Aschiana. Very soon, in January, we will hope to get another donor who will be able to provide all the materials for the MUN project in these schools. Then we will proceed teaching the selected 5-6 schools in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Kymberley : What type of procedure does HELA Afghanistan teach and why?
Rahmatullah: We follow THIMUN Qatar procedure. Yes, we are teaching the same procedure in our classes because we have three sponsors who are providing us scholarships to other MUN conferences like THIMUN Qatar. In January 2016, in THIMUN Qatar, we will be sending 11 students from HELA to that conference. Another sponsor is the Taipei American School,they are also providing us free scholarships for their conference for HELA. All HELA students can apply for scholarships but we are picking students from different areas of Afghanistan. The selected students will go under the HELA delegation and we send them with a MUN supervisor. That is why we have to follow THIMUN procedure.
Kymberley: Did HELA Afghanistan face challenges in teaching?
Rahmatullah: For sure! In the case of teaching, we did not have a lot of materials to give our students. Regarding software and hardware, we did not have much. Currently, we are trying to find different MUNers around the world who could help us to create MUN learning materials. Fortunately, we have received hardware materials and donations from Taipei American School Model United Nations (TASMUN). They have donated us 12 computers while John Burroughs School in the United States donated three laptops as well. Now, when we visit THIMUN Qatar in January, we will bring all the materials back to Afghanistan. The main problem is that MUN is mostly based on electronic devices, that is why we need more materials for the program. Also, we are trying to change our curriculum in 2016, because we want to focus on leadership.
Kymberley: What are your future plans for HELA?
Rahmatullah: We want to encourage more students to do MUN in the different provinces of Afghanistan. First, we will be running classes in Kabul’s governmental schools using THIMUN Qatar procedure. In 2016, we will also improve the other initiatives we have.
HELA Afghanistan plans to further expand in 2016 through introducing the MUN program to schools in different provinces, please refer to their facebook page HELA if interested in providing donations and learning more about this empowering program.
Photo credit: THIMUN Qatar Press and HELA Afghanistan
This article is part of our series on MUN Leadership Around the World, featuring those people, groups and organizations who are helping everyday to build up their Model UN community.
Do you know any person, group or organization helping to build up their MUN community? Feel free to comment bellow and share us your story!